Top 3 payment security threats to watch for during busy months

The summer and winter months - especially for a small-business owner - should be about serving customers.

The holiday season often brings an influx of consumers for retailers and restaurants in particular. A recent Nielsen® study found 52 percent of shoppers planned to shop in stores on Black Friday this year alone, not even mentioning the weeks between Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season. Another 40 percent of respondents said they planned to shop online the day after Thanksgiving.

However, as local merchants are opening their doors to more business, cyberthieves are also waiting to pounce due to the increase in transactions during your busiest times. Here are three payments security threats to keep in mind:

Password insufficiency

Small-business owners are using more passwords nowadays because of the increased number of applications both the company stakeholders and consumers use. The complexity of these passwords is growing to improve safety, but owners aren't diversifying their login credentials. If a hacker gets a hold of someone's password, a merchant is likely at risk of compromising sensitive information in various aspects of their business. This in turn impacts the consumer, because if a business network security is breached, there's a good chance customer information will be hacked as well.

Email phishing

Hackers have been known to find alternative ways through a business's firewall before, one of which is via email. Phishing isn't a new data breach technique, but security software provider McAfee® says as promotions continue to migrate online, cybercriminals will continue to focus their energy on shipping notification and phishing scams. Business owners may not think phishing can access sensitive and protected customer information, but if a user on the small-business network clicks on an infected link, the entire system is susceptible to theft. Some emails may even ask business owners to share bank information or login credentials to important operational aspects.

Digital gifts

Certainly, a gift from a client or business partner is a wonderful and thoughtful thing. However, merchants should beware of things like branded USBs and digital e-cards, McAfee adds. While it's unlikely another business is trying to corrupt a partner's network security, there's the potential that undetectable malware is preinstalled on them. Additionally, while e-cards are good for a quick smile or a laugh, merchants should be on the lookout for any suspicious requests, like a card that asks the user to download something from the internet or an unauthorized source. Sometimes, these types of malware will even disguise themselves as a computer-friendly version of familiar software. Business owners should be wary of any extensions that are attached to these types of cards.

There are a number of ways cybercriminals can penetrate a small business's network security and compromise customer information. However, a vigilant eye on payment security can prevent a small-business owner from worrying about a potential breach, meaning more time can be spent coming up with innovative ways to grow and improve your business.