Why Cybersecurity Threats Skyrocket During The Holidays

Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ less than rising cybersecurity threats during the holidays. But why does this happen? After all, isn’t it meant to be the season of goodwill? 

This time of the year may be all about spending time with loved ones. However, there is also a gigantic spike in online shopping. Forecasters are predicting that US retail e-commerce sales will jump 35.8% in the 2020 holiday season. With increased financial and email activity, more chances arise for personal data theft. Consumers are also more likely to become distracted or drop their guard as the festive spirit kicks in.

If you are in business, it’s vital to recognize the extra seasonal cybersecurity risks or the results could be catastrophic. The effects of high-profile security breaches include loss of consumer confidence and even the closure of businesses. 

Make sure you have taken all necessary steps to secure your IT infrastructure. From protecting your website to safeguarding your customer service call center, you can’t afford to be complacent.

Let’s take a closer look at cybersecurity during holidays. Below, we will discuss how your organization can prepare for threats.

A woman is on her laptop online shopping, exposing herself to cybersecurity threats during the holidays.

Common Cybersecurity Threats During Holidays

Protecting your organization’s hardware, software, and data from cybersecurity threats is vital. Here are some of the most common threats to be aware of:

1. Phishing Emails

Phishing attackers disguise themselves as a reputable person or brand via email. Emails are sent out containing malicious links or attachments, to perform specific functions such as extracting login credentials and account information. Your team must be knowledgeable about this type of attack, as some emails may be difficult to distinguish from genuine ones. 

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Phishing attacks can also come through SMS, instant messaging, and social networks. Customer journey data analysis will show you that consumers are now interacting with your company across multiple channels. It is important to consider threats to all communication methods.

This threat exists all year round but is more common during the holiday season. At this time of year, office employees are also more likely to visit shopping sites while connected to their company network. 

2. Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malicious software. It blocks access to a computer system until a ransom is paid. When an email recipient clicks on an infected website or corrupted file, the malware installs on their system. It works its way through the network, encoding data and information.

3. Distributed Denial of Service

A DDoS attack targets an organization’s website, sending more traffic than it’s designed to handle, draining the core processing unit (CPU). A ransom is then demanded to cease the attack.

4. Site Interruption

Cyberattackers use this tactic to target retail sites. Bots are used to fill shopping carts and drive down stock levels, causing chaos with an organization’s inventory management. This results in the suppression of sales. 

This cyber threat is particularly common during the holiday season, especially around Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and in the run-up to Christmas.

A woman is on her laptop entering her credit card info, exposing herself to cybersecurity threats during the holidays.

Safeguarding Consumers from Cybersecurity Threats During the Holidays

Ensuring data security is a vital part of an organization’s responsibility and service to its customers. Take a look below at some of the steps you can take:

  • Establish an effective and proactive cybersecurity strategy.
  • Identify network flaws and vulnerabilities in connected devices.
  • Keep all software up to date.
  • Older technologies can represent a cybersecurity risk. Consider the benefits of using product lifecycle management software to ensure your business stays secure.
  • Add extra security to your organization’s email accounts.
  • Enable great customer support with the right call center applications. If customers do have any concerns about the security of their data, they need to be able to discuss this swiftly and with appropriate personnel. Technology such as an ACD system can help with this.
  • Educate employees to eliminate human error.
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Why Cyber Education for Employees is So Important

The answer to the human-factor challenge of cybersecurity is providing training for employees. With 63% of corporations admitting that their employees are underqualified in cybersecurity, there is much room for improvement. 

Upskilling or reskilling employees can really help to address the skills gap. Business risk training can change systems user behavior, reducing the risk of cyberattacks. It also provides employees with greater insight into how an organization’s reputation and success can be negatively impacted by breaches.

Provide a Great Learning Experience

Be organized to make sure that your employees get the most out of their cyber education experience. Consider using project management software or a task management tool to keep everyone on track. 

Task management tools are great for communication but it is useful to bear in mind that Trello alternatives may have additional features for project planning.

A family is on zoom during Christmas, possibly exposing themselves to cybersecurity threats during the holidays.

Don’t Let Cybersecurity Threats Spoil Your Holiday Season

To understand why there is an increase in cybersecurity threats during the holidays, we need to look at consumer behavior. Simply, there is more personal information exposed at this time of the year over an increasing number of devices. 

The increase in connected devices, such as smart TVs, has led to even more vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals will seize the extra opportunities to target unsuspecting or under-prepared consumers and retailers.

Recognize that your IT infrastructure is a critical part of your business. Cybersecurity breaches risk financial pain and fines. Perhaps more importantly, they also endanger your brand, reputation, and customer confidence. 

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By proactively addressing cybersecurity in your organization, you can enjoy the holidays safe in the knowledge that risks are minimized. Alongside more traditional customer appreciation strategies, knowing their data is safe is a gift your customers will be truly thankful for. 

It is important to also remember that cybersecurity threats don’t just exist during the holiday season. A cyberattack is a terrible experience no matter what the time of year. It’s a good idea to consider cybersecurity in your discount strategy all year round. Sales and special events, like competitions, can be a real draw for hackers and scammers.

Richard Conn

Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and CTI software provider. He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia. Richard has written for sites such as Cincopa and Multibriefs.

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