The Holidays Are Here — And So Are the Hackers
The holidays bring opportunities to get together with loved ones, eat well, and celebrate the end of another year. They also bring an onslaught in hacking attempts by bad actors.
Every year the holidays bring more than just festive cheer and a big man dressed in a red suit: they also bring a reliable upswing in cyberattacks. You’ve probably heard about some of these incidents in the past. From breaches of major mainstream retailers like Macy’s, PoshMark, and Adidas, to attacks that threatened national security, like the 2020 SolarWinds hack, and an attack on a food production company that led to a national cream cheese shortage just last year, bad actors are constantly exploiting any vulnerabilities they can find.
While these are the holiday hacking incidents that made the biggest splashes in the headlines, they are far from the only ones. Everyone from the largest enterprise to the individual computer user is vulnerable, especially at this time of year. That’s because hackers know their attacks are more likely to succeed around the holidays than at any other time, meaning they’re motivated to act and act intensely. In fact, UK-based cybersecurity company Darktrace found that the average number of ransomware attacks increases by 30% during the holiday season compared to the monthly average, with the number of attempted attacks being 70% higher during November and December than during January and February.
Clearly there’s something about the holiday season that makes it particularly appealing for bad actors. So why do attacks increase during this time of year and what can you do to keep yourself from falling victim?
Why Cyberattacks Increase During the Holiday Season
Several factors come together during the holidays to create what is often a golden opportunity for bad actors. One major factor is that the massive increase in people shopping online and searching for discounts makes it the perfect time for phishing attacks to succeed. Whether through targeted discount offers or even simple “Happy Holidays” messages, hackers are more likely to see their emails get opened during a time of year when many let their guard down and might be more inclined to check emails they might otherwise ignore or move directly to junk. While clicking on suspicious links or downloading documents can cause major problems for the devices themselves, if an employee opens those emails while connected to their company’s network, the whole organization could be jeopardized by malware or ransomware.
That’s not the only reason hackers are particularly active at this time of year. Unsurprisingly the holidays see many IT departments become short-staffed with several individuals taking time off during the same small timeframe. That means that if a hacker does get through, the hacker will likely be able to cause a greater level of damage before the attack is noticed and stopped than would be possible under normal circumstances.
In short, with both individuals and organizations tending to have their guard down, the holidays are truly the most wonderful time of the year for hackers.
Tips for Staying Secure This Holiday Season
While it’s obviously important to follow cybersecurity best practices year round, it’s particularly important to follow them closely during the holiday season. Here are some tips for staying secure:
- Educate your employees on best practices: It’s critical that all your employees know how to identify and avoid suspicious links, attachments, and websites. Remind them to never download anything potentially suspicious from the internet. If they’re not sure, tell them to run any suspicious emails by the IT team. Additionally, remind employees to implement multi-factor authentication on every work-related account and to use different passwords for each. A password manager is the best and most secure way to keep multiple complex passwords organized.
- Ensure systems are up to date: While human error can often be the largest vulnerability in an organization, software and hardware vulnerabilities present another major opportunity for bad actors. To combat these vulnerabilities, it’s critical that companies keep all their systems up to date, installing patches and updates as soon as they’re available, and regularly scan them for vulnerabilities — especially before the Christmas and New Year’s cybercrime spike.
- Have backups and contingency plans: Nowadays, malware and ransomware that either destroy your data or hold it hostage are becoming increasingly common. The impact of an attack can depend largely on if you have a plan in place to access your data anew if a bad actor gets through. Having backups of your data that you can easily access and a contingency plan to ensure those backups are utilized immediately can bring your organization back from the brink if a successful attack occurs.
- Evaluate your security infrastructure: If you want to make sure you don’t accidentally miss any security vulnerabilities, it’s best to get a professional evaluation of your security infrastructure. The team at Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI) can perform a complete evaluation of your security infrastructure and offer recommendations to ensure there are no opportunities for bad actors to get through whether during the holidays or at any other time of year.
Stay Secure During the Holidays with TTI
While all of this may seem daunting, none of it is meant to scare you off this holiday season. You should still be excited for all the good things that the holidays bring, but it’s also important that everyone be wary of the increased cybersecurity risks they bring and take necessary precautions to avoid a Christmas or New Year’s marred by a cyberattack.
Luckily, you don’t have to take those precautions alone. At TTI, our experts can help you stay cybersecure year round. In addition to helping you strengthen your cybersecurity infrastructure through evaluations and upgrades, we also offer flexible, dependable managed services to reduce your IT workload — even potentially taking it off your hands entirely! Whether during the holiday season or at any other time of year, we can fill your IT skills gaps and ensure you’re always staying as cyber secure as possible.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you stay ahead of the hackers this holiday season!
By Tony Ridzyowski