Alberta recently passed Bill 80, which will allow existing private retailers in the province to conduct online cannabis sales and deliveries within 90 days of the closure of the Government of Alberta’s cannabis website. Licensed retailers will be given the go-ahead to start selling their products online on March 8, 2022. In addition to selling cannabis products, retailers will be able to sell branded apparel and accessories. Details have not yet been released on what the regulations will be surrounding home delivery service. It will likely include verification and proof of legal age, whether that is done online or upon delivery of the products.
This shift would put Alberta’s cannabis space in line with other industries that have digitized their services and given their customers more convenience and purchase options. Many provinces across Canada have already approved online sales for private retailers, including Ontario, BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Yukon and Northwest Territories. Expanding cannabis sales from in-store to online will amplify business opportunities for retailers who can run an e-commerce store and increase the reach of their brands. It will also help to drive out illicit cannabis ecommerce businesses.
Alberta is home to over 700 active retail cannabis licenses, the second largest store count in the country. The future of cannabis retail looks exciting, with online ordering, delivery and customer analysis – but the addition of ecommerce will come with challenges. As a cannabis retailer, you have a lot on your plate, between adhering to changing regulations, tracking inventory and training staff. When your customer base expands to online sales, this creates cybersecurity risks.
As cannabis sales shift to online, your security measures will increase from physical security such as surveillance cameras, alarms and door guards to cybersecurity prevention and training. Whether you already use software for inventory and customer tracking, or you are evaluating your options, security should be top of mind.
Cannabis retail owners should be proactive in understanding your risk profile and taking steps to reduce the cyber risks your business is exposed to. The time you dedicate to cyber prevention and securing your networks in the coming weeks and months could save you from much larger consequences when online cannabis sales go into effect.
There are a number of steps you can take to protect your online cannabis retail business:
Train all your employees on cybersecurity measures
- Your employees are your primary line of defence between your company and a cyber attack. It is important to train your employees on cybersecurity best practices and hold training sessions regularly to stay vigilant against cybercriminals.
- The Government of Canada has a number of free online cybersecurity courses aimed at small businesses.
Limit the number of employees who have administrative access
- Restrict the level of administrative privileges that your employees have. Perform a network audit and customize the privileges of your staff so they only have the necessary amount of access to perform their duties.
Develop password best practices
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA)
- Use a separate password for each login
- Use a password manager
- A strong password should contain at least 8 characters, with a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols
Learn how to spot suspicious emails
- The compromise of a single email account could give hackers access to your entire business network.
- Check for spelling errors in the sender’s email address and in the message body, for example, if there are numbers or punctuation in place of where a letter should be.
- Check the tone of the email – does it sound demanding, suspicious or too good to be true? Be very cautious before responding or opening any attachments.
Regularly update your operating systems and third-party applications
- Keep up to date with the latest software updates for all the applications that you use. Outdated or unsupported software creates easy vulnerabilities for cyber criminals to take advantage of.
Implement offline backups and cloud usage
- Regularly back-up all important company files and store these backups in a safe place that is offline such as an encrypted external hard drive.
- A comprehensive cloud-based backup system is also a viable backup method, as long as your backups are stored separately from the rest of your digital operations.
Having Cybersecurity Insurance can be beneficial in managing risks and controlling the level of impact after a breach. Due to the ever-increasing number of cyber attacks, insurance companies are reducing coverage options on cyber policies. It is best to reach out to us about Cyber Insurance and we can assess whether or not this option is available to add as a part of your Cannabis Insurance package.
If you are interested in getting a quote for your retail cannabis business, fill out our quick online application here. If you have any other questions, give us a call at 1-866-387-FUSE (3873).