When it comes to the holiday season, there is no doubt that parties, vacations with friends or family, and shopping are very much on our minds. However, we tend to forget that it is also the season when cybercriminals have their own “holiday shopping spree” in mind- taking advantage of the increase in online activity and the fact that many people have let their guard down during this time of year.
With an increase of 30% in ransomware attacks during the holidays compared to regular months, it’s time to double down on MSP client security to make sure that they are aware of the risks and that their digital assets are well protected during this time.
The Rise of Holiday Hacking
As mentioned above, throughout the holiday season, from Black Friday all the way through Christmas and the New Year, many cybercriminals come to the surface knowing the opportunities this shopping period presents.
Let’s dive into the why:
- IT and Security Teams are Caught Off-Guard: Many businesses tend to be short-staffed with employees on vacation, working remotely, or working flexible hours, leaving systems not being as closely monitored as they usually are and leaving vulnerabilities unnoticed. Cybercriminals tend to leverage this to carry out their malicious activities. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure sufficient staff and heightened vigilance during this time.
- Higher Online Activity: With most people doing their shopping online – whether it is for Black Friday or for Christmas presents – this presents a larger attack surface for hackers to exploit. This increased online activity makes it easier for hackers to hide their malicious activities amongst all the legitimate transactions.
- Weaker security measures: Because the holiday season is so busy, businesses might opt for convenience over security. This could lead to weaker security protocols, which makes it easier for cybercriminals to infiltrate systems and steal sensitive customer information.
Cyber Threats Trending During the Holidays
When cybercriminals increase their launch of attacks during the holiday season, they focus on attacks that prey on the factors above.
The most common threats to MSPs and businesses include:
- Phishing: One of the top threats during the holiday season is when cyber criminals often impersonate trusted retailers to trap victims into revealing sensitive information. Utilizing sophisticated ‘Attack as a Service’ (AaaS) tools, these scams employ convincing business email templates and landing pages, which make them difficult to distinguish from genuine ones.
- Ransomware: With longer periods of low security, it’s easier for unauthorized users to gain privileged access and slowly make lateral movements within a system or service. The urgent need for business continuity makes these businesses more likely to cave into cyberattacks and pay a demanded ransom rather than face extended downtime during this critical period.
- Account Compromise: Given the surge in online shopping and financial transactions over the holiday season, cybercriminals leverage poor security practices such as weak passwords or unsecured internet connections to take over user accounts. Once they gain access to these accounts, they can steal sensitive data, carry out fraudulent transactions, or perpetrate other malicious activities.
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Since cybercriminals typically are aware of the particular weaknesses of businesses during this time and concentrate on a few types of attacks, MSPs can ensure that their clients engage in regular practices each holiday season to defend against these threats.
Here are a few tips:
- Encourage Greater Employee Awareness: Establishing a culture of security awareness is vital to ensuring the safety of your clients, especially during the holiday season. By educating employees and vendors about emerging threats and implementing company-wide security best practices such as multi-factor authentication, least privileged access, and endpoint hardening, businesses can significantly reduce their risk of a cyberattack. This culture of security awareness not only helps protect sensitive information but also fosters customer trust. This, in turn, can enhance a company’s reputation and business standing, particularly during the critical holiday season.
- Revisit Security Processes: It’s important to evaluate how frequently you’re engaging with your customers. Are the procedures for addressing attacks clear to them? Are they well-versed in the company’s security goals and initiatives? Regular meetings are crucial for maintaining strong lines of communication. Some businesses opt for quarterly briefings to ensure that these important matters are kept front and center. Moreover, it is highly recommended to schedule at least one comprehensive review every year. This review can serve as a touchpoint to debrief on the past year’s security events, as well as to align strategies and goals for the upcoming year. With frequent communication and a clear understanding of security protocols, customers can actively play a part in maintaining their own protection.
- Adopt a Comprehensive Cybersecurity Platform: One of the challenges in cybersecurity for businesses is simultaneously defending against a wide range of possible threats while managing many different point solutions. Comprehensive solutions like Guardz can include protections such as email, cloud data, external risk, endpoint security, and cyber awareness training on one unified platform to holistically protect clients against a wide range of cyberattacks and evolving threats.
By implementing these tips, your clients will enjoy the holiday season while staying secure against the growing threat of attack. Happy holidays!