Exponential increases in online traffic during the holidays can add stress to a retailer’s network security infrastructure and increase the likelihood of disruptions, and bad weather can knock data centers offline. Instead of reacting to these issues, retailers should confront them proactively to maximize earning potential and minimize breakdowns.

Yoni Leitersdorf, founder and CEO, Indeni

The holiday season presents two potential boosts for online retailers: revenue and site traffic.

In a 2018 Generali Global Assistance study, 91% of Americans discussed their intentions to shop during the previous holiday season; it’s no wonder so many retailers actually bring in the majority of their annual revenue during these critical months. Unfortunately, 71% of the same study respondents expressed concern about the safety of their private data—a fear that isn’t unfounded.

Is your infrastructure configured for redundancy? Will a fail-over happen instantaneously, or is human intervention required?

Exponential increases in online traffic can add stress to a retailer’s network security infrastructure and increase the likelihood of disruptions. Even a small production outage can have a significant negative impact on revenue, and security breaches during these months can put more consumers at risk.

Moreover, the holiday season often delivers weather issues that could potentially knock entire data centers offline for days on end. Bandwidth and weather issues are two factors security engineers need to monitor as the holiday shopping season nears. Instead of reacting to these issues, retailers should confront them proactively to maximize earning potential and minimize breakdowns.

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Consistency Is Key

Network security is a 24/7 undertaking that requires vigilance and constant oversight. The work is tedious, time-intensive, and challenging to do consistently.

The latest company to learn this lesson is Pitney Bowes, a global logistics provider to Amazon, Apple, and Dell. Attackers recently deployed targeted malware to disrupt mailing, shipping, and other responsibilities crucial to Pitney Bowes and its clients. Though the company’s head of data protection concluded that client data wasn’t compromised, the attack underscores the threats retailers face this time of year.

To navigate the holidays with your network security intact, keep these three strategies in mind:

1. Analyze every piece of critical infrastructure.

Audit the performance of core security systems, such as a firewall or load balancer, over the past year to spot any trends. Identify the processes most impacted by substantial changes in online traffic, ascertaining whether they’ll be able to continue functioning correctly if your traffic is five or 10 times larger than normal.

If you don’t carefully examine every piece of infrastructure ahead of the holidays, there’s a high chance that certain parts could fail when traffic spikes.

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2. Assess infrastructure resiliency to potential hard outages.

If a winter storm kills the power to a specific data center, you’ll need backups in place to ensure that you can continue to serve a surplus of customers. Such an event might seem unlikely, but it happens more than you’d think.

An Uptime Institute survey found that nearly a third of all data centers reported an outage in the past 12 months. Even if you’re running operations in the cloud, you’ll want to ensure that you’re set up to handle an outage. Is your infrastructure configured for redundancy? Will a fail-over happen instantaneously, or is human intervention required? Answer these questions before the holiday rush begins.

3. Act before traffic increases.
Most organizations implement a change freeze during the holidays, which means any necessary changes must be made before the shopping season starts. Validate configurations and device settings of all network security infrastructure components to ensure they align with vendor best practices and your unique standards.

Of course, changes can be risky. New software versions could be filled with bugs or incompatible with existing infrastructure. These aren’t problems you want to discover on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, so test new features, operating systems, and integrations well in advance.

The holidays can be lucrative for retailers and hackers. More credit card numbers will be handled during the holiday season, and additional traffic makes it easier for bad actors to steal and misuse data. Retailers must remain vigilant and proactive about network security, or they’ll risk stumbling into the New Year.

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Indeni provides technology that integrates with firewalls and security infrastructures to predict performance issues and help companies make proactive business decisions.

 

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