Holiday cyber attacks are here. This time of the year is supposed to be for resting, reconnecting, and rejoicing. However, cybercriminals see it as the perfect time to take advantage of your business. Which leads to massive growth in cyberattacks. To avoid a disaster, it’s important for your organization to know what threats it faces and the cybersecurity tips that will help secure it this holiday season.
Don’t Let Cyber Attacks and Scams Ruin Your Holiday
Cyber criminals love the holiday season just as much as most of us do. However, they don’t spend time with friends and family, decorate a Christmas tree, or sit by a fireplace with a warm drink in hand like us. Instead, they take every opportunity to go online and hunt.
They prey on the weak, vulnerable, and unsuspecting. Which pays off because many companies and organizations are less responsive.
“Cyber criminals may view holidays and weekends – especially holiday weekends – as attractive timeframes to target potential victims, including small and large businesses,” stated CISA in one of its alerts.
So, why do the holidays increase cyber attacks in the US?
IT Professionals Are Not Working
Organizations that rely on an in-house IT team usually have fewer people available to respond to threats during holidays. This leaves them more vulnerable and unable to act promptly. It may be too late to avoid damages when an IT professional gets to the office.
Employees Are Distracted
Employees working for companies that experience a spike in demand during the holiday season may be so busy they forget to implement cybersecurity best practices.
Organizations Have More to Lose
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales represent 20 percent of annual sales across most industries. As a result, any disruption happening at this time of the year can be very costly for the targeted organization and rewarding for the attacker.
Employees Working Remotely Are Easier Targets
More people are on the move during the holiday season. Unsecured access to the internet via public Wi-Fi puts you at an increased risk. Also, remote workers are susceptible because they don’t have access to the protective measures your staff at the office possess.
Top Cyber Threats During the Holiday Season
Organizations face the same cyber threats (or slight variations) every holiday season. Knowing what the threats are and how they work is an essential prerequisite for implementing effective countermeasures.
Social Engineering Attacks
There are many different types of social engineering attacks, and they all skyrocket around holidays. Phishing, for example, often increases by more than 150 percent above average.
It’s easy to find similar alarming statistics for smishing, vishing, business email compromise (BEC), tailgating, and other scams.
Holiday social engineering attacks often take advantage of employees expecting to receive holiday email messages from coworkers, clients, and business partners. This makes them more likely to open malicious messages and any attachments.
These attacks tend to go together with social engineering. However, they can also be delivered as fileless malware by abusing vulnerabilities present in legitimate tools or directing targets to infected websites.
It’s important to note that most ransomware incidents (76%) are launched outside of working hours – either on the weekend or before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. on a weekday. Ensure that after-hours coverage is available to respond within a set time, in case of an emergency.
According to Microsoft’s 2022 Digital Defense Report, the tech giant mitigated a record number of global distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks last holiday season. These attacks attempt to overwhelm the target with bogus internet traffic coming from a huge number of devices at once.
Unfortunately, they can create long-lasting outages. Causing companies, especially e-commerce businesses, a major loss of revenue.
In the past, there have been cases of shady business owners using DDoS-as-a-Service tools to take out their competitors so that customers would have fewer options to choose from.
The last category of cyber threats to watch out for during the holiday season is the broadest. It includes various holiday scams, such as:
- Fake charities
- Gift card scams
- Fake gift exchanges
- Package delivery scams
- Among others
These scams share the same goal of extracting money from unsuspecting victims. As such, they rarely disrupt the operations of organizations, but they may cause a lot of distress to their employees.
Holiday Cybersecurity Tips
We hate seeing the holiday season ruined by cyberattacks. That’s why we recommend organizations take these five steps to better protect your business:
1. Conduct monthly security awareness training sessions for employees – with phishing simulations – no more than 15 minutes per person for most organizations. Educate them about the threats described in this article so they can better avoid them.
2. Update your software to reduce the number of vulnerabilities cyber criminals can exploit to breach your defenses. Don’t forget to update employees’ personal devices if they are allowed to connect to your network.
3. Review password best practices and enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to prevent a single leaked or stolen password from being used to compromise all your systems.
4. Monitor network activity 24/7 for early signs of cyberattacks. Smaller organizations with limited or no IT staff should partner with a managed service provider offering integrated cybersecurity to ensure around-the-clock network protection.
5. Have a contingency plan ready to recover from a cyberattack. Every second of downtime during the holiday season is expensive. You can quickly resume operations and keep the cost of the attack as low as possible with a well-thought-out plan.
Cyber criminals won’t hesitate to ruin the holiday season for any organization that isn’t sufficiently protected against these threats.
If you’ve already taken steps to strengthen your cybersecurity posture, continue to review your defenses and remain vigilant. Because the holiday season is the perfect time for cybercriminals to strike.