Starbucks gives away thousands of free coffees following a POS outage — is software systems management the problem?

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#TheFrappening

Starbucks gave away thousands of free drinks last Friday after a massive Point of Sale (POS) outage. That may have been a hit with the lucky customers who got a free Frapuccino; however, it exposes just how vulnerable retailers are to POS systems failures and security threats.

Savvy twitter users jumped on the opportunity to get free coffee as the hashtag #TheFrappening became a trending topic. And some journalists estimated that Starbucks lost around $3 million that day because of their retail computer outage.

Although Starbucks was quick to respond, reassuring the public that no hackers were involved and that it was simply a “failure during a daily system refresh,” it certainly feels like this is just one amongst many high profile POS failures and hacks in recent months.

The fact is, that many POS systems are accidents waiting to happen and the need to keep POS systems updated and patched regularly is vital. Furthermore, while merchants who are still using Windows XP will continue to receive support, they are five times more vulnerable to security risks such as viruses and malware, according to Microsoft.

Yet a recent PwC Information Security Breaches Survey revealed that UK retailers only spent 6% of their IT budget on security – a figure that is even smaller in the U.S.

So why aren’t companies investing in securing their POS systems? The short answer is that the cost and disruption they fear it will bring to their business puts them off. POS systems are often geographically disparate and remote from the rest of the enterprise’s IT network and many have poor network bandwidth. This often means that special attention is required in the form of manual updates from on-site experts. And given that POS systems are at the frontline of most retail and hospitality businesses, they can ill-afford for them to be out of action.

But there is a way to fight back against the security risk without costing too much time and money.

According to the Australian Signals Directorate, at least 85% of intrusions could have been mitigated by implementing appropriate systems management. The stigma with POS security, as previously outlined, is that they are costly, time consuming, and manual, but by using automated updates, businesses can eliminate most risks in just a matter of weeks.

Jim Bezdan, whose experience includes POS security projects with some of the largest U.S. and international companies, recently produced a webinar on how to automate and accelerate software distribution on Point of Sale systems — and considerably reduce security risk, software and operating system deployment timelines and cost.

Watch the POS webinar to learn about the key strategies that can help mitigate up to 85% of POS security risks, including how a leading organization with over 8,000 retail locations completely replaced its manual patching process with a fully automated, zero-touch migration solution, slashing both the time and cost of migration.

And if you ever get another free skinny mocha latte, be sure to tip your barista!

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