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’Tis the season to be jolly. It’s also the season to be vigilant! Amidst the festivities, it is crucial to be cyber aware and not overlook the risk the internet poses to businesses. With cyber threats ever evolving and becoming increasingly sophisticated, consumers and businesses need to understand the risks, be more alert than ever to protect sensitive data and ensure they are staying secure in today’s digital environment.
Join us as we explore the significance of cyber security awareness in the countdown to the festive period and provide practical cyber security tips for individuals and businesses to ensure you stay secure this Christmas.
Why does cybercrime increase over the holidays?
Cybercrime tends to increase over the Christmas period due to the sharp increase in online activities while people shop for the best deals and reach out to one another through social media, email, and other communications platforms.
The festive season witnesses a significant rise in online shopping, as people seek to purchase gifts and take advantage of deals available through events such as Black Friday, in the months leading up to Christmas. Being able to access the internet from almost anywhere, be it at home, work or on the move, the number of people browsing and shopping online over the Christmas period is substantial and by far the busiest time of year for online traffic. This surge in online traffic, communications and transactions provides cybercriminals with a larger pool of potential targets and opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities in individuals and online shopping platforms. Due to the increased use of digital payment methods during this time, individuals are more susceptible to phishing scams and fraudulent websites that aim to steal sensitive personal and financial information.
We also witness a sharp increase in email and social media scams at this time of year, with cybercriminals leveraging the festive spirit to trick individuals into clicking on malicious links or sharing personal information. With a rise in the prevalence of holiday-themed spam emails and malware attachments, there poses a greater risk to individuals' cyber security. It is crucial for individuals and businesses to remain cautious, employ strong security measures, and stay informed about common cyber threats to protect themselves from falling victim to cybercrime.
Potential risks to your cyber security at Christmas
The festive season presents a unique set of challenges for individuals and businesses in terms of cyber security. Cybercriminals will exploit the increased online activity, system and application vulnerabilities, and distractions that come with this time of year, to compromise businesses cyber security at Christmas. With the increased online activity there is more opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities in e-commerce platforms, payment systems, and personal devices to hijack and steal information from consumers.
Moreover, the holiday season often witnesses an influx of phishing scams and malicious emails disguised as special offers or Christmas greetings, tricking unsuspecting individuals into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware, that compromises their devices. From phishing attacks to ransomware, individuals and businesses must be prepared to combat these threats effectively, and there are a number of solutions that can be put in place to help educate and shield from potential threats.
Christmas shopping cyber security tips 2023
By taking proactive measures to safeguard personal information and digital assets, business and individuals can effectively mitigate the risk of falling victim to theft, financial fraud, or other cybercrimes. Protecting against cybercrime not only preserves financial security but also safeguards personal information and maintains trust in online platforms. Increasing awareness and protecting against cybercrime over the holidays is of the utmost importance. It not only effects business but their employees and consumers as well, so here are our tips for improving your cyber security this Christmas.
1. Increase your cyber security awareness
One of the most critical aspects of cyber security awareness is staying educated about the risks faced when browsing and shopping online. Businesses can undertake regular training sessions to educate their employees about common cyber threats, such as phishing emails, social engineering, and malware. This approach will not only help the business stay secure but educate employee in how to stay safe when browsing and shopping online, therefore ensuring not only the business stays secure, but they are also aware of the potential Christmas cyber security threats when online.
Security awareness training for employees
Awareness training services are by far the most effective measure a business can take to increase cyber security awareness and protect against the main causes of cyber-attacks and data breaches. With many employees now working remotely, or ‘hybrid working’, reliance on employee awareness has never been more critical.
By providing cyber security training, GDPR awareness and ongoing phishing testing, you can ensure your staff maintain vigilance and stay up to date with the latest threats. Ultimately, running a security awareness training, program keeps cyber security front of mind and significantly improves cyber resilience. It is also most beneficial investment a company can make to tackle cybercrime and reduce the risk of experiencing a security incident, with the cost far lower than the potential cost of a data breach or ransomware attack.
Since time and resources are often in short supply, it’s well worth considering a fully managed security awareness training and testing (SATT) service to boost your cyber defence. Flexible, online and delivered to your timescales, the cyber security specialists at Focus Group will deploy a fully managed SATT service that works for your business. Leaving you free to focus on running your business, safely and securely.
2. Identify your vulnerabilities regularly and test the resilience of your cyber security posture
Outdated software can leave multiple vulnerabilities in systems and are a key point of entry cybercriminals. You should regularly update operating systems, applications, and antivirus software. Implementing automatic updates can help ensure that systems are always protected with the latest security patches. Vulnerability assessments will not only outline outdated software but other potential weaknesses in software, systems and devices.
Scan systems and applications for vulnerabilities
The first consideration for businesses when creating a security strategy should be the level of vulnerability to which your company is potentially exposed. In the past, a one-off scan and report would do the trick. However, with the speed of technological advances gathering pace, new cyber threats emerge daily, and a one-off review no longer provides a plausible level of protection. Vulnerability assessments need to be run on a more regular basis to ensure that your systems and applications are constantly secure, especially at Christmas as they can help identify concerns at a time when in-house resource levels may be lower than usual.
