Together with
Roulette on Consumer Trust - Ransomware and the link between Loyalty And Attacks
Nov 3, 2022
Roulette on Consumer Trust - Ransomware and the link between Loyalty And Attacks
Ashesh Anand
Ashesh Anand

Attacks using ransomware are both indiscriminate and successful. They target CEOs, union leaders, Wall Street firms, and small-town hospitals. Ransomware attacks increased by 6,000% in 2016 alone, netting almost $1 billion from unwary victims. Ransomware is as tried and true as it gets for attackers.

But ransomware also grows and changes as the threat landscape does. Attackers are beginning to understand that attacking trust can be just as profitable as attacking data. One of a company's most precious assets, reputation, is currently under attack.

Traditional ransomware is frequently dealt with invisibly. The scenario can be resolved without involving consumers or the media, whether the firm uses its resources to neutralize the ransomware, recovers the files using a backup system, or even pays the ransom.

Legacy security systems continue to focus on either discovering "known evil" or defending networks at the border. These innovative attacks will undoubtedly damage organizational reputation unless they are halted at an early stage.

Protecting reputation has evolved into a vital aspect of cyber security as "trust attacks" grow more common. Organizations must be able to adapt to a threat landscape that is continually evolving in order to maintain their reputation for reliability and defend their assets from sneaky, covert cyberattacks.

There is no guarantee that the attacker will unlock the data if you pay the ransom. Finding the threat when it is still developing in your systems is the greatest alternative to protect yourself against ransomware. 

Why Retail Faces Serious Challenges from Ransomware? 

Retail firms are multi-site and multi-channel in nature, in contrast to most industries, which means there are many more points of entry for ransomware assaults. 

Beyond typical computer endpoints, the retail industry also employs many other devices, including item-level RFID-based packages and pallets, vehicle-mounted computers, portable scan-based computers, smart shelves, IP cameras, and more. There is a sizable surface to safeguard.

The fact that many employees who use technological devices and services are actually from a non-technical background and don't have much knowledge about it presents another issue for businesses. In reality, a retailer's own customer base is frequently its weakest link. i.e. they are not IT or InfoSec experts; they are there to sell sweets, clothing, or canned goods. To guarantee that every employee is aware of hazards and how to prevent them, merchants must adequately educate a sizable number of full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees regarding the ransomware attacks. 

However, retailers' singular emphasis on the customers is probably what makes ransomware a struggle in retailing compared to other companies. We are aware of what occurs when consumer identities and other private information are compromised by ransomware. Any time a retailer loses a customer, they should expect them to stay away for a while, and once they lose that client to a direct rival, that's a double blow. Even if we are fortunate enough to win back our customers' trust, doing so will require a costly effort to win them back. It is well understood that gaining a new client is far cheaper than gaining a lost one.

Gambling on Consumer Trust

 When faced with any inconveniences, customers have no qualms about transferring their business elsewhere if retailers are unable to satisfy them. Customers are becoming less tolerant of ransomware-related outages.

According to research, scammers were keen to exploit the increased security risks brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Participants of the study stated that in the previous year, their organizations experienced, on average, 2.57 ransomware attacks that caused significant disruption. 14% of those surveyed admitted to experiencing five or more ransomware assaults with prolonged downtime. It is clear that businesses that want to address these vulnerabilities still have a long ways to go before their security defence systems are on par with their manufacturing environment.

In a poll of over 2,000 consumers conducted in North America, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, it was discovered that 70% of respondents thought firms weren't doing enough to protect their personal information and assumed it had already been hacked. Organizations continue to experience cyberattacks that lead to data breaches, enormous data loss, protracted downtime, and astronomical ransom payments, despite broad data privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) intended to protect consumer data. 

Retailers cannot risk losing the trust of their customers by going offline for an extended period of time or by not protecting client data properly. Ransomware attacks target both on-premises and cloud-based data and apps, so there is no safe refuge against them.

The reputational harm these attacks cause retailers may be even more harmful. Customers may choose to shop with competitors who can provide a better and more secure shopping experience if they face problems with failed POS transactions and the idea that a business is dangerous.

Acknowledge The Ransom?

Despite federal authorities' advice against it, many businesses have paid ransoms to regain access to their data. However, be careful that even if you pay, there is no assurance that dishonest hackers will provide you with the decryption key for your files.

According to the FBI, many ransomware hackers are based in Eastern Europe and other offshore regions protected by evasive internet infrastructures. Government IT security specialists advise all ransomware victims to get in touch with their neighborhood FBI field office and to think about hiring a trustworthy private Internet security consultant. Authorities have a chance to disable botnets and other mechanisms that enable these assaults by doing this.

How Can Retailers Strengthen Their Resistance Against Ransomware?

First and foremost, retailers must train their defences against attacks; and should conduct tabletop learning exercises. During these exercises, you frequently find that your executive team or board members may need to receive training on best cybersecurity practices and technology.

