Cybercriminals don’t take a holiday. With Labour Day approaching, most people are thinking about how they will be enjoying their long weekends with their families. However, holidays like Labour Day tend to also bring greater cybersecurity risks to businesses. Businesses are closed during the holiday or are operating with a skeletal crew. Unsupervised IT networks and systems during the holidays provide a great opportunity for cybercriminals to attack. With this in mind, businesses should consider if their security strategy includes a plan for cyberattacks during the holidays.

In our earlier blog from last year, we mentioned a considerable increase in cyberattacks during the holidays. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Thanksgiving, your chances of being the victim of a cyber attack increase. The vacation season is yet another perfect period for cyber attacks. If a hacker had a choice between attacking your organization when your IT security team is fully staffed or when it isn’t- what do you think they will choose?

In early July 2021, a grocery store chain, a public broadcaster, schools, and a national railway system across several countries were all hit by the file-encrypting malware, causing disruption and forcing hundreds of businesses to close. The victims had something in common: an essential piece of network management and remote control software developed by U.S. technology firm Kaseya to manage a company’s IT networks and devices remotely. The attack began late Friday afternoon, just as millions of Americans logged off into the long July 4 weekend.

Many times, organizations are overburdened, and cyberattacks during the holidays are the last thing on their minds. The current pandemic heightened the threat, which has resulted in many firms operating with significant cybersecurity flaws resulting from the rapid shift to working from home. Cybercriminals exploit these flaws to get access to systems – and vulnerabilities increase with less network supervision during the holidays. While different attackers use different techniques, social engineering, phishing, spear-phishing, malware, and ransomware are the most frequent. Organization leaders and individuals can better understand how these schemes work and avoid falling victim to them if they have year-round solid cybersecurity and appropriate personnel training.

Below are some tips that can help better prepare your organization against cyber attacks:

  • Conduct cybersecurity awareness training programs for staff

While it may look like a basic step, conducting a refresher session on the dangers of phishing and other cyber threats for your organization’s staff can be extremely valuable. Because of the increased workload, especially over the holidays, your employees are more prone to phishing, social engineering, and even charity fraud. Ransomware is a severe threat. Ransomware attacks are profitable and are relatively simple to execute. Simple precautions can mitigate risk, such as not clicking URLs in emails from unknown senders and keeping operating systems and programs up to date. A training session could remind people to be cautious about what messages they read, preventing them from opening a Trojan horse accidentally. Employees must be aware that they must continually assess unusual or suspicious messages or documents and report them to IT and security departments. It is critical to emphasize this topic in regular educational programs. 

  • Have a contingency plan ready

While having a robust incident response plan in place is crucial all year, updating it and making sure your staff are aware of it during the holidays may be pretty advantageous in keeping you safe. Make sure your firewalls are up to date and all your data is encrypted. It’s also a good idea to plan for short-term or temporary staffing. Organizations should ensure that a solid contingency plan is in place and that responsibilities are acknowledged and understood across all departments to avoid delays and increased risks.

  • Diversify your systems to avoid a single point of failure

Most businesses make the mistake of putting all of their assets in one location; this makes it much easier for attackers to gain access. One compromised system can cause a lot of damage to your organization. Having your assets spread across multiple accounts not only makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to obtain access to them, but it also provides you more time to prepare a defence at a time when your resources are stretched thin. Even if you can’t prevent an attack, spreading your eggs across multiple baskets minimizes the damage to your business if one location is compromised.

  • Make sure your security systems are up to date

Employee training, firewall protection, anti-virus, anti-spam, wireless security, and online content filtration tools should all be part of your organization’s cybersecurity strategy. If you work in retail or another industry that uses POS systems, be aware that these systems can be vulnerable to a cyberattack, potentially exposing customer data and leading to most damage for such organizations. A POS network failure means no card transactions, which can mean no sales as many consumers no longer carry cash. It’s important to make sure your security and backups are up to date. 

Conclusion

It’s critical to pay attention to cybersecurity throughout the year. Cybercriminals are unlikely to take a day off, so vigilance is essential. Cybercriminals are ready to take advantage of you when they think you’re vulnerable, whether through social engineering, phishing emails, or false charity websites. These tips to prevent cyberattacks the holidays mentioned above can help you mitigate the risk for your organization, and an experienced service provider can help you frame and execute an intelligent cybersecurity plan. Reach out to Packetlabs to learn more about the cybersecurity options available to you.