Last weekend, British shoppers were predicted to have spent almost £8bn on Black Friday sales – nearly four percent higher than last year. While this busy shopping period is certainly good for the British economy, it raises concerns about the opportunities for scammers and cyber criminals. Ross Brewer, VP and MD EMEA at LogRhythm, discusses for Finance Monthly below.

Indeed, all eyes have been on who – and there will be some – will fall victim to hackers’ increasingly persistent and clever tactics. Retailers are prime targets because of the confidential data they hold – whether it’s bank details, email addresses or personal information. There’s absolutely no doubt that cyber criminals will have tried to take advantage of the past week’s online sales peaks to access networks unnoticed or execute malware that has been sitting on the network for months. Retailers have a lot to prove when it comes to showing consumers that they are taking modern-day threats seriously.

As we only saw this week with Uber, it isn’t always a breach that makes headlines, it can be how it’s contained and disclosed. In such a competitive industry, retailers rely heavily on loyalty, which means reputation is key. They need to understand the true value of the data they hold and take the necessary steps to protect it.

Monitoring and detection is key

It’s hugely important that retailers are investing in tools that continuously monitors networks for any signs of a compromise. Indeed, online activity and network communications between components in the card processing chain need to be tightly controlled; a process that is specifically mandated by PCI-DSS. With time increasingly of the essence, it is also critical that, rather than simply scanning for threats and raising an alarm if something suspicious is identified, these systems are able to deliver actionable insight with supporting forensic data and contextually rich intelligence. Not only does this ensure that the right information is delivered at the right time, to the right people, but it guarantees that the appropriate context will be attached, significantly decreasing the amount of time it takes to detect and respond to threats.

Most retailers know by now that they cannot afford to take shortcuts when it comes to cyber security. With breaches now a case of when, not if, it’s essential that they are on high alert at all times – particularly during busy shopping periods. Despite growing concerns over the cyber threat, consumers are spending more and more money in store and online each year, but retailers cannot take this for granted. It only takes one data breach to damage a company’s reputation, hinder future sales and/or disrupt pending investments and deals.

The good news is that security intelligence has become so advanced that companies can now automatically detect a compromise as soon as it happens, enabling security teams to stop a cyberattack before any damage is done. With GDPR only a matter of months away, enterprise organisations and retailers are feeling the pressure to identify, mitigate and disclose an attack at the time that it happens. Only with rapid detection and response capabilities will retailers be able to take cyberattackers head on and protect their customers.