The upcoming holidays are a time of joy but also a time of stress, especially if you're a business owner. You have to meet the heightened demands of customers during the season, and also deal with shopping, party preparations, and travel arrangements. Unfortunately, there is another potential source of holiday stress most people don’t consider, that being cyberthreats, which become more active and aggressive during this time of the year.
In order to prepare you and organization for the holidays, this article will cover the five most common holiday cyberthreats to watch out for and the steps you can take to protect yourself from them.
Why do cyberthreats increase over the holidays?
There are multiple reasons why cybercriminals become more active during the holiday season of November and December. These reasons include:
- Higher business activity: Cybercriminals know that during the holidays, businesses are bustling with activity. The increased volume of online transactions and personal data circulating through retailers' systems becomes a lucrative target. In addition, the amount of activity necessitated by holiday markets means businesses have more incentive than ever to pay the ransom of ransomware attacks in order to restore operations as soon as possible.
- Overstressed networks: Company networks experience heightened strain during the holidays due to increased traffic. Cybercriminals exploit this vulnerability, often launching when businesses are most overworked and least prepared.
- Unsolicited email traffic: The surge in unsolicited promotional emails provide an easy way for cybercriminals to slip phishing emails and other cyberattack vectors amidst the deluge. Users are more susceptible to these attacks as they wade through a sea of holiday-themed messages and offers.
5 Holiday cyberthreats
The five cyberthreats you should especially watch for during the holiday season include:
Ransomware is a form of malware that, once it’s infiltrated a system, encrypts data, rendering it unreadable until the owner of the data pays a ransom. Ransomware can be devastating, putting an entire organization on hold during the busiest time of the year, threatening its reputation, and incurring massive financial costs whether or not the ransom is paid.
By exploiting personal information, such as Social Security numbers, cybercriminals engage in identity theft, wherein stolen data is used to open lines of credit or steal money, posing a serious threat to employees and customers alike.
In a phishing attack, malicious emails made to look like they’re from legitimate sources solicit victims for personal information such as passwords, login credentials, or even banking information. During the holidays, phishers capitalize on the influx of unsolicited promotional emails prevalent throughout the season.
Spam and malicious software
Spam emails, often disguised as holiday deals, pose a significant threat by encouraging victims to click on infected links or open corrupted files that unleash malicious software capable of infiltrating entire company networks.
Under normal circumstances, human error is already one of the leading causes behind cybersecurity breaches, whether due to mistaken deletion or formatting, or the careless clicking of a dangerous link or attachment. The likelihood of human error skyrockets during the holidays, as people are distracted by holiday preparations, pressured to buy gifts at the best prices, or too relaxed from celebration. Cybercriminals exploit these distractions and relaxed cybersecurity practices to launch successful attacks.
How to protect yourself from holiday cyberthreats
Fortunately, while there are multiple different cyberthreats trying to ruin your holidays, there are also steps you can take to protect yourself and your business. These steps include:
- Education – Educate yourself and your workforce about holiday-related cyberthreats so you can identify phishing emails, suspicious requests, and other cyberthreat vectors.
- Strong passwords – Use strong and unique passwords that incorporate numbers, symbols and nonconventional combinations, while also considering the implementation of multifactor authentication for added security.
- Regular updates – Ensure you update all applications, software, and security patches to their latest versions and fixes to minimize vulnerabilities that cyberattacks will try to exploit.
- Secure transactions – Utilize only secure payment methods and ensure all transaction data is encrypted so that unauthorized viewers can’t read the data.
- Monitoring and alerts – Utilize real-time monitoring to swiftly detect and respond to unusual activities. Set up alerts for potential breaches.
- Backup and disaster recovery – Regularly back up critical data and systems to ensure business continuity in the event of an attack.
- Employee communication – Establish channels for employees to report suspicious activity.
Learn more about how to prepare your business for the holidays and possible cyberthreats by contacting Kortek Solutions to consult with one of our IT specialists.