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eCommerce Website Security & Compliance

In the rapidly evolving world of e-commerce, security is paramount. Protecting customer data, ensuring transaction safety, and maintaining the integrity of the website are critical to building trust and preventing cyber threats. Here we cover all the aspects of ecommerce website security and legal compliance you need to be aware of.

1. Website Security

Ensuring the security of an ecommerce website requires a multi-faceted approach, encompassing data protection, robust authentication, secure coding practices and vigilant network security measures.

1.1 Data Protection


Encryption is the cornerstone of data protection. It ensures that data is unreadable to unauthorised users both during transmission and when stored.

Data in Transit

Using SSL/TLS (Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security) is essential for protecting data in transit. These protocols encrypt the data exchanged between the user's browser and the server, preventing eavesdropping and tampering. Implementing SSL/TLS is a straightforward process that begins with obtaining an SSL/TLS certificate from a trusted Certificate Authority (CA).

While all CAs aim to provide secure SSL/TLS certificates, there are significant differences in terms of reputation, services, pricing, support, and additional features. Well-known and trusted CAs like DigiCert and GlobalSign are more likely to be recognised by browsers and customers, although they can be more expensive. You can get free certificates from CAs like Let’s Encrypt, but these may not have the recognition or features you want for your ecommerce site.

There are three types of SSL/TLS certificates:

  • Domain Validation (DV): Basic certificates that verify domain ownership. CAs like Let's Encrypt focus on DV certificates, offering them for free.

  • Organisation Validation (OV): Provides additional validation of the organisation behind the website. CAs like GlobalSign and DigiCert offer these for businesses seeking more credibility.

  • Extended Validation (EV): The highest level of validation, involving rigorous checks. CAs such as DigiCert and GlobalSign provide EV certificates, which display the organisation's name when you click on the information or padlock icon in the browser address bar.

It can take days or even weeks to issue OV and EV certificates due to the validation checks required, so bear this in mind if you have a tight launch deadline or your current certificate is going to expire.

Some CAs provide a warranty with their certificates, offering financial compensation if the certificate fails. For example, DigiCert offers substantial warranties on their EV certificates. Enterprise-focused CAs like GlobalSign provide comprehensive certificate management tools, including automated renewal and deployment, whilst wildcard and multi-domain certificates are available to cover multiple subdomains or domains, simplifying SSL management for complex websites.

Once you have your certificate, it’s a case of installing it on your web server, usually done through a hosting control panel or admin area, but you made need to request support from your hosting provider. You should then ensure all pages are served over HTTPS with no warnings displayed in the browser. This is a headache we take away from our clients as we do it for them.

Data at Rest

For data stored on servers, using strong encryption methods is crucial. Techniques such as AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) provide robust protection:

  • Encrypt sensitive data before storing it in databases.
  • Use encryption keys managed securely through Key Management Systems (KMS).


Backup and Recovery

Regular data backups and a solid disaster recovery plan are essential for data protection:

  • Regular Backups: Schedule automated backups of your website's data, including databases, server configurations, and customer information. Store backups in multiple locations, including off-site or cloud storage.

  • Disaster Recovery Plan: Develop a detailed disaster recovery plan that outlines procedures for restoring data and services in the event of a breach or system failure. Test the plan periodically to ensure its effectiveness.

  • Point in Time Backups: Many of the cloud hosting services such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services off a point-in-time backup facility for running databases which removes the headaches of backup management.

Of course, Wired In can help you set up and maintain the security and backup systems for your ecommerce site.


1.2 Authentication and Authorisation

User Authentication

Strong authentication methods are vital to verify the identity of users accessing the ecommerce website:

  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Implement 2FA to add an extra layer of security. Users must provide two forms of identification (e.g., password and a code sent to their phone or an authentication app) to access their accounts.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): For even greater security, use MFA, which requires multiple verification methods from independent categories of credentials. This often uses a third-party security “dongle” such as a USB key.


Access Control

Limiting access to sensitive data and functionality through Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) helps prevent unauthorised access:

  • Role Definition: Define roles based on job functions (e.g., admin, customer service, user) and assign permissions accordingly.

  • Least Privilege Principle: Ensure users have the minimum access necessary to perform their duties. Regularly review and update access controls to adapt to changing roles and responsibilities.

  • Regular Audits: Conduct regular audits of access permissions to identify and rectify unnecessary or excessive access rights.

  • Access Monitoring: Monitor access to sensitive data and systems, logging all access attempts and flagging suspicious activities.


