In 2020, the pandemic generated security concerns due to an immediate need to work remotely and sell online. The immediate need resulted in accelerated adoption of online B2B ecommerce with little time for long-range planning. Common security challenges in B2C e-commerce rapidly spilled over to the B2B world.

Understandably, newcomers to B2B e-commerce often thought the job is done once the website was launched. Management turned their attention back to supply chain concerns, changes in demand and employee productivity, and the website became an afterthought. Because suspicious activities do not usually bubble to the surface until the consequences are serious, companies found their business in jeopardy late in the game.

Even experienced e-commerce specialists must continually be vigilant with data security on two fronts, customer data theft and corporate data theft.

Customer Data Theft

Attackers target customer data and steal personal information such as credit card account numbers to sell on the black market. Stolen credentials are used for more sophisticated attacks. Likewise, log-in credentials provide attackers access to digital systems and physical facilities. The number of costly class-action lawsuits for stolen customer data has been front-page news for the past decade.

Corporate Data Theft

While corporate data theft may escape news coverage, particularly for large B2Bs, it is just as damaging as customer data theft. Manufacturers rely on connected technologies, such as control systems and automation, that heighten the risk of intellectual property theft. Competitors and state-sponsored hackers gain access to proprietary designs and processes, weaken a company’s competitive advantage, disrupt operations, and destroy supply chains.

B2B brands must stay vigilant to increasing cyberattacks. Fortunately, the 2020 digital push elevated cybersecurity attention through the spectrum of people, processes, and technology.

B2B e-commerce businesses are taking immediate actions to avoid potential threats, starting with identifying vulnerabilities, taking action to avoid data breaches, and minimizing the spread of malware.

Recognizing Possible Attack Vectors

Data security is like physical security: Awareness and quick action are crucial to success. Understanding the attack paths will more effectively help business leaders monitor and defend.

System Vulnerabilities

In their 2020 report, Verizon revealed the significant differences between B2C and B2B e-commerce breaches. While 99% of retail malware targets customer data, up to 29% of B2B breaches involve corporate espionage. Record numbers of remote workers strain infrastructure and expose virtual private network (VPN) vulnerabilities. Bad actors know this and use these vulnerabilities to access poorly defended systems and place malicious malware or other third-party tools.

Internal Actors

Verizon reports that threats posed by insiders and rogue employees are third only to external hackers and organized crime. According to CyberSecurity Insiders, the most dangerous types of insiders are executives, administrators, other privileged business users, third-parties and temporary workers. They use their position to release malware, disclose confidential data, leak customer records for financial gain, or otherwise damage the company.


Cybercriminals will always follow users and launch attacks that exploit existing behaviors and habits. In March 2020, phishing and/or business email compromise (BEC) attacks spiked by 600%, as attackers lured in users to unwittingly provide logins and other credentials. As people search for information on lockdowns, vaccines and stimulus eligibility, attackers respond with authoritative-looking domain names or email attachments containing malicious Office documents.

Four Ways to Protect Your Business

For B2Bs with complex structures, processes, and technologies, keeping up with security concerns presents a challenge. Here are four main paths to protecting digital assets:

Control Data Sovereignty

Cloud services are based on a shared responsibility model that outsources many operating IT controls. Large B2B sellers looking for greater control of their store-level data should consider moving to a private cloud or on-premises environments. By choosing single-tenant over multi-tenant hosting architecture, the security risks associated with shared elements are eliminated. By removing these access points, the risks of data inadvertently falling into unauthorized hands are dramatically reduced.

Review Permissions and Connections

Prepare to accommodate remote workers ahead of time and only provide access necessary to do their job. Formalized segregation of duties (SOD) strategically limits user access to sensitive data and eliminates the possibility of unwanted activity. By installing two-factor authentication, utilizing complex passwords and changing passwords frequently, many security challenges are resolved.

Educate Employees

Treat cybersecurity training like safety and customer satisfaction: make it a part of business culture. The CIO should take the lead in communicating the value of revising security measures and changing employee actions. Train all employees, not just IT, to be vigilant and recognize security issues. Develop and communicate a chain of command to report suspicious activities. Consider instilling proactive measures that limit the possibility of user-directed attacks or employees’ exposure to cybercriminals.

Use the Right Software, Hardware and Monitoring Tools

Make sure software and monitoring tools are up-to-date. Maintain the latest security processes and policies to guide teams to maintain, deploy, and use these systems. Keep PCI DSS certification current, stay in SOC 2 compliance and adhere to various data privacy laws in spheres of operation.

Resources such as OWASP Top 10 and transformative cloud technology like cloud-native security, zero-trust design, and SASE decentralized architecture help shield the business from emerging security threats.

Never Skimp on Security

At the end of the day, in 2021, businesses are more informed and better equipped to prevent security issues such as cyberattacks than ever before. Today, 88% of leading organizations identify breaches in less than one day, giving them a fourfold advantage in detecting and stopping cyberattacks. Acknowledging the importance of digital security is already a battle half-won. Allocating budget and resources to security will protect the digital transformation progress which means a lucrative, powerful, and secure future.

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