Threat modeling in the retail industry is a proactive process of identifying, evaluating, and addressing cybersecurity threats. It involves considering potential vulnerabilities in the retail supply chain, from individual stores to associated vendors, to protect against data breaches.
The retail industry is no stranger to data breaches. Each of the following household brands has experienced a major breach in the last few years:
- Forever 21
- Under Armor
- Saks Fifth Avenue
- Neiman Marcus
- Home Depot
And if the Target breach, in which hackers got to the data via WiFi connected to the A/C system, teaches us anything, it’s that attacks on retail can come from anywhere. But the motive is always money.
“According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report , 99 percent of the 165 incidents of data disclosure in the retail sector involved a financial motive. Unsurprisingly, many of those involved payment data, and personal data was compromised in four out of ten attacks.”
Unique Security Challenges of the Retail Industry
The retail industry presents several unique challenges when it comes to cybersecurity. For starters, it’s a low margin business, with enormous marketing expense. That means there isn’t always sufficient funds left over to properly invest in cybersecurity.
To make matters worse, the retailers who spend the most on marketing, and therefore create the strongest brands, also draw the most attention from hackers.
Unlike some other industries, retailers can’t hide in anonymity. When a data breach occurs at a high-profile retailer, the data breach becomes high-profile. That tends to have an immediate, negative impact on sales.
Finally, retailers are, by necessity, part of a supply chain. Maybe more so than any other industry, retailers are intimately entwined with their suppliers (and customers) from a security standpoint. And unfortunately, vulnerabilities can and do propagate up and down the supply chain.
The Supply Chain Security Risk
An interlinked supply chain provides a very complex cybersecurity challenge. Not only must you secure your own organization, but you cannot ignore the security implications of all your supply chain partners. Your security universe is much bigger than just your organization.
“The practice of going after corporate data through vendors and subsidiaries is becoming more and more common. Where corporations can afford to spring for huge cybersecurity operations, smaller vendors may struggle to keep on top of data security.” In other words, a retailer’s security is only as strong as the weakest link in their supply chain.
So, what are some strategies for dealing with complex supply chain threats?
Strategies to Prevent Breaches
First and foremost, “organizations have a responsibility to vet the vendors they work with meticulously. Systems must be set up, not only for ensuring security protocol is followed by any vendor given access to your system, but processes should be put in place so that they are able to access only what is absolutely necessary.”
Next, is following best practices for PCI compliance. This includes things like segmenting customer data from company data, ensuring data is encrypted at all times and implementing role-based access controls (RBAC).
Lastly, an often-overlooked strategy for supply chains is to threat model the supply chain. In many ways a supply chain is no different than a software application. It is several interconnected software components. The only difference is in the supply chain, the software components are spread out over multiple organizations.
Threat modeling is a systematic way to look at the retail supply chain holistically and address all the threats, not just the ones local to your company. If you need help in threat modeling your supply chain, we suggest you look into ThreatModeler.
ThreatModeler is a collaborative threat modeling platform that automates much of the threat modeling process. And that’s important when you not only threat modeling your organization, but everyone connected to it.
FAQs About Threat Modeling in Retail
What is a common motive behind the data breaches in the retail industry?
The common motive behind data breaches in the retail industry is financial gain. According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 99 percent of the 165 incidents of data disclosure in the retail sector involved a financial motive
What unique challenges does the retail industry face in terms of cybersecurity?
The retail industry faces several unique challenges in terms of cybersecurity. These include insufficient funds for proper cybersecurity investments due to high marketing expenses, high-profile brand attention that attracts hackers, the necessity to be part of a supply chain which can propagate vulnerabilities, and the inability to maintain anonymity which leads to high-profile data breaches and immediate, negative impact on sales.
How does the retail industry's supply chain contribute to cybersecurity risks?
The supply chain of the retail industry presents a complex cybersecurity challenge. Not only does a retailer need to secure their own organization, but they also need to consider the security implications of all their supply chain partners. The security of a retailer is only as strong as the weakest link in their supply chain.
What are some recommended strategies to prevent data breaches in the retail industry?
There are several strategies to prevent data breaches in the retail industry. These include meticulously vetting vendors and ensuring their adherence to security protocols, limiting vendor access to only necessary data, following best practices for PCI compliance, and threat modeling the supply chain to address all possible threats.
What is ThreatModeler and how can it help in preventing data breaches in the retail industry?
ThreatModeler is a collaborative threat modeling platform that automates much of the threat modeling process. It can help in preventing data breaches in the retail industry by providing a systematic way to look at the retail supply chain holistically and address all the threats, not just the ones local to a company.