1.3 Application Security

Secure Coding Practices

Following secure coding practices is essential to protect your e-commerce website from common vulnerabilities:


Regular Updates and Patching

Keeping all software components updated is crucial for maintaining security:

  • Software Updates: Regularly update your website's software, including the CMS, plugins, and themes, to patch known vulnerabilities.

  • Third-Party Components: Ensure all third-party libraries and frameworks are up-to-date. Subscribe to security bulletins for the software and platforms you use to stay informed about vulnerabilities and patches.

  • Technology Stack Updates: Many technology stacks, such as Microsoft .NET, have a published upgrade path and each version has a defined lifespan. It’s best practice to update the stack to a version that is still supported otherwise you may be vulnerable to attack.


1.4 Network Security

Firewalls and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)

Protecting the network infrastructure is vital for preventing unauthorised access and detecting threats:

  • Firewalls: Implement firewalls to filter incoming and outgoing traffic based on predetermined security rules. Use both network and web application firewalls for comprehensive protection.

  • IDS: Deploy IDS to monitor network traffic for suspicious activities. IDS can detect and alert you to potential threats, allowing for timely intervention.

These functions are typically provided as part of your hosting package (sometimes as additional-cost services) or can be implemented using a separate provider such as Cloudflare’s Magic Firewall.


VPNs for Secure Access

Using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) enhances security, especially for remote access to the admin panel:

  • Admin Panel Access: Restrict admin panel access to users connected via a VPN. This ensures that only authorised personnel can access sensitive administrative functionalities.

  • Secure Remote Work: If employees need to work remotely, ensure they use VPNs to secure their connections, protecting sensitive data from being intercepted over public networks.


2. Legal Compliance

Operating an ecommerce website in the UK involves navigating a complex landscape of legal requirements and regulations designed to protect consumer rights, ensure data privacy, and secure payment information. If you are trading internationally, you also need to be aware of your legal obligations in those countries too.

2.1 Data Privacy Regulations

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a pivotal regulation affecting all ecommerce businesses operating within the EU or handling EU customer data. The GDPR aims to protect personal data and ensure individuals' privacy.

Key GDPR Requirements:

  • Lawful Basis for Processing: Ensure that all personal data is processed based on one of the lawful grounds, such as consent, contract necessity, legal obligation, vital interests, public task, or legitimate interests.

  • Consent: Obtain explicit consent from users before collecting, processing, or sharing their personal data. Ensure that consent requests are clear, concise, and separate from other terms and conditions.

  • Data Subject Rights: Facilitate and respect individuals' rights, including the right to access, rectify, erase (right to be forgotten), restrict processing, data portability, and object to data processing.

  • Data Protection by Design and Default: Implement data protection measures from the onset of any project (privacy by design) and ensure only necessary data is collected and processed (privacy by default).

  • Data Breach Notification: Notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) within 72 hours of becoming aware of a data breach. If the breach poses a high risk to individuals, notify the affected individuals promptly.

  • Data Protection Officer (DPO): Appoint a DPO if your core activities involve large-scale processing of sensitive data or regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects.

  • Data Processing Agreements: Ensure all data processors adhere to GDPR standards through clear contractual agreements.


Other Regional Regulations

While GDPR is a major regulation, ecommerce businesses must also consider other regional data privacy laws that may apply, especially when dealing with customers outside the EU.

Key Regional Regulations:

  • UK Data Protection Act 2018: Complements GDPR and provides specific provisions applicable in the UK, including national security and immigration.

  • California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA): If your ecommerce site handles data from California residents, you must comply with CCPA, which grants similar rights to GDPR but with some differences in scope and requirements.

  • Cross-Border Data Transfers: Ensure compliance with international data transfer regulations, such as using Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) or other approved mechanisms when transferring data outside the EU.


2.2 Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance is crucial for any ecommerce website that processes, stores, or transmits credit card information. PCI DSS aims to protect cardholder data and reduce credit card fraud.

Key PCI DSS Requirements:

·         Build and Maintain a Secure Network:

    • Firewall Configuration: Install and maintain a firewall configuration to protect cardholder data.
    • Vendor Defaults: Avoid using vendor-supplied defaults for system passwords and other security parameters.

  • Protect Cardholder Data:
    • Data Encryption: Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open, public networks (i.e. use SSL/TLS).
    • Storage Policies: Do not store sensitive authentication data after authorisation, including the full magnetic stripe data, CVV2, or PIN data.

  • Maintain a Vulnerability Management Program:
    • Anti-Virus Software: Use and regularly update anti-virus software on all systems commonly affected by malware.
    • Secure Systems: Develop and maintain secure systems and applications through regular updates and patch management.

