What happens if your organization falls prey to a cyber attack—is your firm protected from risk?...
Are you preparing to deck the halls this season? Make sure your organization knows these essential holiday cybersecurity tips.
In recent years, studies have demonstrated a 30 percent rise in ransomware attacks compared to the typical monthly average—as well as an astonishing 70 percent jump in attempted ransomware attacks during the holiday season. The holiday season is a time when many businesses experience an increased risk of cyberattacks—but why?
Busy periods and popular times for travel—much like the holiday season—are peak times for malware and ransomware attacks, and experts think this has much to do with the fact that cybercriminals are more likely to prey on companies when they are most vulnerable.
Consider this: Long weekends and holidays of all sorts equal extra time to get away or gather with friends and family. This means there is usually a heightened chance that IT professionals and cybersecurity staff are operating with fewer people present while companies work to accommodate vacation schedules, paid time off, holiday gatherings, and religious observances.
Other reasons that the holidays bring about more than just cheer—but also an increased risk of cyber attack:
Cyberattacks gain steam during the months of November and December for organizations and the general public alike. Phishing and ransomware attacks happen most frequently as threat actors look to take advantage of the times when IT professionals are most likely to be distracted, busy, or out of the office.
As we approach the end of the year, here are five holiday cybersecurity tips to reduce the risk of an attack that could take all the merriment out of a truly merry time.
Out-of-date software or software that’s no longer supported by vendors can leave vulnerabilities that serve as an open door for bad actors to work their way into your system—which is why it’s so important to check for updates and vulnerabilities. Not only should you routinely patch software and install new updates to the most recent versions of the software in your tech stack, but you should be sure to perform these updates more frequently during the holidays. The most important updates and patches include:
You may also consider implementing a centralized patch management system and assessing which assets may have the highest level of risk.
Additionally, your organization should set any antivirus and anti-malware software to update automatically while also conducting frequent virus and malware scans to spot any potential threats as quickly as possible. Risk assessment tools like vulnerability scanning can also help to find, isolate, and address vulnerabilities.
Nearly everyone is distracted or in a hurry during the holiday season—and cybercriminals take advantage of this heightened level of inattentiveness by increasing the frequency of attacks like phishing emails and fraudulent sites. For this reason, make sure your entire team is on alert. This means:
Think about it: If an employee is toggling back and forth between network access for your organization and online gift buying, there’s a greater chance they might just click on a suspicious link or tap on an ad for an unbelievable deal—only to be taken to a fraudulent site instead. This can open up your entire organization to data breaches, malware, and other threats.
It’s no wonder that credential phishing and cyber attacks spike during the holidays—which is why it’s crucial to stay on the lookout for suspicious emails or questionable links and attachments.
Another way to be prepared and stay alert is to have your IT security team on call. With more employees taking vacation days, fewer people may be monitoring for threats and other potential risks. And what happens if you don’t have someone on call in the event your website goes down on a holiday or over a weekend? Having IT professionals on call for after-hours recovery, threat response, and other emergencies can make all the difference in how you respond and recover after a disaster.
Ransomware and malware attacks take your data and encrypt it all so you can’t access anything, with the goal of exploiting you for financial gain. And even if you end up paying a ransom, you don’t have any kind of guarantee that you will get your data back (or that it will actually be decrypted), or that the same individuals won’t come for you again, asking for an even higher ransom. This is especially true for organizations that handle or store personally identifiable information (PII) and protected health information (PHI), which healthcare providers, financial institutions, and legal firms all manage regularly. This is why isolated, offline backups are so important.
While it might be tempting to store all of your backups right on your network, this could end up being a big mistake if it falls into the wrong hands. In some cases, ransomware is programmed specifically to identify and delete or encrypt backups. You should perform and test an updated backup before the holiday rush every year.
A reliable backup is an important part of incident recovery—and having solid disaster recovery and incident response plans is just as important as having a backup. What do you do when disaster strikes? Better yet, what do you do if disaster strikes and your most seasoned IT security expert is away for the holidays—or if there’s a terrible snowstorm that destroys some of your hardware?
An IT disaster recovery plan provides a clear roadmap when you need a contingency plan including what steps to take, who to contact, and how to move forward, and can make it easier to ensure continuity after an attack.
Bonus Tip: Storing all your digital assets in one spot makes it simpler for bad actors to inflict maximum damage—which is why redundancies are so important. A resilient system has redundancies built right into it to avoid a single point of failure, but not every organization can afford to do so. If this is the case, make sure your disaster recovery plan accounts for this with multiple backups and assets stored in several different locations to limit the damage.
Identity access management (IAM) is all about managing and monitoring who has access to your networks, what they can do, what parts of the network they have access to, and when they can access it. You may already be familiar with IAM as a tool to manage things like user logins and permission, but with the right solutions in place, you can use it to increase security throughout your digital infrastructure for employees, clients and customers, and even your third-party vendors, adjusting the level of access for each user based on the requirements on their role.
IAM can help monitor your entire digital ecosystem and even do things like maintain a history of each user’s actions. This gives you and your IT team the power to gain a deeper insight into who is logging into your system, where they are logging in from, and what they are doing—and ultimately, quickly detect suspicious activity and other anomalies.
Access management can also be used to keep every user from getting “the keys to the kingdom,” when they can access all the sensitive data in your network. With access management, each user has a different set of “keys” to keep them from gaining entry to data they don’t need. With cyber attacks on the rise during the holiday season, IAM can significantly reduce the impact of a data breach, phishing attempt, or malware attack; if bad actors make their way into a specific user’s account, they only gain access to the data that specific user has access to.
The holidays are a busy time for everyone—and even the best-laid security plans can sometimes fail against the efforts of enterprising cybercriminals. Some security measures online may prevent attacks, but not always, which is why it’s good to be prepared for an incident like a data breach, phishing scam, or ransomware attack. One tool to stay prepared is cyber insurance.
Cyber insurance provides essential coverage if your organization falls prey to cyber attacks—to protect you from cyber risk. Cyber risk is the calculated probability that bad actors will attack to exploit your business’ dependency on digital resources or the sensitivity of your data. Insurance coverage insulates you from the incident recovery costs, legal fees, and other expenses that come with recouping after a cyber incident.
This coverage is designed to protect against all kinds of attacks that increase in frequency during the holiday season, including:
Cybersecurity threats in today’s digital landscape are evolving faster than ever before—it’s no wonder they evolve from year to year and even season to season. Many professionals who deal with sensitive or regulated data (as is the case with legal firms, healthcare networks, accounting firms, and financial institutions) find it almost impossible to keep up.
That’s why it’s more valuable than ever to have an IT cybersecurity service provider on your side. At Christo IT, we bring years of expertise to the table to help bolster your security strategies and incident response plans, and even help secure cyber insurance coverage to ensure that no matter what the holidays have in store for your organization, you’re prepared and protected.
What’s more, we’re a trusted, Philadelphia-area provider that’s well-versed in industry-specific cybersecurity regulations and can help you achieve compliance while also achieving your unique business objectives. Ready to learn more holiday cybersecurity tips and year-round strategies to make your IT work for you? Contact us today!
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