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Major Threats to the Retail Industry

The retail industry is one of the primary targets for evolving, increasingly sophisticated security threats. The rise in digital experiences and products, from smartphones to smart light bulbs and thermostats, and the complex technologies that support them pose retail industry threats that hackers can exploit. 

Retail cybersecurity helps organizations protect themselves against evolving security threats, including their critical data and users.

Details of All Major Threats to the Retail Industry

Threats to the retail industry include a wide range of attack vectors, from cyberattacks and digital threats to natural disasters. 


Cyberattacks are a major threat to the retail industry, with cyber criminals targeting end-users, corporate networks, technologies, and resources like HR and ERP systems. Common threats the retail industry risks exposure to include:


distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack sees attackers attempt to overload servers with internet traffic. They typically create a massive amount of traffic by building a pool of machines called a botnet. The overload prevents users from accessing online services and can result in an organization’s website crashing.

Card Fraud

Credit card fraud is one of the most significant types of security risk in retail. It involves hackers attempting to acquire credit or debit card details then use them to make purchases or steal victims’ money. Attackers, such as organized retail crime (ORC) groups, often do this by creating scams, whereby they purport to be from a bank and send victims messages promising them a loan too good to be true. 

Inventory Hoarding

Inventory hoarding, also known as denial of inventory, involves bots targeting retail websites and adding products to shopping carts without completing the purchase. This makes the retailer’s products unavailable to genuine customers and prevents the organization from making sales.

POS Attacks

Point-of-sale (POS) attacks are a form of credit card fraud that targets physical transaction devices. Cyber criminals deploy malware on POS devices, such as in-store card payment machines, to capture the financial information they process. Then, they remotely connect to the device to intercept the card information.

Digital Threats

Consumer behavior is rapidly evolving as customers increasingly prefer to shop online rather than go to physical stores. The growth of e-commerce enables consumers to purchase any product they require through their laptop or smartphone and have it delivered to their homes. This presents an opportunity for bad actors to target them.

Many customers also prefer to buy from brands in-store and use websites to research their options, so traditional brick-and-mortar retailers need to have an online—and secure—presence.

Natural Disasters

In addition to digital and security threats, retailers also have to be aware of the risk of natural disasters. This includes the risk of extreme weather, such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, which could disrupt a retailer’s operations.

Strategies for Overcoming Threats in Retail

Fighting these risks relies on implementing a security solution for retailers, which includes strategies for protecting data, minimizing risks, and ensuring governance.

Overcoming Cyber Threats

Key strategies retailers can implement to overcome threats to the retail industry include:

Authenticate All Accessible Endpoints

Organizations need to authenticate endpoints and software to keep their corporate data secure. Requiring employees to verify their identity through mobile authentication applications or biometrics like fingerprint scanners adds an extra layer of security to devices and online accounts. Authentication prevents an attacker from gaining unauthorized access to data or systems, even if they manage to steal a user’s password.

Establish IT Governance

Information technology (IT) governance aims to improve the management and increase the value of technology. Establishing an IT governance framework helps an organization better manage its risks and align IT with its business objectives. This is crucial to demonstrating results against business strategies and goals and complying with increasingly stringent data privacy regulations.

Dodge Phishing Attacks Graciously

Retailers can graciously avoid phishing attacks by implementing authentication, gaining real-time visibility of their network, and educating employees on the telltale signs of a threat. It is essential to raise awareness of the risk of clicking links and opening malicious attachments while also encouraging employees to report suspicious activity and email messages. 

Leverage the NIST Gramework

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a cybersecurity framework that outlines metrics, standards, and technologies for organizations to drive economic and innovation effectiveness. It provides guidance and recommendation documents that advise companies on complying with cybersecurity standards and best practices. Following these guidelines is crucial to helping retailers comply with major data privacy regulations.

Create a Team of Security Experts

Organizations need to protect themselves against prominent cyber threats by building a team of security experts. They can either create an internal team, which tends to be expensive and challenging given the ongoing cybersecurity skills shortage, or hire a managed service provider (MSP) to outsource the security expertise.

Minimize Third-party Risks

Outsourcing to third-party providers increases a retailer’s risk if the other organization does not have policies and technologies in place to secure their data. It is therefore crucial to ensure all third-party providers have robust cybersecurity processes in place and implement best practices. 

Staying on Top of Market Trends

Retailers need to stay on top of market trends to ensure they have the latest technologies that help them gain a competitive advantage. This helps them meet customer demands, attract and retain customers, and enable new digital and payment innovations.

Fortinet Security Solution for Retail Industry

Fortinet helps organizations fight retail industry risks with a comprehensive set of network and security technologies. Fortinet integrated protection for retailers leverages the Fortinet Security Fabric, which offers increased control and visibility of retailers’ entire IT environments, networks, and systems. It also provides artificial intelligence-driven threat insights through the Fortinet FortiGuard Labs team, which offers real-time visibility into the latest security threat vectors.

Fortinet cybersecurity solutions include next-generation firewalls (NGFWs), which deliver advanced protection for retail organizations. This offers functionalities like antivirus, data loss prevention (DLP), intrusion prevention system (IPS), secure sockets layer (SSL) inspection, and web filtering.