November 1, 2012, 10:56 AM

How e-retailers can keep sites merry and bright during the holiday season

A report offers tips to help e-retail sites prepare for cyberattacks in the fourth quarter.

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December might be a cool month in terms of the weather but it’s a hot season for criminals to stage distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks on web sites, according to a new report from Prolexic Technologies Inc., a vendor that protects companies from such web site attacks.

A DDoS assault occurs when an attacker—often using countless numbers of hijacked computers—sends more Internet traffic than a web site’s servers can handle, preventing consumers from accessing the site.

DDoS attacks against e-commerce sites typically increase during the holiday sales season, Prolexic says. And they are on the rise. Such attacks against Prolexic’s global base of e-commerce clients jumped 8% between Q4 2009 and Q4 2010, before rising a staggering 153% between Q4 2010 and Q4 2011, according to Prolexic.

The cost of an attack that brings down a large e-commerce site for 24 hours can reach $30 million, Prolexic says. Attacks cost retailers more than just lost sales. For example, consumers may lose confidence in a site they cannot reach and turn to its competitors. And Google and other search engines rank pages with loading problems lower in search results, Prolexic says. The vendor says it has seen instances where an outage caused by a DDoS attack caused the e-commerce site to rank lower in search results for 30 days.

To help prepare for such attacks, Prolexic recommends:

Have an action plan: A clear, organized plan on what to do if an attack occurs can help a retailer resolve the issue in an orderly fashion.

Identify key contacts: Those people should have established roles should an attack occur. That way they can spring into action if an attack arises.

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