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Security Threats Faced By the Retail Industry

14 Feb 2023

If you have long worked in the UK retail industry, you will know that it has faced a challenging few years, with all but ‘essential’ shops having kept their physical doors shut for lengthy periods during the COVID-19 pandemic, before rising energy costs started to bite as well.

However, even just looking at the security aspect, it is clear that many retailers are continuing to have a tough time. 

What follows is an informative rundown of various security threats still blighting the industry, but also a few pointers for how these issues can be handled without dragging down British retailers’ operational prowess.

Theft of physical items 

While physical goods stocked by your company can obviously be stolen even when kept for lengthy periods in a warehouse, they can be especially vulnerable to theft when left on shelves at bricks-and-mortar retail premises which members of the public can visit.

Fortunately, though, there are still various means of countering this theft threat. For a start, you could arrange for CCTV video monitoring equipment to be installed at the site, allowing a security specialist to remotely keep watch over it through a network of onsite cameras.

Even something as seemingly rudimentary as putting up ‘shoplifters will be prosecuted’ signs can work surprisingly well at deterring would-be thieves.

Cyber attacks

As online shopping has grown in popularity, retail businesses have bulked out their e-commerce infrastructure to suit. However, this trend has thrown up new security challenges, as it has given many criminals new avenues for bypassing companies’ defences.

One classic example of a cyber attack is phishing, a form of social engineering where attackers send emails purporting to have originated from reputable individuals or organisations — the ultimate aim here being to induce recipients to reveal sensitive details like credit card numbers.

However, many other types of cyber attack abound — including distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on companies’ servers and hacking into physical point-of-sale (POS) systems.

Retail employee impersonation 

Of course, retail personnel are often targeted by phishing attempts because these people have privileged access to sensitive data within the organisation. As retail workers also see it as good practice to be helpful, social engineers can take advantage of this.

They might do this by impersonating executives or, if the retail organisation has multiple locations, employees visiting from one of the other locations. The targeted employee could then be asked to do something for which they actually lack authorisation from a genuine manager of the company.

It’s easy to see why this trick can work if the company has an especially large network of stores with hundreds of employees between them, as many of a store’s employees might not be familiar with specific workers from other stores within the same network.

Risks arising from third-party infrastructure 

When people buy from your retail organisation, how do they pay? You might be understandably eager to keep this payment process as streamlined as possible — since, otherwise, too many potential customers of your business could be put off buying from it.

You might have gone as far as implementing a payment system from a third-party vendor. After all, if they have done all the hard work of figuring out how to strip supposedly superfluous flab from the payment process, why should you have to do that work yourself?

However, one big problem here is that many potential layers of security — like two-factor authentication — will have been left out of the system as well. Hence, cyber criminals could too easily exploit it and leave your business in the lurch.

Natural disasters

Of course, natural disasters — like severe storms and floods — have always been a possibility and therefore a threat, and not just to retailers. However, climate change has made freak weather occurrences increasingly common in recent years.

Extreme weather patterns can hamper the safety of your company’s consumers and employees, not to mention throw supply chains into disarray. However, natural disasters can also damage physical infrastructure on which your business heavily relies. 

For example, they often cause power cuts — with adverse implications for those retail outlets, like food stores, that stock perishables.

Injuries to employees and customers 

A retail business that sells its goods only online is obviously unlikely to pose any major risk to customers’ physical health. However, employees of your business could still potentially pick up injuries as a result of, say, slipping on a wet floor of a warehouse where they work.

Now, a wet floor isn’t exactly what you might call a security risk. However, if you are nonchalant on the security side of things, there can remain the risk of violence being inflicted upon workers and — if your company indeed has a bricks-and-mortar presence — customers.

You can reduce this particular risk by hiring security guards who can deter people from committing acts of violence on a shop floor and will know what to do if this violence does happen.

Geopolitical instability 

In recent years, more retailers have had to reassess their logistics arrangements to figure out how to adjust them in light of daunting geopolitical developments.

Perhaps your own business has recently closed stores or even abandoned entire markets due to operational challenges brought about by — for example — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many aspects of the retail sector — including manufacturing, supply chains, and international trade — have been negatively affected by contemporary issues.

How can retailers overcome a wide array of security challenges? 

With the world having become more volatile, you could easily wonder how your company would be able to continue confidently meeting its security responsibilities.

However, you could take inspiration from those companies that have handed many of their own security duties over to specialist security firms like All Time Security.

The security services that we offer for UK retail outlets on the high street and in shopping parks and shopping centres include manned security guarding and CCTV remote monitoring. To learn more about these retail security solutions and how your UK-based business could utilise any of them, please get in touch with us by phoning 01494 511222.

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