As we start to gear up for the holidays after a tough year, it would be nice to stop worrying about things like cybersecurity for a while. However, it isn’t just Santa and his elves who are busy during the holiday season - it’s a seriously prolific time for cybercriminals as well.
During the holidays, shopping online becomes far more popular, and this year will probably see an even greater increase. As the number of online transactions goes through the roof, and everything gets more and more hectic as people rush to find great deals on Black Friday or just to finalize their Christmas shopping, bad actors are looking to take advantage.
Cybercriminals look to take advantage of unaware shoppers and vulnerable businesses, exploiting sensitive information and data to defraud and hack. So while being jolly is great, ‘tis also the season to be wary when it comes to being safe online! Here are a few hints and tips to help you stay alert and safe when it comes to your cybersecurity this holiday season.
Hackers love chaos, so always take your time online
Everyone knows that the holiday season is a full-on time of final deadlines, festive celebrations, corralling large families, and last-minute online panic buying. Hackers are more aware of this than anyone else. Everyone tends to be in more of a hurry during the holidays, and even the most careful people are more likely to fall for well-planned phishing attacks or dodgy emails asking you to re-enter credit card details for online purchases. Slowing down, taking a breath, and double-checking your activity online is always a good idea, particularly at this time of year.
Give extra scrutiny to holiday-themed emails
There’s something delightfully cheery about the emails you’ll be receiving throughout the festive season, with brands, clients, and even colleagues adding a bit of seasonal sparkle to their e-communications. But just because an email is full of Christmas cheer, don’t let your guard down. Festive phishing scams can be harder to spot because of their jolly, charming nature, but they are no less dangerous just because they have a few ‘ho ho hos’ in the introduction.
Pay attention when on the phone
It isn’t just email that warrants extra attention during the holidays. Phone calls can be a bit of a distraction or a nuisance when you are trying to hit deadlines before logging off and heading to a Christmas party, and it is incredibly easy to switch off a little in an attempt to get through a call as quickly as possible. But phone phishing scams are increasingly common, particularly since innovations in technology have made voice recognition and voice replication far more effective, and practicing good phone hygiene is vital. Never give network or personal details out over the phone, and if your ‘boss’ is asking you to do something unusual, check with someone else or with them in person.
Keep an eye on server activity
Plenty of businesses, educational facilities, and manufacturing plants will shut down over the holidays and stop using the majority of their server capacity. This makes server mining a lucrative business during the festive season, as miners capitalize on downtime to power crypto operations. Keep an eye on your server activity, and if it looks busier than it should, investigate.
Update, update, update
Patching is always important, but it is all too often one of the things you just keep putting off doing. As your workload increases during the holiday rush and deadlines approach, clogging up your workstation with updates and restarts will probably be the last thing you want to do. Cybercriminals are well aware that software and hardware will likely be missing a few updates during the festive season, and will seek to take advantage, so don’t put off those patches and update, update, update!
Avoid working on the move
While working has looked very different this year and many of us have been working remotely for much of the time, there are still going to be plenty of people heading home for the holidays. The temptation to beat the rush and start traveling a few days early, taking the last few work tasks with you, can be hard to ignore. It is, however, incredibly important to take extra care when working out of the office, and vital that you don’t log in to unsecured WiFi networks in train stations, cafes, and airports. This advice obviously applies year-round, but when you are in a rush to get home for Christmas or your mind is on other things, it is easy to forget the basics and cut a few corners.
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is
Ultimately, the thing to remember at all times is if it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is. Santa is the only person likely to be bringing presents at this time of year, so stay vigilant and question anyone else claiming to have a sack full of goodies just for you.
If you want to know more about how to protect your business over the holiday period and beyond, get in touch. VC3 can supercharge your cybersecurity and ensure a festive season filled only with cheer and goodwill.