As the holiday season approaches, there’s one more thing that’s just as much a part of this time of year as gift lists and holiday cheer—cybersecurity. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and plenty of shopping days leading up to the holidays, our online activities spike significantly. It’s not just consumers who are busy clicking away on deals; businesses are also gearing up to meet the surge in online shopping. This increase, unfortunately, also lights up the radar for cybercriminals looking to exploit the season’s goodwill.

Understanding the stakes, it is important for both consumers and businesses to be extra vigilant during this time. Let’s delve into some actionable tips that can help you improve your chances for a safe and happy online shopping season.

Strengthening Your Cybersecurity Posture:  Best Practices for Businesses

Securing the Network

The cornerstone of a business’s online presence is its network security. As the holiday season ramps up and traffic surges, it’s imperative that your network is protected. Implement robust firewalls that act as the first line of defense against external threats. Beyond that, ensuring that Wi-Fi networks are secure and that VPNs are provided for remote employees can make the difference between a joyous season and a disastrous one. This isn’t just for the IT department to handle; it’s a critical business strategy for the season.

Updating and Patching

An often-overlooked aspect of cybersecurity is the regular updating and patching of systems and software. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in outdated systems to gain unauthorized access to your network. Before the holiday rush, make it a priority to ensure that all systems are up to date with the latest patches.

Employee Training

The human element can often be the weakest link in cybersecurity. It’s essential to educate and train employees about the increased risk of phishing scams and social engineering attacks during the holidays. Staff should be able to recognize suspicious emails and know the protocol for reporting them.

Access Control

During the holiday season, the principle of least privilege should be strictly enforced. This means granting employees access only to the information necessary to perform their jobs. Tightening access controls can significantly reduce the risk of internal breaches, whether they are intentional or accidental. It’s like giving out keys to your home; you wouldn’t give them to just anyone.

Backup and Recovery Plans

Lastly, hope for the best but prepare for the worst. A robust backup and disaster recovery plan is an important safety net. Should a breach occur, knowing that your data is backed up and can be restored is the peace of mind you need.

Personal Vigilance – Cybersecurity Tips for Consumers

Secure Transactions

The convenience of online shopping has made it a staple of holiday gift-giving. To shop without worry, start by ensuring your transactions are secure. Use only trusted websites when making purchases, and always look for “HTTPS” in the URL—this signals a secure connection. It’s also wise to avoid using public Wi-Fi for shopping; these networks are often unsecured and could be monitored by cybercriminals waiting to pounce on your personal information.

Strong Passwords and Authentication

Your accounts are only as secure as your passwords. Opt for passwords that are complex, unique for each account, and stored securely—consider a password manager. Beyond that, wherever possible, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA). This adds an extra layer of protection, ensuring that even if a password is compromised, your account remains locked to unauthorized users.

Monitor Financial Statements

With holiday expenses, it’s easy to lose track of what’s going in and out of your accounts. Make a habit of regularly checking your bank and credit card statements for any discrepancies. Unauthorized charges can be the first sign of a breach, and the sooner you spot them, the better. It’s like checking your receipts; it can make all the difference in spotting an error or oversight.

Phishing Awareness

Stay alert to emails or messages that request personal information, pressure you to click on a link, or download an attachment. If an offer in an email looks too enticing, go directly to the retailer’s official website instead of clicking on any links.

Update Personal Devices

Before you get swept up in the holiday hustle, take a moment to update the security software, browsers, and operating systems on your personal devices. These updates often contain critical security patches that protect against new strains of viruses and malware.

Special Considerations for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

The excitement surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals can sometimes lead to a lapse in judgement. Here are some key points to keep in mind during these high-stakes shopping days:

  • Expect Increased Phishing Attempts:
    • Cybercriminals capitalize on popular shopping days. Be wary of emails or social media ads that mimic major brands offering incredible deals.
    • Double-check the sender’s email address for any subtle misspellings that indicate a phishing attempt.
  • Beware of Too-Good-to-Be-True Deals:
    • If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. This old adage holds especially true during these shopping events.
    • Use reputable price comparison tools to verify the legitimacy of a discount.
  • Use Credit Over Debit:
    • Credit cards often offer better fraud protection than debit cards. If your details are stolen, credit cards offer a layer of insulation from your bank account.
    • Review your credit card provider’s fraud protection policies—knowing them ahead of time can save you stress later.

These tips are your cybersecurity playbook for the most anticipated shopping days of the year. Keep them in hand as you navigate the sea of sales.

Final Thoughts

While businesses and consumers alike are busy making the most of holiday offers, cybercriminals are equally busy looking for any opportunity to disrupt the cheer.

The best gift you can give yourself and your business this season is the assurance of safety and security. Vigilance is not just a one-time effort; it’s a continuous practice that extends beyond the holidays.

We encourage you to carry the spirit of cybersecurity with you throughout the year. And should you need a partner to ensure your digital safety, or if you simply seek more information on how to protect your personal and business data, Kyber Security is here to help.