Tis the Season For Cyber Attacks: Cybersecurity Risks During the Holidays

Cyber crime rises significantly during the holidays. According to statistics released by Darktrace in 2021, cybercrime attempts occurring during the holiday season rose 30% annually between the years 2018 and 2020. The firm also noted a 70% increase in cybercrime during November and December when compared with January and February.

These attacks come in many different forms, including targeted attacks, phishing, supply chain attacks, and ransomware. A 2022 study released by Cyberreason, concludes that ransomware is the most common form of cybercrime, accounting for roughly two-thirds of cyber attacks in the United States.

Attacks occurring during the holiday season when staffing is typically lower than normal presents unique challenges for companies hoping to stop bad actors in their tracks and protect customer shopping transactions.

This post highlights the top cybersecurity risks you’ll face during the holiday season. We’ll also share tips on how to mitigate these risks and keep your online shopping safe from criminal activity.

Why Cyber Crime Rises During The Holidays

The holiday season is a jackpot for cybercriminals. As people swarm online for shopping and stay glued to their mobile devices, attackers find numerous opportunities to strike. The reasons are many:

  • Distraction

    Knowing that people are often preoccupied during the holidays, cybercriminals exploit this distraction. Busy with multiple tasks, employees and individuals might neglect cyber hygiene or overlook signs of cyberattacks.

  • High Chance of Error

    A staggering 95% of data breaches stem from human errors according to a study performed by IBM, which spike when people are distracted. This makes the holidays a prime time for successful cyberattacks. Hackers are aware that consumer data piles up in retailers’ databases during this period, making a successful attack even more lucrative.

  • Load on Company Networks

    Company networks often buckle under holiday traffic, presenting an opening for cybercriminals. Many enterprises aren’t equipped to manage the surge, allowing attackers to infiltrate and launch attacks like distributed denial of service (DDoS) unnoticed.

  • Festive Emails

    Attackers leverage social engineering more during the holidays, tailoring their approaches to the festive themes. They craft emails and messages that resonate with holiday activities, making scams less detectable and more appealing.

  • Loose Workplace Security

    The rise in remote work during holidays means more people accessing company networks from less secure home environments. Cybercriminals capitalize on these weaker home security systems to breach company data more easily.

Types of Cybersecurity Risks to Watch Out For

  • Public Wi-Fi Eavesdropping: As holiday travelers connect to public Wi-Fi, they unknowingly invite hackers. These cybercriminals lurk on unsecured networks, ready to snatch personal data.
  • Gift Card Scams: Scammers tempt shoppers with fake gift card deals. They aim to steal financial details or cash, exploiting your hunt for the perfect present.
  • Charity Cons: The holiday spirit brings out fake charity scams. They mimic genuine causes, tricking you into revealing sensitive information or making donations to non-existent charities.
  • Rogue Mobile Apps: Amid the flurry of festive apps, some harbor malicious intent. They can siphon off personal data or infect your device with malware.
  • Smart Device Takeovers: Increasingly popular smart devices come with a risk. Weak security on these gadgets can give hackers a backdoor into your personal network.

How to Prevent Holiday Season Breaches

Even the most secure systems have vulnerabilities. The more security measures you implement, the more challenging it becomes to access necessary data and systems. And, human error can be unpredictable and have significant consequences. What are the best ways to prevent holiday attacks?

  • Empower Your Employees

    Make your employees a robust line of defense. Regularly test them with spear phishing simulations and equip them with knowledge about cyber threats. Urge them to report any odd online activities. A team that’s alert and knowledgeable is a major barrier to cyber attacks.

  • Ensure Schedule and Response Readiness

    Look closely at your IT and security team’s schedules during the holidays. It’s essential to have enough people on deck and a clear plan for who handles emergencies. Quick action is crucial in cyber security. Keep a list of essential contacts and a response plan that works even without corporate resources.

  • Manage Passwords and Authentication Effectively

    Check when your team last changed their passwords. Regular updates and using multi-factor authentication block hackers, especially those with stolen credentials. This step is simple yet critical in keeping your systems secure.

  • Run Cyber Drills

    Practice makes perfect. Run cyber drills like you would fire drills. These help test and improve your organization’s response to digital threats. They highlight where your security measures might need tightening.

  • Backup Data Regularly

    Decide what data is crucial and back it up. Automated backups are best. They consistently save crucial data and system settings, speeding up recovery after an attack. For companies using business technology services, it’s wise to inquire about backup solutions from their provider.

  • Strengthen Wi-Fi Security

    Pay special attention to your Wi-Fi security, especially if employees work remotely or on-the-go during the holidays. Ensure your Wi-Fi networks (both in-office and for remote workers) are secure and encrypted. Advise employees to avoid using public Wi-Fi for work-related tasks—these networks are often unmonitored and easy targets for hackers.

  • Focus on Customer Awareness

    Educate your customers about the risks of cyber fraud during the holiday season. Provide them with tips on secure online shopping, like verifying the authenticity of websites and avoiding suspicious links. Increased customer awareness can prevent them from falling prey to holiday-specific scams, like fake holiday deals or charity fraud, which indirectly protects your business too.

The holiday season should be filled with joy and gladness not frustration and overtime as your employees struggle to get ahead of the latest phishing attack. Businesses that step up their cybersecurity efforts during the holidays can effectively protect your systems against seasonal cyber threats. This keeps both your business and your customers secure, ensuring a safe festive season for everyone. If you need help implementing these steps to protect your business this holiday season, consider partnering with a managed IT services provider. Their security expertise will help keep your data safe and ready to respond to threats when they arise.

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