New study shows nearly half of all web application cyber-attack campaigns target the retail sector

A new study by Data Centre Security firm, Imperva, has shown nearly half of all web application cyber-attack campaigns target retail applications. The Imperva report, which was based on an analysis of 99 applications over a nine month period by the company’s Application Defence Centre (ADC) research team, found that the retail was the most heavily-targeted sector for malware and malicious hacking. Imperva issued a stark warning to retailers ahead of the busiest retail weekend of the year: treat cyber-threat seriously or suffer the inevitable consequences.

The Imperva study found 40 per cent of all SQL Injection attacks, and 64 per cent of all malicious HTTP traffic campaigns targeted retail websites. The findings shouldn’t really come as too much of a surprise to the sector, as the company’s previous web application attack report[2013] also found that retail sites suffered twice as many SQL injection attacks in comparison to other industry sectors.

Speaking about the report’s findings, Amichai Shulman, Imperva’s chief technology officer, told Computer Weekly:

“Our study shows that retail sites are a big target for hackers. This is largely due to the data that retail websites store – customer names, addresses, credit card details – which cyber criminals can use and sell in the cybercrime underworld.”

“Over the past year we have seen a number of retailers suffer data breaches and I expect this will continue.”

“Given that the study findings have not improved for retailers over the last year, I would say this threat is not showing any signs of diminishing,” said Shulman.

Other findings from the study revealed that websites containing consumer information, such as personal details and credit cards, which require some form of log-in credentials, suffer up to 59 per cent of the attacks. Mr Shulman warned that unless retailers were prepared to tackle the problem head-on the situation would only deteriorate:

“Retailers must take the threat of cyber-attack very seriously. Over the past year we have seen some very well known, and seemingly secure, retail websites hit by devastating cyber-attacks and these should act as a warning to others in the industry.”

But what steps should retailers be taking to minimise this online threat? What can they do to protect themselves and their customers? Well, according to Mr Shulman retailers should be strengthening the integrity and robustness of their datacentres and databases, by ensuring firstly that all data is encrypted, and secondly by ensuring that there are strong barriers in place which effectively keep intruders out. He warned that all web traffic and database activity should be treated with absolute caution. He also advised that retailers should act immediately on suspicious behaviour or anomalous activity notification alerts.

His warnings were echoed by Paul Ayers, vice-president for Europe at data Security Company, Vormetric, and Ross Brewer, vice-president and managing director of international markets at LogRhythm. Mr Ayers told Computer Weekly:

“Although some may say it will be harder to ensure nothing slips through the data security net during the [the Black Friday/ Cyber Monday] frenzy, consumers will not be best pleased to find that the deals they secure come at the expense of their personal data,” he said.

Mr Brewer told Computer Weekly retailers must ensure that they do not take shortcuts when protecting their customers’ data, as the customer’s data security is paramount:

“If they are not continuously tracking and monitoring their networks for anomalous activity, then they are not doing a good enough job at proactively defending against cyber-crime,” he said.

If you are concerned about the escalating security challenges and risk management issues facing your business today and would like to take precautions, then why not speak to Krypsys? Krypsys’ services are focused on helping your business assess its security posture against current and evolving security threats and educating you on the risks to which you are exposed. We have a wealth of experience in security projects in both the public and private sectors and have worked with organisations to protect high value information assets such as trading platforms, e-commerce systems, data-centres and cloud services. We also work with leading IT security vendors and specialist consultancies to close the gaps in your own IT security strategy and to assist in streamlining and prioritising your risk management spending.

Whether you’re looking for help with penetration testing and security reviews, or are looking for advice on security compliance and web security solutions, Krypsys can help you. For more information on web security solutions, please contact Krypsys on 01273 044072 or [email protected].