Retail enterprises must prioritize data security posture management

Retail enterprises are increasingly targeted by cybercriminals, highlighting the need for robust data governance and security measures to protect sensitive customer information. The response starts with a thorough data inventory, identifying sensitive data across essential business applications like Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, and SAP.

Belinda Walsh

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Belinda Walsh

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June 18, 2024
Retail enterprises must prioritize data security posture management

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Data breaches have become common for retail enterprises, jeopardizing sensitive customer information. Recent high-profile incidents such as the infamous 2013 Target data breach have served as sobering reminders of the critical need for robust data governance and security measures. Data protection is a concern for all industries, particularly highly regulated industries like banking and financial services, to public sector and healthcare organizations. And as custodians of vast troves of personal and financial data, retailers too must prioritize the protection of their invaluable digital assets.

The retail and consumer goods industries’ history of high-profile data breaches

The retail industry has recently been a prime target for cyber criminals. According to the Sophos State of Ransomware in Retail report, 69% of retail businesses were hit by ransomware in 2023. Almost three-quarters (71%) of these attacks resulted in data being encrypted, up from 68% and 54% in the two previous years.

Many well-known brands falling victim to data breaches in recent years. Last year, fashion retailer JD Sports experienced a major cyber-attack, with cybercriminals gaining access to a database of purchases made between 2018 and 2020, with data accessed including the full name, delivery and billing address(es), email address, phone number, the final 4 digits of payment card and/or order details. In 2018, the apparel retailer Forever 21 suffered a breach that exposed customers' credit card numbers, expiration dates, and other sensitive data.

But this is not a new issue, the 2013 Target data breach, which compromised the personal information of over 110 million customers, is perhaps the most infamous and impactful. As these breaches highlight, retail companies handle vast amounts of sensitive data, including customers’ personal and financial information, employee records, and proprietary business data.  

But not all retailers have kept up with the immense responsibility of handling such data. Another area in which this has been an issue is the new wave of data privacy laws.

Privacy regulations force retailers to balance innovation with privacy

Regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have had a major effect on retail. In recent years, retailers have leveraged extensive data collection—including in-store data collection—for innovation, such as personalized recommendations or tailored shopping experiences. These approaches have helped deliver a more curated experience for consumers, but they also bring increased data responsibilities.

Retailers must gain explicit consent from customers for each data processing activity. You may recall the initial impact of the GDPR was a wave of consent banners on any website you visited. In the case of retailers, these banners allowed them to continue to offer tailored experiences. But even once they have this consent, they also have the responsibility to manage the data throughout the lifecycle.

Retail organizations need to ensure they govern sensitive customer data

Implementing clear policies and procedures for data collection, storage, access, retention and disposal is essential in mitigating both the risk of data breaches and ensuring compliance with industry regulations like the GDPR and industry regulations like the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).  

These policies need to extend across structured systems—such as transactional point of sale systems, inventory management, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems—and unstructured systems, such as Google Workspace solutions like document creation and email management.

The solution starts with understanding your data

An improved data security posture starts by understanding the data you have. You need a thorough data inventory that identifies all sensitive data held within essential business applications like Google Workspace, Microsoft 365, SAP, and hundreds of other structured and unstructured systems. Once you have discovered all your data across all your data sources, you can implement data classification policies to categorize your sensitive data based on its level of sensitivity and regulatory requirements. You can also implement appropriate retention and data minimization policies to ensure you remove data when required.

How RecordPoint can help

RecordPoint, a leading data governance and security solution, can seamlessly connect to systems like Google Workspace and enable businesses to discover, classify, and protect sensitive data within Google's entire suite of productivity tools, as well as other systems like Microsoft 365 and SAP.  

When we speak to customers and others in the industry, we hear that many retail organizations are adopting Google Workspace and Google Cloud due to their communication and collaboration tools. Our recent partnership with Google empowers retail enterprises to take control of their data, ensuring compliance with industry regulations and mitigating the risk of costly data breaches. For retail businesses who rely on Google’s suite to get important work done, we ensure their data can be managed throughout the lifecycle.

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