With the growing sophistication of cyber threats, protecting your business's digital assets is paramount. Statistics reveal that nearly half of small businesses have dealt with cyber breaches, substantiating the clear and present danger of such incidents. Cybercriminals operate year-round, finding opportunities in our times of leisure, such as vacations and holidays, to maximize their attacks.
Your digital strategy needs to withstand the ingenuity of modern threats, encompassing risks that intensify during periods when vigilance may wane. Even during breaks, staying vigilant is crucial, as cyber adversaries do not take vacations.
When Are You Most Vulnerable?
The holiday season, despite its festive atmosphere, often brings a unique set of challenges for businesses in terms of cybersecurity. One of the primary factors contributing to heightened vulnerability is the reduced staff presence in the office. With employees taking time off to celebrate and relax, there are fewer individuals available to monitor and respond to potential security threats. This reduced workforce can create a security gap that cybercriminals may exploit, knowing that there are fewer eyes on the digital infrastructure.
Moreover, the holiday season tends to foster an atmosphere where security processes may take a backseat. Employees, focused on meeting end-of-year deadlines and managing holiday-related stress, may inadvertently overlook security protocols or become more susceptible to phishing attacks. The rush to finalize projects before the year's end can lead to rushed decision-making, increasing the chances of making security mistakes.
Additionally, the increased number of financial transactions and online shopping activities during this period can expose businesses to a higher risk of fraudulent activities, putting their financial assets at stake. To mitigate these risks, businesses must maintain a robust cybersecurity posture, even during the holiday season, and ensure that security processes and education are not sacrificed in the rush of festivities and year-end obligations.
High Risks During the Holidays
E-commerce transactions, which proliferate during holiday seasons like Black Friday and Christmas, are prime times for cybercriminals looking to exploit online shopping habits.
Tax filing seasons are notorious for phishing schemes targeting those expecting tax returns or filing taxes online.
Significant public events, such as elections or major sports gatherings, can trigger an increase in cybercrime as attackers exploit these events for their gain.
Why Are The Holidays High-Risk?
During festive seasons, your business may experience heightened vulnerability to cyber threats for several reasons:
- Reduced Staffing: Many organizations operate with limited staff during holidays. This can slow down the response to a cyber incident.
- Increase in Online Transactions: With a rise in online shopping, your business may face increased exposure to cyber threats such as credit card skimming and phishing.
- Relaxed Security Protocols: There might be a tendency to relax security measures during the holiday cheer, making your systems an easier target.
- Temporary Staff: If you hire temporary workers who are not fully trained on your cybersecurity policies, this can introduce risks.
- Overlooked Software Updates: Regular maintenance, including software patches and updates, may be postponed, leaving systems vulnerable.
- Distraction: Holidays can cause a lapse in vigilance as employees might be more focused on personal events, missing the signs of a cyber attack.
- Outdated Equipment: Businesses might use equipment that's not regularly employed, potentially lacking recent security updates.
How To Stay Secure This Holiday Season
Enhance Your Defenses Against Phishing Attacks
Phishing spikes during holidays due to increased email volume. Stay vigilant by:
- Educating employees to recognize suspicious emails. Training should cover how to inspect email addresses for legitimacy and to avoid clicking on unknown links.
- Implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) to add an extra security layer in case credentials are compromised.
- For comprehensive strategies, read about protecting your business from phishing.
Secure Remote Access
Employees often work from different locations over the holiday period:
- Encourage the use of secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) when accessing company resources remotely.
- Ensure that cybersecurity policies include the use of VPNs while traveling, for details see holiday cybersecurity tips.
Update and Patch Regularly
Outdated software can be a major security risk:
- Make it a habit to promptly apply updates and patches to all systems and software.
- Schedule these updates for minimal disruption.
Strengthen Identity and Access Management
Access to sensitive information should be carefully managed:
- Utilize strong password policies and change passwords regularly.
- Consider comprehensive identity and access management solutions, as discussed in these holiday cybersecurity measures.
Have an Incident Response Plan
Being prepared can minimize damage:
- Develop a plan that your team can execute swiftly in case of a security breach.
- Regularly review and practice the incident response plan.
Promote Good Digital Hygiene
A proactive approach to cybersecurity is essential:
- Employees must be aware of the common digital threats and best practices.
- Encourage regular security audits and maintenance, detailed further in A Retailers' Guide to Cybersecurity.
Don’t Get Breached This Holiday Season
It is imperative for businesses like yours to remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their digital assets during the holiday season when staff members may be on vacation. The heightened risk of cyberattacks during this period demands a strategic approach that includes robust cybersecurity measures, ongoing employee training, and a comprehensive incident response plan.
Interested in reading more about how Beringer Technology Group can help your organization stay vigilant and protected throughout the year? Take a look our services pages for Managed IT Services and Managed Cyber Security.
Cybercriminals are well-aware of the potential vulnerabilities that arise when employees are away or distracted by holidays and other events, and they exploit these opportunities with sophisticated tactics. Therefore, businesses must prioritize cybersecurity as a continuous effort, fostering a culture of awareness and preparedness throughout the organization. By doing so, they can not only mitigate the elevated risks posed by holiday vacations but also fortify their overall cybersecurity posture, safeguarding their sensitive data, reputation, and long-term success.
Beringer Technology Group, a leading Microsoft Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and CRM for Distribution also provides expert Managed IT Services, Backup and Disaster Recovery, Cloud Based Computing, Email Security Implementation and Training, Unified Communication Solutions, and Cybersecurity Risk Assessment.