While crucial, this c-level knowledge is extremely difficult. At any given time, executives think about a thousand different things, including strategy, operations, and company management. Top executives may shut down when you bring up something as technical as cybersecurity to them because they have so many other things on their attention. It's crucial to overcome this communication obstacle. Speaking the language of business will help you.

Make sure your leaders comprehend the effects of a ransomware attack on the company, in addition to teaching them excellent cyber hygiene. Because they are aware of the full cost of a breach, this knowledge encourages increased investment—both metaphorically and literally. Take advantage of the fact that all executives and board members are familiar with the idea of risk by assisting them in understanding their responsibilities in the event of an occurrence. What can I do to help you? is a common automatic question they have once they have put everything within a known risk context.

It's crucial for company leaders to avoid developing a false feeling of security and believing that the IT department or information security team has everything under control. That's not the case every time. They are there to ensure the safety of the company, its members, clients, and partners in business. When an incident occurs, they are there to address it and try their best to anticipate issues before they arise. But leaving the whole defence mechanism on the IT Dept. is wrong. Everyone needs to take responsibility for developing a strong Cyber Security culture around to be robust to such attacks.

Everyone needs the proper training to recognize ransomware and other online dangers and react accordingly. From shop operations and merchandising to shipping and receiving, every employee in the retail industry needs to be aware of their critical role in promoting cybersecurity best practices and preventing ransomware from entering the building. This type of training should be distributed in manageable chunks and nuggets, brief films, and emails to avoid losing the audience. Everyone has to be aware of the potential consequences of unsafe actions like clicking on spam email links and how to report them when they are encountered. One of your main responsibilities as security leaders is to ensure that the C-suite and the board are prepared to take action in case of a ransomware attack in your company.

 How can an infection be avoided?

1. Never click on questionable links: Steer clear of clicking on links on questionable websites or in spam letters. Malicious links could trigger an automated download that infects your computer if you click on them.

2. Never use unidentified USB sticks: Never connect unidentified USB sticks or other storage media to your computer. To persuade someone to use the storage device, cybercriminals may have contaminated it and left it in a busy area.

3. Do not respond if a call, text, or email from an unknown source asks for personal information in order to avoid giving it out. When organizing a ransomware attack, cybercriminals may try to get personal data from you in order to customize their phishing messages for you. If you have any questions about the message's validity, get in touch with the sender immediately.

4. Avoid opening dubious email attachments since ransomware can also enter your device through them. Any suspicious-looking attachments should not be opened. Pay special attention to the sender and verify that the address is accurate to ensure the email is reliable. Never open an attachment that requests that you execute a macro in order to view it. Opening an infected attachment will launch a malicious macro that allows the malware to take control of your computer.

5. When using public Wi-Fi networks, use VPN services: Conscious usage of public Wi-Fi networks is a practical ransomware defence strategy. Your computer is more susceptible to assaults when connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Avoid utilizing public Wi-Fi for delicate transactions whenever possible, or utilize a secure VPN service.

6. Update your operating system and programs: You may better safeguard yourself from malware by routinely updating your operating system and software. Make sure you take advantage of the most recent security fixes when running updates. This makes it more difficult for fraudsters to take advantage of holes in your programs.

7. Never download software or media files from untrusted websites in order to reduce the chance of getting ransomware. Use reputable and trusted websites to download from. These websites can be identified by trust seals. Ensure that "HTTPS" is used in place of "HTTP" in the browser address bar of the page you visit. The address bar may also display a shield or lock icon to show that the page is secure. When downloading anything to your mobile device, use caution as well. Depending on your device, you can put your trust in either the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

Reputation is the Key to Retail's Future

While a shop may eventually be able to recoup its financial resources or data after an assault, it will be difficult to win back the trust of customers and business partners. The impact of a ransomware attack on a retailer may endure a long time on customer loyalty and shopping behaviour. Due to the likelihood that customers would complain to others, whether online or off, the potential harm will increase. According to market research, 90% of online buyers have avoided a particular business because of its bad reputation.

The always-on systems that the e-commerce sector depends on to meet client demand make them open to attack since thieves know they can target companies where it hurts.

Retailers must know that many ransomware attacks occur during these busy times as they prepare for big times like Black Friday, the holiday season, and end-of-summer sales. Cybercriminals will seize the chance to cause as much havoc as they can during periods of high sales in order to force retailers to make payments. Retailers must have strong security measures in place to guard against such assaults. In order to do this, they must make sure that their systems are current and that they have effective backup policies in place.

The time to act is now, as cybercriminals are working to implement more powerful and potentially disastrous methods of enslaving the data and workloads of retailers. For retailers to gain and keep customer trust, they must quickly examine their resilience strategy, narrow the gap by strengthening their backup and disaster recovery procedures, and audit their websites and apps to make sure they are as secure as possible. Consumer data must be safeguarded and secure in today's highly linked and digital retail world, or companies risk losing customers' trust and revenue.

Write for us

Our writers are independent, remote and growing in numbers. Join our team of enthusiastic authors and begin creating and earning today.

Get Started