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Preparing for Holiday Cyberattacks – Security Boulevard | #cybercrime | #computerhacker


How can security teams be ready for holiday cyberattacks and a seasonal peak in cybercrime?

Holiday cyberattacks are on the rise. The vacation season, be it Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day, the summer break, or Diwali, is ideally synonymous with rest and relaxation. The odd barbecue, visiting relatives, or attending events and parties with friends. However, as most security teams know, holidays are open season for opportunist cybercriminals. Alas, the role of CISO doesn’t allow for downtime by the pool or enjoying the après ski. 

But why do cyberattacks escalate during holidays? What are the common methods attackers employ? How can we prepare our organizations for cyber resilience during enterprise-wide staff vacations? How can we relax when holiday cyberattacks are so prevalent? 

A Surge in Holiday Cyberattacks

During holiday periods, cyberattacks on companies can increase by as much as 40% [Statistica]. 

Summertime has been particularly noted to have a seasonal surge in attacks. Last year, in June alone, incidents rose globally by a staggering 60%.  

The reason is simple: many businesses and SOCs are running on a skeleton crew. People let their guard down and many cybersecurity professionals and IT technicians are out of the office, creating a perfect storm for cybercriminals. Speaking as someone who once inadvertently booked “a cheap holiday” to Disney Florida in “tornado week,” the perfect storm needs to be prepared for. 

Why Holidays Are an Attacker’s Paradise?

Holidays present a unique opportunity for attackers. Even publicizing an off-site SKO could be of interest to those wishing to cause a company digital harm. Nation-state and political bad actors in another country are unlikely to be celebrating the same national and religious holidays we are. When they see a scheduled opportunity, they’ll naturally make the most of it by making holiday cyberattacks count. 

With reduced staff, the watchful eyes that usually guard a company’s digital gates are looking elsewhere. Automated out-of-office email responses inadvertently reveal when employees are away, making it even easier for cybercriminals to time their holiday cyberattacks. Moreover, the tendency for employees to stay connected through mobile devices can unintentionally cause the download of malicious apps and investigation of poisoned URLs, putting the company at increased risk of ransomware attacks and phishing scams.  

Common Cyberattack Methods During Holidays

  • Email Vulnerabilities: Out-of-office notifications can tip off attackers about who is not monitoring their station.
  • Mobile Menaces: Employees checking work emails on unsecured apps while on vacation can inadvertently introduce risks.
  • Risky Wi-Fi Connections: Open Wi-Fi networks can be tantamount to leaving our hotel door unlocked, with sensitive company data at risk of unauthorized access. Everyone wants to post pictures from Comic-Con to their social channels, but they should be thinking twice about how they do it.
  • Phishing Frenzies: Relaxed holiday moods can dull the vigilance needed to spot the likes of phishing and smishing attacks. Mojitos and lazy afternoons at the scheduled and well-publicized company retreat can make for lax best practices.
  • Identity Deception: New or temporary holiday staff may be less familiar with colleagues, making it easier for criminals to assume false identities.
  • Employee Knowledge Gaps: Santa’s new little helper may not actually be all that helpful… Often, well-meaning staff aren’t sufficiently trained or on-boarded to spot and prevent cyber threats.

Proactive Measures Against Holiday Cyberattacks

With knowledge of the heightened risk, businesses can implement strategies to safeguard their digital assets during holiday periods.  

  • Secure Everything: Regular system audits are fundamental to identifying and bolstering weak points, especially before the holiday season, when IT support may be limited.
  • Tailoring Cybersecurity Solutions: Not all businesses face the same risks from holiday cyberattacks. Customized security measures are more effective, and a wide array of solutions don’t fit every organization. Planning, like for any good holiday, is critical. Every business must cater for their specific cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
  • Cybersecurity Awareness and Training: Regular training can empower employees to become the first line of defense against cyberattacks, helping them recognize and respond to threats appropriately, but making seasonal warnings a part of your “Have a Great Holiday” messaging can help to act as a reminder to everyone.
  • Ban Public Wi-Fi: Encourage employees to refrain from using open networks for business or via company devices. Instead, provide guidance on using secure, encrypted connections—even when they’re standing in the desert at Burning Man.

The Role of Cybersecurity Solutions

To mitigate these threats, robust cybersecurity solutions should be a non-negotiable part of any company’s defense strategy. Progressive solutions can offer round-the-clock 24/7 monitoring and protection, with automated response, when human vigilance wanes while SOC teams drink eggnogg or attend pool parties. 

By deploying advanced and automated threat detection systems, companies can enjoy continuous surveillance against potential cyber intrusions:  

  • Automated Anomaly Detection: Modern platforms can leverage machine learning algorithms to automatically detect unusual behavior within network traffic, user activities, and system operations, ensuring continuous surveillance without the need for constant human oversight.
  • Behavioral Analytics: Historical data can be analyzed to establish a baseline of normal activities and approved configurations for every user, application, and device, allowing the system to identify deviations that could indicate a potential security threat. This allows for the unexpected, even zero-day threats, and monitors and immediately reacts to the effect rather than trying to protect against the unknowable.
  • Real-Time Alerts: Best-in-class modern platforms provide immediate notifications when potential threats are detected. Real-time application visibility ensures rapid response even when staffing is minimal or during off-hours, such as holidays.
  • Policy Enforcement: By automatically enforcing security policies across all connected systems and devices, it’s possible to prevent unauthorized access and contain potential breaches, minimizing the need for manual intervention and protecting against holiday cyberattacks.
  • Integrated Incident Response: Security tools that integrate with existing security systems can automate response actions based on detected threats, such as isolating affected systems or blocking malicious communications.
  • Comprehensive Dashboard: A single, central dashboard that offers a consolidated view of security alerts, status, and health of all systems makes it easier to monitor and manage security with fewer staff.

These features ensure that companies can maintain a robust security posture and respond effectively to cyber threats, even during ‘weak’ periods of reduced staff availability. 

Employees: The Frontline of Cyber Defense

Awareness is half the battle. Training employees to be cautious about their digital practices, particularly during holidays, is essential. Simple actions such as avoiding public Wi-Fi, recognizing signs of phishing emails, plus basic BYOD security and securing mobile devices, can prevent many attempted breaches. 

A Holiday Wish

As cyber threats continue to evolve, companies and employees need to stay vigilant, especially when the office lights dim and staff head for the slopes or campgrounds. An attacker never truly takes a day off, and holiday cyberattacks are on the rise.  

So, as we plan for the next holiday season, let’s make sure cyber safety is on our checklist, right next to packing the toothbrush and buying barbecue buns. Now, where did we leave our passport? 

The post Preparing for Holiday Cyberattacks appeared first on TrueFort.

*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from TrueFort authored by Nik Hewitt. Read the original post at: https://truefort.com/holiday-cyberattacks/

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