  • Implement Strong Access Control Measures:
    • Access Restriction: Restrict access to cardholder data by business need-to-know.
    • Unique IDs: Assign a unique ID to each person with computer access.
    • Physical Access: Restrict physical access to cardholder data.

  • Regularly Monitor and Test Networks:
    • Logging and Monitoring: Track and monitor all access to network resources and cardholder data.
    • Testing: Regularly test security systems and processes, including vulnerability scans and penetration testing.

  • Maintain an Information Security Policy:
    • Policy Development: Develop and maintain a comprehensive information security policy for employees and contractors.
    • Awareness Programs: Establish a security awareness program to educate employees about the importance of protecting cardholder data.


3. Operational Security

Operational security relates to the day-to-day activity of staff working in the business, where processes including monitoring and logging, incident response, and employee training and awareness ensure customer data is protected.

3.1 Monitoring and Logging

Activity Logs

Maintaining comprehensive logs of user activities and access is vital for detecting suspicious behaviour, troubleshooting issues, and ensuring accountability.

Key Practices for Activity Logs:

  • Log Collection: Collect logs from all critical systems, including web servers, databases, application servers, and network devices. Ensure logs capture details such as login attempts, changes to user accounts, data access events, and configuration changes.

  • Centralised Logging: Use a centralised logging solution to aggregate logs from various sources, making it easier to analyse and correlate events. There are numerous tools available for this, such as and Splunk.

  • Retention Policies: Define retention policies for logs, ensuring they are kept for a sufficient period to meet regulatory requirements and support forensic investigations.

  • Access Control: Secure access to logs, ensuring that only authorised personnel can view or modify them.


Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

SIEM tools play a crucial role in analysing and monitoring security events across your ecommerce infrastructure.

Key Benefits of SIEM:

  • Real-Time Monitoring: SIEM systems provide real-time monitoring of security events, allowing for the immediate detection of suspicious activities.

  • Correlation and Analysis: SIEM tools correlate data from various sources, helping to identify patterns and potential threats that might go unnoticed if analysed in isolation.

  • Incident Response: SIEM systems often include features for automating and orchestrating incident response, reducing the time to mitigate threats.

  • Compliance Reporting: SIEM solutions can generate reports that help demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements such as GDPR and PCI DSS.


Implementing SIEM:

  • Select a SIEM Solution: Choose a SIEM solution that fits your organisation’s needs and budget. Popular options include Splunk, IBM QRadar, and ArcSight.

  • Integrate Data Sources: Ensure all relevant data sources are integrated into the SIEM system, including network devices, servers, applications, and databases.

  • Define Use Cases: Develop specific use cases and rules within the SIEM tool to detect relevant threats and incidents.

  • Regular Tuning: Continuously tune the SIEM system to reduce false positives and adapt to emerging threats.


3.2 Incident Response

Incident Response Plan

Having a robust incident response plan is essential for effectively managing security incidents and minimising their impact.

Key Components of an Incident Response Plan:

  • Preparation: Establish and train an incident response team. Develop incident response policies and procedures, and ensure the necessary tools and resources are available.

  • Identification: Define processes for detecting and identifying security incidents. Ensure that employees know how to report suspected incidents.

  • Containment: Develop strategies for containing incidents to prevent further damage. This might involve isolating affected systems or restricting network access.

  • Eradication: Define steps for eradicating the cause of the incident, such as removing malware or closing vulnerabilities.

  • Recovery: Establish procedures for restoring affected systems and services to normal operation, ensuring that they are free from security threats.

  • Lessons Learned: After resolving an incident, conduct a post-incident review to identify lessons learned and improve the incident response plan.


Breach Notification

In the event of a data breach, timely and effective communication with affected parties and regulatory bodies is crucial.

Key Practices for Breach Notification:

  • Notification Policy: Develop a breach notification policy that outlines when and how affected parties will be notified.

  • Regulatory Requirements: Ensure the notification process complies with relevant regulations, such as GDPR, which requires notifying the ICO within 72 hours of becoming aware of a breach.

  • Communication Plan: Prepare clear and concise templates for breach notifications, including information on the nature of the breach, the data affected, and steps being taken to mitigate the impact.

  • Customer Support: Provide support to affected customers, including contact information for further enquiries and advice on protecting their data.


3.3 Employee Training and Awareness

Security Training

Regular security training is essential to ensure that employees understand and follow best practices for maintaining security.

Key Elements of Security Training:

  • Phishing Prevention: Train employees to recognise and avoid phishing attempts, including identifying suspicious emails and links.

