Cybercriminals are prepping for the holidays — here’s how businesses can stay one step ahead

The holiday season is a time for celebration and joy, but it also presents a prime opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage of businesses. Distracted by festivities and rushing to beat deadlines before the year ends, businesses tend to be more lax with security measures during this time of the year, making them more vulnerable to cyberattacks of all kinds.

What are common holiday cyberthreats?

Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to target businesses and consumers during the holidays, including:

Phishing scams

Phishing scams involve sending deceptive emails or text messages cleverly designed to mimic communications from legitimate organizations, such as banks, retailers, or courier services. These messages often contain links or attachments that, when clicked or opened, redirect the victim to a fake website or download malware onto their device.

During the holiday season, cybercriminals usually send phishing messages containing fake promotions, shipping notifications, or requests for donations.

Malicious ads

While browsing online, users may encounter ads that lead to malicious websites or promote counterfeit goods. Cybercriminals often utilize URL shortening services to disguise the true destination of links, making it difficult for users to discern the legitimacy of these ads. Once clicked, these ads can redirect users to phishing websites, install malware on their devices, or take them to pages selling fake products.

Magecart attacks

Magecart attacks target online stores, injecting malicious code into their checkout pages. Cybercriminals use this technique to capture sensitive information, such as customers’ credit card information. The stolen data is then transmitted to the attackers, who can use it for fraudulent purposes, such as making unauthorized purchases or selling the data on underground forums.

How can businesses stay safe from cybercriminals during the holidays?

Safeguard your business from cyberattacks during the holiday season by following these steps:

Educate your employees

Your employees are your business’s first line of defense. This is why you should teach them how to recognize and respond properly to suspicious activities. Make sure your cybersecurity training sessions cover topics such as common cyberthreats and best practices for maintaining good cyber hygiene. These include:

  • Exercising caution when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, since these can be easily compromised by cybercriminals
  • Being wary of unsolicited messages that contain links or attachments, as these could be malicious
  • Verifying website security (e.g., ensuring that the URL begins with “https” and that the padlock icon appears in the browser’s address bar) before entering sensitive information on the website
  • Using secure payment methods, such as credit cards or reputable third-party payment processors such as PayPal or Google Pay, instead of debit cards that are linked directly to bank accounts

Implement strong authentication measures

Enforce a policy mandating that employees create unique and complex passwords for all their accounts. To further boost security, enable two-factor authentication, which requires users to present another proof of their identity, such as a fingerprint scan, in addition to their login credentials.

Restrict employee access

Not every employee needs access to all of your business data. Provide employees access only to the data and IT resources they need to do their jobs. This way, if an account is compromised, the potential damage is minimized.

Make sure to regularly review and update access permissions, especially when employees’ roles and responsibilities change.

Use a web application firewall (WAF)

A WAF filters incoming and outgoing website traffic. It can block malicious traffic, such as SQL injection attacks and cross-site scripting attacks, which can be used to inject Magecart scripts.

Keep software up to date

Cybercriminals frequently take advantage of vulnerabilities in outdated software as a means to breach systems. Therefore, it is crucial to regularly update operating systems, applications, and security software to shield your organization from the latest cyberthreats.

Back up company data regularly

Protect yourself from data loss by regularly backing up your data. This ensures that you possess a secure copy of your critical information, enabling you to restore operations swiftly in the event of a data loss incident.

Make sure to store your backups securely, preferably in a remote location separate from your primary data storage. This physical separation acts as an additional layer of protection, preventing cybercriminals from compromising both your primary data and your backups.

Partner with a managed IT services provider (MSP)

If you lack in-house IT expertise, consider partnering with a reliable MSP like Interplay. Our team of experienced IT professionals can handle all of your cybersecurity needs, including implementing security protocols, monitoring networks, and responding to incidents promptly. With us at your side, you can rest easy knowing that your business is well protected against all types of cyberthreats. Get in touch with us today.