With the holiday season approaching, our minds are filled with thoughts of festive decorations, gift exchanges, and cherished moments spent with family and friends. Unfortunately, this time of year also sees a surge in malicious activities perpetrated by cybercriminals, such as phishing schemes, ransomware attacks, and data breaches. These cyber threats escalate during the holiday season, when many businesses operate with limited staff or are temporarily closed.
Here are seven actionable measures to take to secure your IT environment during the holidays (and on a day-to-day basis):
Implement cybersecurity awareness training for your staff.
Your staff plays a pivotal role in safeguarding your organization against cyber threats. As we near the end of the year, many employees are distracted and working to tie up loose ends before holiday vacation time, which means they may not be as focused on cybersecurity. It’s critical to educate them on the tactics employed by cybercriminals, notably phishing and social engineering, and equip them with the skills to recognize phishing emails. This becomes even more crucial during the holiday season, when retailers experience their peak activity and the need to prevent staff engagement with phishing emails is heightened.
Conduct vulnerability scans.
Initiate regular vulnerability scans to identify and rectify potential vulnerabilities, including patch management deficiencies, outdated virus and malware protection, and other vulnerabilities or misconfigurations. Take a proactive approach to detecting and addressing these vulnerabilities before cybercriminals exploit them.
Minimize your attack surface.
Frequently evaluate and enhance your organization’s security measures to adapt to evolving threats and proactively mitigate potential risks. Reducing your attack surface can be achieved by eliminating unnecessary services and ports, implementing network segmentation, enforcing robust access controls, and ensuring software remains patched and up to date, among other measures.
Develop and test an incident response plan.
Prepare your team for potential security incidents by creating a comprehensive incident response plan. Regularly testing your plan helps identify any shortcomings in your security defenses or operational procedures. It is prudent to assess your team’s readiness in a controlled environment rather than waiting for an actual security incident to occur. Conduct periodic tests of your incident response plan, particularly after any infrastructure changes, staffing adjustments, plan updates, or actual security incidents. You should also ensure chain of command and contact lists are up to date and that staff know how to reach all critical stakeholders during planned out-of-office time.
Strategically manage out-of-office messages.
Restrict out-of-office messages to internal contacts to prevent hackers from discerning who is absent. For external contacts, use a generic message indicating a delayed response due to the holiday season.
Proactively monitor ransomware threats.
Ensure round-the-clock coverage by scheduling your IT security team to be on-call during the holidays, ready to respond to any cyber threats.
Alert your staff about an upsurge in phishing emails and malicious websites.
Offer additional communication to all users regarding the holiday season’s heightened phishing attempts and the importance of remaining vigilant. Warn employees about common phishing email ploys, such as including tracking numbers and links that may appear relevant and legitimate, given the increased holiday package shipping. Inform them about malicious websites impersonating legitimate retailers, which aim to steal their data or install malware on their devices.
Don’t let hackers steal your holiday cheer. By applying these recommended steps, you are fortifying your organization’s security posture and minimizing the risk of potential cyberattacks and data breaches.
Need help? CampusGuard can pinpoint vulnerabilities in your organization, deliver security awareness training to your staff, and conduct phishing simulations to assess your staff’s ability to detect phishing emails. Contact us to learn more.