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Shielding Your Storefront: How SASE Protects Retailers in a Digital Age


Written by Jaye Tillson, Field CTO, Distinguished Technologist, HPE Aruba Networking.

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 is flowing 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.


The Threat Landscape: A Challenge for Retailers

Retailers are unfortunately a prime target for cyberattacks. According to the Verizon Business 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report, a staggering  86% of retail breaches involved stolen credentials highlighting the vulnerability of traditional username and password logins.

These breaches can be devastating. 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 by 388% between 2015 and 2021.

These attacks can seriously disrupt a retailer’s operations by locking them out of critical systems used to manage inventory, customer information, and financial data. Hackers then demand hefty ransoms to regain access, causing significant financial losses and reputational damage.

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 numbers or social security numbers, can lead to customer churn and lost sales.


The Evolving Regulatory Landscape

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 to a company’s reputation. Furthermore, adherence to various regional and industry-specific regulations add complexity to the compliance landscape.


Enter SASE: A Fortress for the Modern Retailer

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 your entire network – from physical stores to remote workers accessing applications, and from cloud applications storing customer data to everything in between.


Zero Trust: The Key to SASE’s Power

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 at Xalient, underscores the importance of leveraging SASE for retailers:

“By leveraging the advanced security features of SASE, retailers can 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.”


Beyond Zero Trust: The Security Arsenal of SASE

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.


The Benefits of SASE for Retailers

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.


Martin Mascarenhas further elaborates on the strategic advantage of SASE:

“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.”


Conclusion: Invest in Security, Invest in Your Future

Retailers can no longer afford to treat cybersecurity as an afterthought; it has to be a business imperative. SASE offers a comprehensive and scalable security solution that not only protects your data and safeguards your customers, but also  empowers you to thrive in the digital age. By investing in SASE, you’re investing in the future of your retail business.


Find out more about our SASE services.

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Mark Foulsham

Board Advisor, NED, COO/CIO, Fractional Support, Digital Leadership Coach

With a broad background as a COO/CIO/CDO, C-Suite Advisor, NED, Senior Transformation Leader and Coach, Mark tackles multiple fronts from the advantage of diverse experience in business operations, technology, procurement, delivery and risk. With a deep knowledge of business models from multiple sectors and extensive experience in fast-paced digital start-ups.

Mark’s work across extensive business types, functions and countries empowers him with experience to bear across silos. Mark has built a reputation for advocating cross-business collaboration, taking a pragmatic approach and championing transformative change.