The holiday season is just around the corner; a time of joy and celebration. However, threat actors anticipate this joyous season as much as it is by many festive revelers. In fact, cybercriminals tend to be particularly active during the holiday season, taking advantage of the distractions that come with it. The holiday season tends to witness an increase in successful attacks affecting both businesses and consumers. According to a recent study by Cequence Security, last year, there was a 550% increase in unique methods employed by threat actors towards the end of 2022.
Additionally, when the 2022 holiday season began, there was a significant 220% surge in anomalous web traffic. During that period, threat actors effectively combined API and web application security tactics. A separate survey by Cybereason found that 89% of previously victimized organizations are apprehensive about facing a repeat cyber intrusion ahead of the holiday season.
It's evident that threat actors often seize opportunities during unexpected moments. As cyberattacks continue to evolve, organizations must remain vigilant to protect their business processes and data, especially during the holiday season. To help you safeguard your organization during the holiday season, here are 10 essential tips to enhance your organization`s security.
Tip 1: Setup a holiday strategy with an emergency plan
During the holidays, many businesses experience changes in work schedules and reduced staff availability due to vacations and time off. Such changes can increase the susceptibility of organizations to cyber threats. To safeguard your business against potential security breaches, data loss, and other cyber incidents, it's crucial to establish a holiday cybersecurity strategy and an emergency response plan. Here are some key steps to consider:
- Designate responsible individuals for cybersecurity.
- Train employees in holiday security procedures.
- Implement monitoring and alert systems.
- Maintain open communication for reporting incidents.
Tip 2: Secure Internal Networks with Limited Access and Virtual Desktops
During the holiday season, with many employees working remotely or on vacation, it's vital to restrict internal network access. Cybercriminals often target Remote Desktop Protocols (RDP) for unauthorized access. By limiting RDP access and using strong authentication, you reduce intrusion risk. Additionally, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) provides an added layer of security. Even if a remote device becomes compromised, your organization's core network remains protected. VDI also offers the flexibility to control and monitor access, making it an effective defense against cyber threats during the holidays.
Tip 3: Utilize a centralized and automated patch management system.
A centralized, automated patch management system streamlines the process of keeping software up to date. This ensures that all devices and systems are uniformly protected, reducing vulnerabilities that threat actors can exploit. Automation simplifies the task of applying patches promptly. With many employees taking time off during the holiday season, automated updates guarantee that critical security patches are not missed, enhancing your organization's resilience against cyber threats.
Tip 4: Create a strong data backup and recovery strategy
Creating a robust plan of data backup and recovery shields your organization's vital data from potential loss due to cyber threats, system issues, or inadvertent errors. Regular backups ensure swift recovery, preserving seamless operations. Furthermore, a well-structured backup plan minimizes downtime, reducing disruptions to productivity and customer service during the bustling holiday season. Essential security measures, such as encryption and access controls, can protect the backup data, ensuring confidentiality and integrity. Regular testing and validation instill confidence in their reliability, assuring your organization's readiness when the need arises.
Tip 5: Bolster security with strong password policies and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Enforcing robust password policies and implementing Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) significantly enhances your protection against unauthorized access and potential breaches. Strong password policies should require unique passwords. Furthermore, refraining from saving them in browsers or jotting them down on sticky notes makes it harder for threat actors to guess or crack them. This adds an extra layer of defense. A password manager is the best solution for creating unique passwords for every online account.
When using MFA, users are required to provide multiple forms of verification, such as a password and a one-time code from a mobile app. MFA significantly improves security by preventing unauthorized access, even if passwords are compromised. Enforcing these measures helps mitigate the risk of unauthorized access, credential theft, and data breaches, which are heightened during the holiday season.
Tip 6: Conduct regular administrative account audits and access control configuration checks
Regular audits of administrative accounts help identify and rectify any unauthorized or unnecessary access, ensuring that only trusted personnel have the ability to make critical changes. Access controls are security measures that determine and manage who can access specific resources and perform certain actions within an organization's systems. These access controls manage resource access; authentication verifies identities, and authorization grants necessary permissions. These measures reduce unauthorized access risks and are critical for data security during the holiday season.
Tip 7: Employ Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services
MDR services provide proactive threat monitoring, real-time incident detection, and rapid response capabilities, helping you defend against evolving cyber threats. With MDR, you gain expert support and continuous monitoring, enhancing your ability to protect your data and operations during the holiday season.
Tip 8: Implement all-inclusive IT asset tracking
Implement comprehensive tracking of all IT assets, such as computers, mobile devices, servers, software, and network components, including shadow assets that may be outside the standard inventory. By maintaining a comprehensive record of all IT assets, you enhance the organization's ability to proactively manage vulnerabilities, reduce security risks, and safeguard data and critical processes during the holiday season.
Tip 9: Assess the security posture of third-party and interconnected vendors of your organization
Third-party and interconnected vendors and services can introduce security risks to your organization. Assessing their security practices is crucial for mitigating potential threats and vulnerabilities. Evaluate their cybersecurity alignment with your data protection and risk standards.
Tip 10: Conduct phishing awareness training for employees
Phishing scams that target employees surge during the holiday season, with enticing offers and false alerts. Awareness training equips your workforce to recognize and avoid these deceptive tactics. Specific training about holiday-themed scams, such as flash sales, "free" gift cards, missed deliveries, and phony discounts, ensures that employees remain vigilant and can identify potential threats.
These ten essential cybersecurity measures can fortify your organization's defenses during the holiday season. By implementing these practices, you will more thoroughly safeguard your data and operations, reducing the risk of cyber threats and ensuring a secure and worry-free holiday season.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire.