2023 Cybersecurity Trends in Retail: An Insider Perspective

Below, Brett Lambing, VP of Product Strategy and Solutions Engineering at PDI Technologies, shared his insights and tips on what retailers can expect to see in cybersecurity through the rest of the year. 

For reference, PDI Technologies is a global leader in delivering powerful solutions and insights that serve as the backbone of the convenience retail and petroleum wholesale ecosystem.

Q: What’s the biggest surprise you’ve seen in regard to cybersecurity in the past year?

BL: One key change is that retail businesses seem willing to spend more money on technology because they’re still facing the challenge of attracting and keeping employees. If they can automate a task or reduce the burden on their staff, they’re willing to invest.

For example, QSRs increasingly need to get more people in and out of their drive-throughs, but they don’t want to re-cable or retrofit their stores. They’re adding Wi-Fi and tablets because the point of sale is moving from a fixed location to a movable location. They’re also looking at solutions such as video analytics that have traditionally been cost-prohibitive. If that frees up people from tasks and keeps them happier, retailers will do that.

The bigger issue is delivering reliable Wi-Fi, securing the mobile point of sale, and supporting new video technology powered by AI and machine learning. If you add those technologies, you typically need to upgrade your legacy infrastructure and secure it cost-effectively without adding staff. This is where more businesses are embracing the convenience of managed services, such as deploying a managed firewall and Wi-Fi services.

Q: Why are managed services becoming so popular?

BL: Many times, it’s just a case where an IT person doesn’t have the expertise to do something or just wants to get that burden off their plate. Or they might have new security or compliance standards they need to meet, and they’d rather have a trusted partner so they don’t have to go it alone. Again, it’s all about convenience.

With the difficulty in finding skilled cybersecurity professionals, it’s not as simple as throwing a person at a problem anymore. Any cybersecurity solution must support what retailers want their network to be five years from now. How does the solution monitor things better and automate tasks? An IT manager doesn’t want to tie up people by having them sort through security alerts all day.

A managed service has to take something off the client’s plate so they can focus on running their business. Solutions like managed detection and response [MDR] or extended detection and response [XDR] services will help a security or IT person who has to meet certain NIST standards. MDR and XDR do the heavy lifting and solve the most acute problems, such as stopping ransomware, viruses, and attacks from happening. That frees up the client from getting woken up at 3:00 AM to deal with a security breach.

Q: What are some common attack methods you anticipate for 2023?

BL: Ransomware attacks are getting incredibly sophisticated, and many of them involve a dropper that gets put into active memory and just sits there doing a quick scan to see what’s going on across the system. MDR and XDR tools will detect those droppers most of the time, but even when they don’t, the hackers will realize it and know the dropper will eventually be detected.

It’s like the hacker is looking through a window and seeing whether they can get into a house. And then they realize, no, this is reinforced glass with a deadbolt on the door. So, it never gets to the point of a serious breach or significant incident. If a breach does happen, it would typically take up to nine months to discover it. The right cybersecurity tools compress that timeframe down to just 60 seconds.

Q: Why can’t businesses just use the best cybersecurity tools?

BL: If you employ the tools yourself, you’ve got to constantly pay attention to what’s going on. We’ve had a lot of clients who turned their own alert settings down to avoid getting inundated with false alerts—but they were exposing themselves to real threats slipping through.

With a self-managed solution, IT people just get alert fatigue. A viable solution requires the right combination of tools and expertise. A managed security services provider, or MSSP, will do the heavy lifting. In other words, stick with what you’re good at, and bring in a reputable security partner to do what they’re good at.

Q: Is there anything interesting on the networking horizon for 2023?

BL: We’re seeing a lot of interest in managed Wi-Fi services to support all the modern technology and new devices that rely on Wi-Fi. No one wants to run cables or retrofit their stores.

In one case, a client was running LTE as the primary Internet connection across 100-plus stores. Their primary concern was that their point of sale was completely cloud-based, so it must be always on. And they wanted to have multiple carriers for redundancy. We solved that by introducing a firewall as a service combined with enterprise-class 5G services they now use for their point of sale and back-office systems. Once again, having a vendor manage the network connectivity and PCI compliance makes it much more convenient for the retailer.

Brett Lambing serves as Vice President, Product Strategy and Solutions Engineering at PDI Technologies, a global leader in retail technology and security solutions. Brett joined PDI through its acquisition of Cybera Inc., bringing with him more than 25 years of experience in network and security design, product strategy, and engineering. Today he assists teams and customers in developing a wide range of innovative services and solutions to protect data and assets across multiple gas station, retail, and QSR sites.



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