Most retailers stepped up IT security for the holiday season

Woman shopping online on a laptop

Nearly four-in-five (78%) retailers adopted more IT security precautions for the 2020 holiday shopping season than they did in prior years.

According to the Retail Security Survey report by cyber security firm Tripwire, 87% of survey respondents said they took additional precautions explicitly because of the potential rise in online retail fraud as more consumers turn to e-commerce due to COVID-19.

This year, 63% of retail organizations said their IT security teams started preparing for holiday shopping earlier than usual, and 57% said the current surge in online shopping has made security especially difficult.

The survey also found that 61% of respondents said their ability to detect and respond to a security breach is better now than a year ago. About one-third (32%) of those surveyed characterized their organization’s capabilities for protecting customer data as “excellent” - a significant increase from only 19% who said the same in 2017.

According to the research, 97% of organizations are automatically discovering IT assets, compared to 85% in 2017. Configuration changes are identified more quickly too, as 64% of those surveyed detected them in minutes or hours. Only 55% had the same detection speed in 2017.

The survey also found 45% of organizations now address vulnerabilities within 15 days of detection (45%), and 35% address them between 15 and 30 days. Also, 20% of companies are patching vulnerabilities immediately, compared to just 10% in 2017. However, while 53% of respondents patched flaws within seven days in 2017, this figure decreased to 35% in 2020.

Tim Erlin, vice president of product management and strategy at Tripwire, said the retail industry had to adapt to the challenges of 2020, particularly as COVID-19 limited consumers’ in-store shopping.

“Because of this, retail organizations have had to make changes this holiday season - they started earlier and expected increased volume, along with increased risk to both consumers and retailers,” Erlin said. “With fewer people in the stores, there will be more online shopping. More online shopping means more of the risks that go along with it, including attacks on both consumers and retailers themselves.”

“While we may see increased cybersecurity risk this holiday season, the basic security controls required to protect retailers haven’t dramatically changed. Understanding what assets you have, ensuring that they’re configured securely, and finding and fixing security issues are all important steps in running a secure business.”

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.