Cybercriminals exploit the holidays to attack businesses. Here are five steps to help your company stay secure and profitable.
It’s that time of the year, brimming with vacations, gifts, shopping, and get-togethers. It’s also a very opportune time for cybercriminals. We drop our guards the most during the holidays, providing plenty of opportunities for criminals to strike.
You can expect many articles telling people how to stay safe during the holidays, offering salient advice such as using a separate card for purchases, not broadcasting your vacation plans on social media, and not falling for bogus sales and charity scams.
But what about businesses? They are not spared during the holidays, says Gerhard Swart, Chief Technology Officer at cybersecurity company, Performanta. “People spend more in holiday seasons, and retail businesses are much more active. That makes them a prime target. At the same time, many companies cool down operations and people go on leave. That’s also an opportunity to strike – imagine being attacked while your security executive is relaxing on the beach. Cybercriminals look for those opportunities.”
So what can businesses do to reduce their cybercrime risks and be more cybersafe? Here are 5 key considerations to take into account:
- Have An Incident Response Plan: An incident response plan sets out the processes, priorities, and individuals that respond to a cybercrime event. The difference between organisations with and without such plans in recovery times and costs is astronomical, specifically because criminals thrive most when their victims are in a state of chaos. That potential for chaos is enhanced during both holiday scenarios: hectic periods and when most staff are on leave.
- Prepare Staff: Manipulating people is a big part of cybercrime, and criminals take advantage of holiday distractions, long work shifts, and remote work. These attempts can materialise as phishing messages, cloned cards, and even financial pressure (such as coercing an indebted employee). Scammers can engineer a crisis, prompt a vacationing executive to log into business systems remotely, and then steal their authentication pins. Another example is business email compromise, where scammers change customer or supplier bank details with fake correspondence. Employees, working or vacationing, are more vulnerable during holidays, so prepare them.
- Use Managed Services: Managed Service Providers (MSPs) specialise in building elaborate systems that they can scale and offer to multiple customers. This concept works very well for security – MSPs are an excellent way to augment internal security and take pressure from your security staff. The MSP integrates into business systems and uses its technologies and skills to proactively monitor for attacks and data loss. MSP customers thus have 24-7 oversight from a security partner, no matter how busy they get or how many people go on leave.
- Prepare for uptime and use downtime: If your systems lag behind patching or struggle with configuration problems, holiday periods can amplify those concerns. For example, imagine being hit by a ransomware attack during holiday sales, channelled through an unpatched issue on your servers. The resulting losses could cripple or kill the business. Look at patching before things get really busy. Likewise, if your company slows down during the holidays, use that time to catch up on patching and configuration, and run discovery audits to know the actual state of your security.
- Check Integration Security: Holidays mean lots of money transactions, most of which will move through payment providers that integrate with your business systems. Those integrations can be a sweet target for criminals, and it’s dangerous to assume your service provider is taking care of everything. Take a good look at your integration and API security, and consider having alternatives ready in case a provider is attacked. Also, cast an eye on your supply chain partners – their lax security can quickly become your holiday problem.
The holidays are a time to enjoy the efforts of a long year or capitalise on increased vacation spending. Don’t give criminals the gap to rob you of that success. By taking a few precautions, you can ensure a cybersafe organisation during the holidays and throughout the year.