  • Password Security: Educate employees on creating strong passwords and using password managers.

  • Data Protection: Ensure employees understand the importance of protecting sensitive data and the methods for doing so, such as encryption and secure sharing practices.

  • Incident Reporting: Teach employees how to report suspected security incidents promptly.


Training Methods:

  • Regular Workshops: Conduct regular workshops and training sessions to keep employees updated on the latest security threats and best practices.

  • Online Courses: Utilise online training platforms to provide flexible and accessible security training.

  • Simulated Attacks: Conduct simulated phishing attacks and other security exercises to assess and improve employees’ responses.

You should of course also implement Role-Based Access Control as described above.


4. Policy Documents

Privacy Policy

A privacy policy is a critical document that explains how your ecommerce website collects, uses, and protects user data. It helps build trust with customers and ensures compliance with data protection regulations like GDPR and CCPA.

Key Elements of a Privacy Policy:

  • Data Collection: Clearly state what types of data you collect from users, such as personal information (name, email address, payment information) and non-personal information (IP addresses, cookies).

  • Purpose of Data Collection: Explain why you collect this data. Common purposes include processing transactions, improving customer service, and marketing communications.

  • Data Usage: Detail how the collected data will be used. This includes sharing data with third parties for order fulfilment, marketing, or legal requirements.

  • Data Protection: Describe the measures you take to protect user data, such as encryption, secure servers, and access controls.

  • User Rights: Inform users of their rights regarding their data, including the right to access, rectify, delete, and restrict the use of their personal information.

  • Cookie Policy: Include information about the use of cookies and similar technologies on your site, and how users can manage their cookie preferences.


Terms of Service

Terms of Service (ToS) are the rules and guidelines that users must agree to in order to use your website. This legal agreement helps protect your business and ensures users understand their rights and responsibilities.

Key Elements of Terms of Service:

  • Acceptance of Terms: Clearly state that by using your website, users agree to your terms and conditions.

  • Account Creation: Outline the process for creating an account, including the requirement to provide accurate information and maintain the confidentiality of login credentials.

  • User Conduct: Define acceptable and unacceptable behaviours on your website, such as prohibiting fraudulent activities, abuse, or infringement of intellectual property.

  • Product and Service Information: Provide details about the products and services offered, including pricing, availability, and delivery terms.

  • Returns and Refunds: Outline your policies regarding returns, refunds, and exchanges.

  • Limitation of Liability: Limit your liability for any damages arising from the use of your website, to the extent permitted by law.

  • Changes to Terms: Reserve the right to modify the ToS and inform users of any significant changes.


4.2 Data Retention Policies

Data Retention Schedule

A data retention policy defines how long different types of data are retained and when they are deleted. This helps ensure compliance with legal requirements and data protection best practices.

Key Elements of a Data Retention Schedule:

  • Data Classification: Categorise data based on its type and sensitivity (e.g., personal data, financial data, transaction data).

  • Retention Periods: Define specific retention periods for each data category. For example, retain financial records for seven years for tax purposes, and delete inactive user accounts after one year.

  • Deletion Procedures: Outline the procedures for securely deleting data once the retention period has expired. This may include data anonymisation or permanent deletion.


Data Minimisation

Data minimisation is the practice of collecting only the data necessary for your business operations. This reduces the risk of data breaches and helps comply with data protection principles.

Key Elements of Data Minimisation:

  • Purpose Limitation: Ensure that data is collected for specific, legitimate purposes and not used beyond those purposes.

  • Necessity: Regularly review the data you collect to ensure it is essential for your operations. Avoid collecting excessive or irrelevant data.

  • User Consent: Obtain explicit consent from users before collecting their data, especially if it involves sensitive information.


4.3 Third-Party Compliance

Vendor Management

Vendor management involves ensuring that third-party vendors who have access to your data comply with your security and privacy standards. This is crucial for maintaining data integrity and regulatory compliance.

Key Elements of Vendor Management:

  • Vendor Assessment: Evaluate vendors before engaging them, assessing their security practices, reputation, and compliance with relevant regulations.

  • Ongoing Monitoring: Regularly monitor vendors’ compliance with your security and privacy standards through audits, reviews, and performance assessments.

  • Vendor Agreements: Include specific security and privacy requirements in your contracts with vendors, ensuring they understand and adhere to your standards.


Data Processing Agreements

Data Processing Agreements (DPAs) are contracts between you and any third party that processes data on your behalf. These agreements are essential for GDPR compliance and ensuring the secure handling of personal data.

