It’s a scenario that is played out in retail businesses around the world. A new technology emerges, and someone has a genius idea that they just know the customers are going to love. Excitement builds as the potential becomes apparent. Then, just as unprecedented success seems within reach, a more measured tone cuts through the chatter.

‘But what about security?’

Much as IT teams are among the most creative employees, they are nothing if not careful when it comes to protecting data assets. With good reason. Retailers are among the most frequently targeted organisations when it comes to cyber-crime.

We’re not just talking the high-profile attacks that fill headlines, like that on US retailer Target. Feedback from cyber-crime experts suggests an opportunistic trend for hitting less prominent businesses that feel immune to the risks faced by bigger rivals.

Retailers of all shapes and sizes are under siege, and they present more potential entry points than ever before. Hackers have not been slow to exploit in-store wireless, self-service point-of-sale and even networked surveillance systems. The direct costs of breaches are immense, and reputation damage can wreak more damage than some businesses can bear.

In the face of that cyber-crime storm, it is hardly surprising that it falls on the IT team to rain on the parade of their marketing colleagues from time-to-time. After all, the way to customer loyalty is not to allow their credit card details to be stolen by someone who will sell them to the highest bidder.

But what if there was a change in mindset, where instead of being the necessary brakes, IT security was seen as a business enabler? After all, with more than 1.3 billion smartphones shipped worldwide each year, shoppers are more connected than ever. Locking out buyers would make no sense.

Our partners at Fortinet have taken a new approach. They say that a reactive, risk-based approach cannot work in today’s environment. They are right. With new risks emerging by the second, concentrating on known threats is the equivalent to locking the shop door after the shoplifter has bolted.

Part of the problem in the past has been the addition over time of numerous point solutions that don’t communicate with each other. It can mean that by the time a problem is detected it has already become a crisis. Fortinet’s number one rule is that complexity is the enemy of security – so simplicity and clarity are key.

Those point products worked well when businesses had defined borders. That insular approach just isn’t an option, and denying the CEO the option of mobile work practices would be seriously career-limiting. There are more ways in and out of the virtual environment, so an approach that integrates security at the network level makes sense.

Fortinet has what they call a segmented approach. Their solutions cover network, endpoint, application, datacentre, cloud and access, with everything designed to work together as an integrated security fabric. This fabric acts as a single entity in terms of policy and logging, while enabling end-to-end segmentation that deals with advanced threats more effectively.

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What this means from a business perspective is that there is far greater freedom to welcome in customers, while quickly showing the door to less welcome visitors. New services can be added without security becoming an obstacle that stands in the way – rather, innovation can flow unfettered by the usual constraints. And no more great ideas need be consigned to the waste basket.

For more information about new world strategies for advanced threat protection or if you would like to request a free “Cyber Threat Assessment” to learn about what unknown threats could be running on your network, contact the friendly Computer Merchants retail IT experts.


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