Convenience vs Security in Online Shopping The pandemic has only accelerated the rate of adoption as online shopping provided a safe and viable alternative to visiting shops in person in the present circumstances. But is online shopping really that safe?

By Sumed Marwaha & Seshadri PS

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Online shopping has gained significant momentum in digital India. Better Internet connectivity, growing mobile penetration, improved infrastructure and entry of a large number of regional and international players in this space providing a multitude of options to customers are some of the factors that have set this ball rolling.

The convenience of online shopping is unmatched and right from groceries to electronic goods, Indians have now opened up to online shopping in a big way. In fact, statistics indicate that India is the fastest growing e-commerce market and is expected to grow at approximately 1,200 per cent by 2026. The Indian e-commerce market is expected to reach $84 billion by 2021. The pandemic has only accelerated the rate of adoption as online shopping provided a safe and viable alternative to visiting shops in person in the present circumstances. But is online shopping really that safe?

The Perils of Online Shopping

While online shopping and digital payments certainly minimize the risk of a COVID-19 infection since consumers do so from the safety of their homes, they do expose them to a different kind of risk—that of cyber-criminals, prowling hapless victims through clever tactics on online platforms. Many a consumer has been tricked into sharing his or her personal and financial data and ended up with their bank accounts being emptied or transactions worth lakhs being made using their credit cards without their slightest inkling. These stories are well known to consumers as well and, in fact, has created considerable anxiety among them.

According to the 2020 Unisys Security Index, India recorded the highest level of concern about the security of shopping online, with 82 per cent of Indians concerned about this issue. Unauthorized access to credit card or debit card details was another area of concern highlighted by the Unisys survey, with 82 per cent respondents being concerned about this. And their fears are justified. There has been a surge in cybercrimes and with technology becoming all-pervasive, hackers are finding innovative ways to steal personal and financial data. Securing online shopping platforms is the need of the hour for the e-commerce sector to sustain the momentum in this space and to safeguard consumer loyalty and trust.

Traditional security approaches cannot keep up with the tactics being employed by cybercriminals today. New and robust approaches to cybersecurity are what this sector needs. Let us explore some of these approaches in the following sections.

Zero Trust Model for e-commerce

Cyberattacks have grown in number and sophistication. The IT ecosystem of e-commerce companies is equally complex, making traditional perimeter security-based approaches redundant. A zero-trust model is a robust and viable option in these circumstances. Zero trust is a network security model, based on the guiding principle of "never trust, always verify'. The model only allows authenticated and authorized users and devices to access applications and data. Micro-segmentation is one of the ways of implementing a zero-trust model. Micro-segmentation logically isolates workloads in virtual environments by enforcing granular segmentation policies. This facilitates role-based access, making sure that all stakeholders-internal or external, only have access to the data and segments they need to perform their tasks.

Micro-segmentation, coupled with network monitoring and dynamic isolation also ensures that any breach is not allowed to spread laterally and is contained within that particular segment alone, preventing a breach from growing into a full-blown data theft. Technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and biometrics can also enhance the effectiveness of a zero-trust based cybersecurity approach. Biometrics helps establish consumer identity via using various physiological parameters such as the face, iris, fingerprint, etc. to verify the identity of the individual. Data analytics and AI/ML simultaneously correlate users and their activities and help detect unusual behavior so users can be alerted in time.

Consumer education is another critical dimension of enhancing the security of online shopping and digital payments. E-commerce companies can play a big role in educating their consumers about common techniques used by hackers and how they can detect and stay clear from these. The importance of basic Internet hygiene such as regular hardware and software updates, using strong passwords, not sharing these with others and changing these passwords frequently cannot be overstated. Consumers also need to be educated on how they could identify fake calls and phony websites, which could be gateways into the dark world of cybercriminals.

Towards Secure Online Shopping

Secure identity and secure payments, these are the two keys to secure online shopping. By embracing robust technology and working hand in glove with consumers, e-commerce companies can address the security concerns around online shopping and digital transactions and ensure that online shopping is not a tradeoff between convenience and security but a combination of both.

*Sumed Marwaha- Regional Services Vice-President and Managing Director for Unisys India; Seshadri PS Senior Director-Governance, Risk and Compliance, Office of the CISO, Unisys India Pvt. Ltd

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