Retail, like the rest of the world, is becoming an increasingly technology-driven business sector as companies deploy new point-of-sale systems, supply chain management tools, ecommerce software and more. As reliance on such applications grows, retailers run the risk of software security problems that could expose customer information, glitches that might lead to unexpected discounts or other types of financial losses. To protect themselves against such mishaps, companies can use tools such as static analysis and code review on both internally developed and externally purchased retail systems.
Software errors and security mishaps are an increasingly common threat to retailers. In December of 2012, for instance, researchers discovered a strain of malware called “Dexter” that was being used to take over POS systems and send credit card information to a remote server.
In 2011, two hackers were able to make off with more than 146,000 credit card numbers by targeting POS systems at 100 Subway restaurants, which led to more than $10 million in fraud losses, according to Bank Info Security. Researchers at the Black Hat USA 2012 security conference demonstrated vulnerabilities on three leading POS terminal models, PC World reported.
In other words, the potential for attacks is considerable. Additionally, growing complexity in the types and extent of retail software used is creating additional risk of errors, Kevin Davis, principal consultant at SQS Software Quality Systems, noted in a recent column for Retail Digital. With the abilities to integrate systems and provide cross-channel offerings representing points of competitive advantage for retailers, ensuring that such systems work is critical.
“As the complexity of retail systems architecture increases, the risk that a one-off error or software bug will have widespread knock-on effects rises dramatically,” Davis explained.
Strengthening retail software
To prevent bugs and security vulnerabilities, companies should look to implement testing and quality assurance in their development process from the beginning, Davis wrote. He noted that the biggest success stories are supported by testing, but in many cases such measures are overlooked until the later stages of the project, at which point problems can lead to cost overruns and delays. By catching errors early on, organizations can cut development costs by as much as 90 percent.
“When software errors and system failures cause consumers to perceive a retail brand negatively, improving quality becomes a priority,” he wrote. “However, hastily implemented quality programs are not the answer. Quality-driven retailers have clear objectives and robust processes for gathering, analyzing and taking action on information and feedback on a rolling basis.”
One of the most valuable tools for implementing this kind of oversight process is to use automated testing tools such as static analysis software, Davis wrote. Static analysis enables businesses to run tests faster and at a lower cost while ensuring system stability, compatibility and security. Such tools can also be useful for ensuring updates to retail software don’t take entire systems offline. By implementing practices to test and evaluate software quality, retailers can dramatically reduce the risk of a store system malfunctioning and leading to a security breach, financial loss or customer dissatisfaction.
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