Key Elements of Data Processing Agreements:

  • Scope of Processing: Clearly define the scope of data processing activities, including the types of data processed and the purposes of processing.

  • Security Measures: Specify the security measures the processor must implement to protect the data, such as encryption, access controls, and incident response procedures.

  • Sub-Processors: Require processors to obtain your consent before engaging sub-processors and ensure they comply with the same data protection obligations.

  • Breach Notification: Include provisions for timely notification of data breaches by the processor.

  • Data Subject Rights: Ensure the processor assists you in responding to data subject requests, such as access, rectification, and deletion requests.

  • Contract Termination: Outline the procedures for terminating the agreement and ensuring the secure return or deletion of data upon termination.


5. Technical Measures For Ecommerce Security & Compliance

Security and legal compliance is a multifaceted process that includes robust technical measures such as a Secure Development Lifecycle and maintaining data integrity.

5.1 Secure Development Lifecycle (SDLC)

The Secure Development Lifecycle (SDLC) is a process that integrates security practices into every phase of software development, from initial planning to deployment and maintenance. Adopting a secure SDLC ensures that security is a fundamental component of your e-commerce website's development process.

Code Reviews

Regular code reviews are essential for identifying and mitigating security vulnerabilities early in the development process. By systematically examining code for flaws, developers can address potential issues before they become significant problems. This process is sometimes known as “linting”, after one of the first static code analysis tools called Lint.

Key Practices for Code Reviews:

  • Peer Reviews: Have code reviewed by multiple developers to ensure different perspectives and expertise are applied.

  • Automated Tools: Use automated code analysis tools to scan for common security vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and buffer overflows. There are many tools available such as those from Sonar and ReSharper.

  • Checklists: Develop and use security-focused checklists to guide code reviews, ensuring consistency and thoroughness.

  • Continuous Integration: Integrate code review processes into continuous integration (CI) pipelines to automate and streamline the review process.


Penetration Testing

Penetration testing, or ethical hacking, involves simulating cyberattacks on your ecommerce website to identify and address security vulnerabilities. This proactive approach helps in uncovering potential weaknesses that could be exploited by malicious actors.

Key Practices for Penetration Testing:

  • Regular Testing: Conduct penetration tests regularly, especially after significant updates or changes to the website.

  • Comprehensive Coverage: Ensure tests cover all aspects of the website, including web applications, APIs, and network infrastructure.

  • Qualified Testers: Employ certified penetration testers who have the expertise to identify and exploit vulnerabilities.

  • Reporting and Remediation: Develop detailed reports on identified vulnerabilities and prioritise remediation efforts based on the severity and potential impact of each issue.


5.2 Data Integrity

Maintaining data integrity is crucial for ensuring that the data stored and processed by your ecommerce website is accurate, consistent, and reliable. Implementing mechanisms to verify data integrity and detect tampering helps protect against data corruption and unauthorised alterations.

Checksum and Hashing

Checksums and hashing are cryptographic techniques used to verify the integrity of data by generating unique hash values that represent the data's content. Any alteration to the data results in a different hash value, making it easy to detect tampering.

Key Practices for Checksum and Hashing:

  • Hash Functions: Use strong hash functions such as SHA-256 or SHA-3 to generate hash values for critical data.

  • Data Verification: Generate and store hash values for important data (e.g., customer records, transaction details) and regularly verify the integrity of this data by comparing stored hash values with newly computed ones.

  • File Integrity Monitoring: Implement file integrity monitoring (FIM) systems to continuously monitor critical files and directories, generating alerts if any unauthorised changes are detected.


Tamper Detection

Tamper detection mechanisms are essential for identifying unauthorised modifications to data and systems. These mechanisms help ensure that any attempt to alter data without authorisation is quickly detected and addressed.

Key Practices for Tamper Detection:

  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): Deploy IDS to monitor network traffic and system activities for signs of tampering or unauthorised access. IDS can alert administrators to potential security incidents in real time.

  • Audit Logs: Maintain detailed audit logs that record all access and modifications to sensitive data. Ensure that logs are tamper-proof and regularly reviewed for suspicious activity.

  • Digital Signatures: Use digital signatures to verify the authenticity and integrity of critical data and communications. Digital signatures provide a way to ensure that data has not been altered and confirm the identity of the sender.


As you can see, depending on the size and complexity of your ecommerce operation, implementing and maintaining security and legal compliance can be a varied and potentially complicated set of activities. At Wired In, we’re well-versed in these subjects, so talk to us today about how we can help ensure your site remains secure and compliant.

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