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Should Grocery Stores be Worried about Cyber Attacks?

Recent ransomware attacks and data breaches against the oil industry, meat producers, and grocery stores such as Kroger have brought cybersecurity back into the national spotlight after being somewhat overshadowed by the pandemic. This news may have you wondering if your store data is vulnerable. Of course, there’s nothing new about the risk of cyberattacks, and the bad actors launching these attacks can and do target smaller businesses. Still, grocers can protect themselves and their customers by following sensible security practices.

The past decade is filled with examples of grocery stores and other retailers having their data compromised. Most recently, Kroger was the target of a data breach that potentially affected employee data, pharmacy records, and money services records. Other retailers have struggled with cyber attacks as well. A notable example is Target’s 2013 data breach that affected the payment information of 41 million customers and cost the company millions in fines and loss of customer goodwill. 

If you are a smaller independent grocer, you may be thinking that these sorts of events only happen to the Krogers and Targets of the world, but attacks are spiking, with a 150% increase over 2020. And, as more businesses rely on digital services, the targets keep growing. So, yes, even smaller grocery stores should be concerned about the recent escalation of cybercrime activity, but the risk doesn't mean that stores should shy away from today's retail technologies. On the contrary, technology is an amazing tool that helps smaller stores compete with larger chains by offering better shopping experiences on a level playing field.

Here are three simple ways to leverage technology and reduce the risk of cyberattacks.

Know your data

It's hard to protect the unknown. So, the first prudent step for a retailer is to understand the types of data you handle and store and where it resides in your network. The leak of customer payment information, for example, can be a devastating event for a retailer, but luckily the payment industry has instituted PCI DSS standards that require data awareness for compliance. Your retail system and payment process system should be PCI DSS compliant. See our previous blog on the 12 requirements of PCI DSS. The good news is compliance is one of the best ways to mitigate risk.

Make sure your employees know the importance of data security

In any business, the human element is the weakest cybersecurity link. Weak passwords and failure to follow security practices lead to compromised login credentials. Train your employees, especially those who log in to store systems, on proper password hygiene. The most popular password of 2020 was "123456." It was the password for over 2.5 million users, takes a nanosecond to crack, and was exposed 24 million times last year. Number two was "123456789." And, even after all of the highly publicized breaches across all industries, the number four most common password was "password."

Ensure your employees use unique more complex passwords that are not used for other digital services and consider adding multifactor authentication to further protect against unauthorized access.

Invest in the right retail solutions

Today's retail solutions can add a strong layer of security and aid in compliance. STCR's smart retail systems are customized, so they consider the unique risks and concerns that face grocers of any size. STCR develops secure solutions that allow stores to take advantage of all of the benefits of today's retail technologies with less risk. To learn more about how to protect your store and customer data, contact us today. 

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