Shielding the storefront: How SASE protects retailers in a digital age

Shielding the storefront: How SASE protects retailers in a digital age

Jaye Tillson, Field CTO, Distinguished Technologist, HPE Aruba Networking, on why retailers should be sold on SASE.

The retail industry is undergoing a digital revolution. From online shopping with one-click purchases to in-store kiosks offering personalized recommendations and mobile point-of-sale systems allowing for seamless checkout.

As a result of this interconnectedness, customer data flows across a complex and ever-expanding network, which is beneficial for convenience and customer experience.

However, it also creates a larger attack surface for cybercriminals.

According to the Verizon Business 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report 86% of retail breaches involved stolen credentials – highlighting the vulnerability of traditional username and password logins.

IBM Security’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report indicates the average global cost of a data breach has now reached a record high of $4.35 million.

The retail sector experiences even higher costs due to the sensitive nature of the data it handles.

Ransomware is a particularly dangerous weapon in a cybercriminal’s arsenal. According to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), ransomware attacks surged 388% between 2015 and 2021.

Beyond the financial impact, data breaches can also undermine customer trust. In today’s digital age, consumers expect retailers to take their data security seriously. A breach that exposes personally identifiable information (PII), such as credit card or social security numbers, can lead to customer churn and lost sales.

Retailers also face a growing burden of compliance with data security regulations. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) mandates strong data security practices for any organization that accepts, transmits or stores credit card information. Failure to comply with PCI DSS can result in substantial fines and harm a company’s reputation. Furthermore, adherence to various regional and industry-specific regulations adds complexity to the compliance landscape.

In this digital battlefield, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) has emerged as a powerful defense mechanism for retailers. SASE is a cloud-based security model that combines networking and security functionality. Imagine a single, centralized security point that safeguards the entire network – from physical stores to remote workers accessing applications, and from cloud applications storing customer data to everything in between.

A fundamental principle of SASE is zero trust. This approach assumes no user or device is considered inherently trustworthy, so access requests are constantly verified before being granted. A common zero trust practice used by SASE is multi-factor authentication. This means that in addition to a password, a user needs to provide further verification such as using an authentication application, fingerprint scan or a code sent to their phone. This significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access, even if a hacker manages to steal a user’s login credentials.

A strategic partner of HPE Aruba Networking, Xalient specializes in delivering SASE solutions tailored to the unique needs of retailers.

Martin Mascarenhas, Customer Engagement Director, Xalient, said: “By leveraging the advanced security features of SASE, retailers not only protect their critical data but also enhance customer trust. In today’s digital landscape, where cyber threats are ever evolving, maintaining robust security measures is paramount to safeguarding customer information and ensuring a seamless shopping experience.”

SASE goes beyond zero trust to provide a comprehensive security suite for retailers.

Here’s a closer look at some of the key features:

SD-WAN (Software-Defined Wide Area Network): SASE often incorporates SD-WAN technology to optimize network performance across geographically dispersed locations. This helps to ensure seamless and reliable connectivity for critical applications, enhancing the customer experience in both physical stores and online platforms.

Firewall as a Service (FWaaS): Traditional firewalls can be complex to manage, especially for geographically dispersed retail chains. FWaaS offered by SASE, provides a cloud-based solution for centrally managing firewall policies across the entire network.

Secure Web Gateway (SWG): A SWG acts as a filter, blocking access to malicious websites and preventing malware downloads. It is crucial for protecting against phishing attacks and other web-based threats.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB): With the increasing adoption of cloud applications, retailers need to secure access to these resources. CASB provides visibility and control over cloud application usage, ensuring only authorized users can access sensitive data.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP): DLP helps to prevent sensitive data from being accidentally or intentionally leaked outside the organization. This is critical for protecting customer information and complying with data privacy regulations.

Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM): DEM monitors user activity and data transfers within the network. It helps identify unusual behavior that might indicate a potential data breach or insider threat. Working alongside DLP, DEM provides additional context to data exfiltration attempts.

Implementing SASE can provide retailers with a wide range of benefits:

  • Enhanced Security: SASE integrates a comprehensive set of security features, offering robust protection against cyber threats like ransomware, malware, and phishing attacks.
  • Improved Compliance: SASE simplifies compliance with data security regulations such as PCI DSS by providing centralized management and visibility into network activity.
  • Simplified Management: SASE offers a cloud-based platform for managing security policies across the entire network, reducing administrative overhead for IT teams.
  • Scalability and Agility: SASE seamlessly scales to accommodate new stores, remote workers, and cloud applications, making it ideal for growing retail businesses.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience: By ensuring network security and uptime, SASE helps retailers deliver a seamless and positive customer experience across all touchpoints.

“Implementing SASE is a strategic move for retailers looking to secure their digital assets and comply with regulatory standards. It provides a scalable and efficient way to manage security across dispersed locations, ensuring that both in-store and online operations remain resilient against cyber threats,” Mascarenhas said.

Retailers can no longer afford to treat cybersecurity as an afterthought; it must be a business imperative.

SASE offers a comprehensive and scalable security solution that not only protects data and safeguards customers but also empowers companies to thrive in the digital age – by investing in SASE, companies are investing in the future of their retail business.

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