The festive season should be a time for celebration and relaxation. Instead, small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) must prepare for a sudden onslaught of cyberattacks and social engineering attempts.
Cyber Threats Become More Severe During the Holidays
Cybercriminals view the holiday season as an opportunity to strike. When you’re busy with a sudden, massive increase in business, you can’t dedicate as many resources to security. Additionally, you likely have fewer people working because employees take time off. This combination lets hackers slip in unnoticed, giving them more time to cause damage.
“The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) even released a report in 2022 on the sharp rise in cyber threats during the holiday season.”
Although it didn’t publish specific statistics, it stated cyberattack frequency increases before holidays and during typical off-hours. Notably, it said the attacks often caused more significant damages than usual.
CISA’s findings match the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center’s report on cyberattack trends. The agency received 800,944 cybercrime reports in 2022, totaling $10.3 billion in losses — a $3.4 billion increase from 2021. On top of becoming more frequent around the holidays, cyber threats are growing more severe yearly.
Benefits of Improving Your Cybersecurity Posture
You likely do much of your business during the holiday season. Enhancing your cybersecurity measures ensures you don’t have sudden, unplanned downtime that costs you sales. Additionally, it safeguards your reputation and brand loyalty since customers view you as a safe, convenient place to do business.
“Not to mention, improving your cybersecurity posture protects you from non-compliance fees and financial losses.”
Proactively lowering your cyberattack, malware and threat risks protects your employees, customers and profits during a high-traffic time of year.
Tips to Enhance Cybersecurity During the Holiday Season
While the increased attack frequency during the holiday season can seem daunting, it’s easily manageable with the right strategies. If you’re proactive, you can prevent most cybersecurity incidents.
1. Transition to Digital Systems
If you’re like many SMEs, you rely on physical filing systems to store your data and paperwork. Although it’s a common practice, it poses a significant security risk — anyone who can enter the room can manipulate, steal or toss records. Additionally, you risk leaks whenever you scan or transfer paper documents.
Going paperless can dramatically improve your cyber safety. Digital systems can improve document security by providing secure storage and access privileges. This way, only people you give pre-authorization to can edit, send or save paperwork.
2. Implement Authentication Measures
Authentication measures fall into three categories — something you know, have or are — which include passwords, multi-factor authentication or biometrics. When you limit who can access sensitive data or systems, you protect against human error and reduce your vulnerabilities.
Most security professionals agree authentication measures are some of the best protection tools an SME can have. In fact, some experts say multi-factor authentication can prevent up to 50% of illegitimate access attempts on average. You should strongly consider implementing these tools because unauthorized logins and intrusions become more frequent during the holiday season.
3. Prioritize Redundancy
Although most SMEs strive to eliminate redundancy, it’s beneficial during cybersecurity incidents. When cyberattacks strike, critical systems go down for hours — possibly weeks. In fact, the average downtime of distributed denial-of-service attacks increased to over 50 hours in 2022, up from a mere 30 minutes in 2021. In this scenario, backups are essential.
“Imagine ransomware impacts your enterprise over the busy holiday season — you’d lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in sales.”
That is unless you have backup systems and data. This way, you won’t have to pay the ransom or wait for the cyberattack to end. Redundancy means you can stay operational even during the worst-case scenario.
4. Leverage Automation Tools
Most holiday season cyberattacks occur because cybercriminals have a better chance at exploiting your network vulnerabilities when you have less staff or are too busy. Naturally, automation implementation is one of the best strategies.
If you have tools like artificial intelligence or robot process automation do the work for you during off-hours or busy periods, you can consistently maintain security. If you set up automatic alerts for threat detection and suspicious activity, you can speed up your incident response. In other words, cybercriminals have a much lower chance of accessing your sensitive systems.
5. Audit Vendor Security
You might have a lot to deal with during the holiday season, but you should consider scheduling a meeting with your vendors. They often overlook vulnerabilities, putting you at risk of a cyberattack. In fact, nearly 50% of enterprises experienced cybersecurity incidents because of a third-party servicer in 2023. Contacting them about their security compliance can protect you.
Review your contracts with your vendors to see their security-related responsibilities and audit them to ensure they’re compliant. Even though they might be resistant, you should push for accountability. After all, their vulnerabilities are essentially yours.
The Importance of Proactive Effort this Festive Season
Even though you may be tempted to put off implementing new security measures until the buzz of the festive season settles, proactive effort ensures far better outcomes. Instead of waiting for cyberattacks to happen — risking fees, reputational damage and lost sales — you should strongly consider improving your cybersecurity posture as soon as possible.