OPERATIONS

Increasing ‘Dark Web’ activity puts retailers at risk

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Retailers may be leveraging more digital channels to increase revenue opportunities, but these are also fertile ground for cyber-thieves.

This was according to “The Retail and E-commerce Threat Landscape Report” from e-commerce fraud-prevention firm Riskified, and IntSights Cyber Intelligence, a provider of enterprise cyber threat intelligence and mitigation solutions. The study, which analyzed the transaction-level results of hundreds of millions of purchases between Q3 2017 and Q3 2018, revealed new tactics used by fraudsters.

According to data, cyber-thieves are getting more sophisticated in their attacks via the Dark Web, a part of the Internet where fraudsters rely on special software to remain anonymous or untraceable via digital scams. For example, there was a 297% rise in the number of fake retailer websites designed to “phish” for customer credentials. In Q3 alone, there was an average of 23 phishing sites per company. This was a significant increase from 2017, which averaged 5.9 phishing attacks per company.

Fake apps and social media profiles are also on the rise. There was a staggering 469% spike in suspicious applications, and a 345% increase in fake social media profiles, respectively, in Q4 2017.

There was also an average of 22.1 internal login pages or development servers exposed per retail company in 2018. When accessed, this gives cybercriminals a portal into the retailer’s internal network.

In addition, there was a 278% rise in stolen goods listed on black markets for resale, the study revealed.

“Retailers are increasingly focused on driving sales through a variety of online channels — Facebook, SMS messaging, Instagram, Twitter and more — all of which provide an ideal opportunity for fraudsters to lure in new victims through phishing attacks as it is the most common way to obtain stolen credit card numbers,” said Guy Nizan, co-founder and CEO of IntSights Cyber Intelligence. “As prime targets for cyber-crime, retailers need to understand how their goods are being sold and bartered for on the Dark Web. This glimpse into criminal behavior and activity helps inform the overall cybersecurity program, leading to an increase in security posture.”

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Survey: Unplanned employee absences disrupting store operations

BY Marianne Wilson

Employee absenteeism is wreaking havoc on store operations across the globe.

For every 10 hours of in-store labor budgeted, more than one hour is wasted due to staffing misalignment caused by unplanned employee absence, according to a survey of 800 global retail managers by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. The top three operational downfalls of absenteeism (defined as shifts that are scheduled but unexpectedly not worked) cited by respondents are staff productivity (58%), customer satisfaction (47%), and store revenue (42%). Interestingly, absenteeism has an above-average impact on staff productivity in the U.S. (69%).

The Global Retail Absence survey, conducted with Coleman Parkes Research, found that retailers are understaffed 25% of the time due to last-minute absenteeism. Retailers in the U.K. (44%) and the U.S. (41%) are hit hardest on the weekends. In Germany, the highest rate of absence typically occurs on Mondays.

For the most part, retailers are given just one to three hours’ notice when an employee is not going to show up for work. The impact of filling these shifts on short notice means that one in four retailers are working with staff that have the wrong skills at least half the time, according to the report.

In other survey findings:

• An average 6% of labor hours each month are worked to cover issues such as unplanned absence but have not been formally scheduled. This causes unnecessary stress for 57% of U.S. retailers.

• Nearly half of retailers worldwide (48 percent) find it challenging to deal with administrative issues resulting from associates working additional shifts and/or incurring overtime to cover unplanned absence, and 42% feel a big impact on labor costs.

• The perpetual issue and corrosive effects of absenteeism have led the vast majority of retail organizations (88%) to proactively over-schedule additional labor each day to cover for anticipated absences.

• Retailers regularly find themselves with either too few or too many associates during periods of low- and peak-demand, and some admit to being understaffed (31%) or overstaffed (22%) at least half the time.

• The most common (69%) workforce management challenge for retail mangers across the U.S. is building schedules that meet customer, business, and employee demands.

• Only 55% of retailers worldwide have technology in place to manage unplanned absences. In comparison, 76% have an automated solution to manage time and attendance, and 73% use technology to manage planned absences, such as time-off requests.

• Three out of five retailers say scheduling technology has a positive impact on productivity within their teams.

• Retail managers are confident that effective absence management technology can help reduce absenteeism: globally, retailers anticipate an 18 percent decrease in unapproved absence rates after implementing a new absence and shift-swapping solution.

• Quantifying the benefits of absence management, retailers additionally expect a new absence and shift-swapping solution to reduce labor costs by nearly 3%.

“The corrosive effects of absenteeism can swiftly knock retailers’ plans off course and erode performance potential,” said Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos. “How you minimize and manage absence is critical to staying on target, and it starts with understanding employee preferences, considering their availability, and making it easy for them to modify their schedule or swap a shift as needed. After all, employees who work schedules built around their preferred hours and availability and who are empowered by self-service workforce management technology will be happier, have fewer instances of absence, be more productive, and have a longer tenure.”

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Target takes on rivals with free two-day shipping for holidays

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Target is turning up the heat in the holiday delivery battle.

The discounter for the first time ever will offer free two-day shipping to all customers, with no minimum purchase and no membership requirement. The service, which will start Nov. 1 and end Dec. 22, will comprise “hundreds of thousands” of eligible items.

The program will complement Target’s same-day deliveries supported by its acquisition of Shipt — a service that is now available “in hundreds of markets” across 46 states, the retailer said. Meanwhile, the company’s Drive Up service will be available through nearly 1,000 stores by the end of October.

The news of more shipping options comes on the heels of Walmart’s plan to make “millions of items” sold on its marketplace eligible for free two-day shipping on orders over $35. The service, which also does not require a membership, will launch mid-November.

In addition to offering more shipping options this holiday season, Target is also expanding its gifting assortment. This year, the company is featuring more than 1,400 new and exclusive gifts, with most priced under $15.

In addition, nearly 500 locations have added 250,000 sq. ft. of additional space for toys.

“From same-day delivery with Shipt, Drive Up, Free 2-Day Shipping and more, no other retailer can match the convenient delivery options that Target will offer this season,” stated Target CEO Brian Cornell.

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