Our cyber security specialists are here to help with on-demand Vulnerability scanning can be conducted at the touch of a button. We can run assessments on those systems that have been highlighted as high risk and provide regular updates on your progress to mitigate any of those specific areas of concern.
It’s also well worth considering penetration testing, to learn where your cyber resilience can be improved. Like vulnerability assessments, penetration tests were once only necessary on a one-off basis. However, as threats evolve and new exploits are discovered, it can be difficult to know how secure your systems are unless tested on a more regular basis. A Penetration Test will highlight weaknesses and help you to understand how much damage could be done by an attacker at any single point in time.
Utilising the combined power of artificial intelligence and a team of over 1,500 experienced ethical hackers, our penetration testing services will operate continuously to improve your holiday cyber security, at an unprecedented scale, providing comprehensive protection, around the clock. As a result, it has proven to provide four times higher ROI than traditional pen testing, three times more time spent on targets than traditional penetration testing and a 20% reduction in failed patches due to patch verification processes.
3. Strengthening devices and processes
Strengthening password practices
Passwords are the first line of defence against unauthorised access so ensuring they are kept secure is essential when using any device. We encourage using strong, unique passwords for each account and employing multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible to add an extra layer of authentication to devices, systems and applications. This is especially important for Christmas cyber security as consumers will have multiple accounts across different e-commerce websites that contain personal and financial information. You should regularly update passwords and avoid using easily guessable information. Businesses can also put in place regular forced password resets to ensure they are changed on a regular basis. Want to learn more? Read our article about how to better manage your passwords.
Securing remote work
With the rise of remote working, businesses must ensure that their employees' are using secure networks, as staff will require full system access from anywhere. We encourage the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) to encrypt data transmission and provide guidelines for securing home Wi-Fi networks. Additionally, employees should avoid using public Wi-Fi networks when handling sensitive information as this will ensure that they are not vulnerable to any potential cybercriminals using the network.
Implementing robust firewalls and antivirus software
Firewalls act as a barrier between internal networks and external threats so you should ensure firewalls are properly configured and regularly updated to block unauthorised access. Additionally, deploying reputable antivirus software will detect and remove any malicious software that may compromise devices and potentially steal or damage data.
Backing up data
Regularly backing up critical business data is essential to mitigate the impact of potential cyber-attacks. We encourage regular back-ups to system and data to secure locations or cloud storage services. It’s also important to test the restoration process to ensure data can be recovered in the event of a breach or system failure.
Proactive security with 24/7 threat monitoring
Implement a robust monitoring system to detect any suspicious activities or breaches promptly and establish an incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a cyber-attack. Regularly review and update this plan to address emerging threats and ensure a swift and effective response.
Understand when and where threats arise with a managed security operations centre (SOC)
The concept of a security operations centre is still relatively new, it provides a comprehensive answer to threat monitoring, detection and response. A managed SOC service will consolidate all your threat monitoring into a single platform, with 24/7 support available to ensure your cyber security over the Christmas period remains robust. Whilst it would be easy to assume these types of services are highly bespoke, expensive and only available to the largest enterprises…the good news is this is simply not true.
Focus Group are in a position to provide your business with the quality and features of an enterprise level SOC, for a fraction of the cost. Plus, it’s fully managed, so doesn’t rely on additional resource to support the platform internally. A managed security operations centre really should be viewed as an essential investment for any organisation that has multiple cloud services which require monitoring. And it’s now an accessible service for all, regardless of size or turnover.
4. Don’t let the dark web threaten your business
A simple search of your exposure will reveal what dark web data is available, so you can address the threat and implement changes to render the information useless to cyber criminals. With the substantial increase of data being shared over Christmas it is essential to increase your cyber security awareness and gain insight into potentially harmful information that is being sold on the dark web.
The dark web monitoring service available with Focus Group can provide a full report on your company’s exposure on the dark web and our cyber specialists will work with you to neutralise the danger.
From this point, we’ll monitor your domain continuously and alert you if a breach occurs at any point. This ensures passwords and payment details can be changed before they are sold or used maliciously. Stopping scammers in their tracks!
5. Partnering with cyber security experts
Don’t have the resources to proactively monitor and improve your holiday cyber security in house? Consider partnering with external cyber security experts who can provide guidance and support in implementing effective security measures for your business. With professionals on your side, businesses can conduct regular security audits, identify vulnerabilities, and recommend appropriate solutions to enhance your business's cybersecurity posture, all without effecting the productivity of your in house team.
Stay secure over the holidays with Focus Group
As the holiday season approaches, businesses must prioritise cyber security awareness to protect their sensitive data and maintain a safe digital environment. By educating employees, implementing robust security measures, and staying vigilant, businesses can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to cyber-attacks. Remember, cyber security is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and adaptation to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.
Our IT world, together with the ongoing development of this business-critical portfolio of services, is in very capable hands with Laurence at the helm. IBM-trained and with a 22-year track record of proven success in the IT sector ensures Laurence is perfectly placed to lead the overall IT strategy for Focus Group, ensuring we’re at the forefront of product development and service innovations in order to deliver the best possible IT technologies for our customers.