For many, the festive period presents a rare chance to switch-off from work and spend quality time celebrating with friends and family. Many businesses will close their doors completely for several days. But while this brings some day-to-day activities to a halt, those tasked with protecting your organisation from cybersecurity threats – whether that’s the business owner, IT lead, or security specialist – will continue to carry the responsibility for securing your users and data.
Of course, those individuals will still want to make the most of their downtime, and it’s unlikely that they will continue to work as normal while others take a break. That’s why this month’s blog is designed to help you explore the threats to your business during the holiday period, and offer you some guidance on keeping yourself protected. And that’s not just for this year, but many holidays to come.
Increased risks in the run-up to Christmas
It might feel at times like the world grinds to a halt during Christmas and New Year, but it’s likely that the end of the year will see an increase in attacks like ransomware.
Much of this will focus on consumers, especially with the increase in retail and online activity that surrounds events like Black Friday and Christmas. It’s likely that hackers will ramp up impersonation activity such as spam emails and fake websites in a bid to harvest user credentials.
This is of course a major concern for a wide range of businesses.
Consider a user working from a corporate PC looking to finalise their Christmas shopping on their lunch break. An inadvertent visit to a spoofed site, or opening of a malicious email could expose your entire organisation.
But it isn’t only retail that will interest cybercriminals. There will be continuing attempts to catch out business users. Many businesses feel increased pressure in the run up to Christmas, working hard to close down opportunities, complete orders, and get set for the year ahead, all at a time where teams are impacted by sickness and annual leave.
This creates a desire to move things on quickly, which is where mistakes and missteps can occur. Hackers know this, and increase their activity to take advantage. Businesses may see an increase in spam emails reaching their employees, often containing requests from spoofed colleagues and accounts teams requesting sudden payment, or confirmation of personal or company details.
5 steps to reinforce your security posture
While the above paints a concerning picture, there are steps that your organisation can take to harden defences and better prepare your employees for the increased level of risk.
- Close the back door
This is applicable all year round, but ensuring that cybercriminals can’t exploit your business through vulnerabilities in software and operating systems is central to improved cybersecurity. Many software updates and patches include crucial security measures, and failure to deploy these can leave you exposed. Ensuring that your IT estate is updated and properly secured is a good first step to resilient protection.
- Back up what matters regularly
While prevention plays an important role in cybersecurity, remediation cannot be ignored. Should you fall victim to a breach, ensuring that your data and systems are appropriately backed up can massively reduce the impact on your business and alleviate disruptive downtime.
Even if you already have a backup strategy in place, it’s well worth assessing its resilience. Will it continue to back up as normal while your business is closed? Do you have backups across both cloud and on-prem? Is your cloud-to-cloud backup spread between separate providers? Considering these questions ahead of time and taking proactive steps now could save stress, time, and money down the line.
- Make full use of the tools at your disposal
Maintaining your security posture has always been a balancing act between desired protection, and available investment. Compromises will sometimes have to be made, but even for those with limited budgets there are often economies to be found with tools you might not even realise you could access.
Take Microsoft 365 as an example. Many enterprise licenses include dedicated protections available as part of Defender for Business, all of which can be activated quickly at no additional cost. These protections, including endpoint detection and response, attack surface reduction, and automated investigation and remediation, could plug gaps in your existing defence and offer valuable peace of mind.
- Educate your users
Regardless of the tools you have in place, your people remain the biggest vulnerability in your organisation. 99% of cyberattacks require human interaction to execute, so it’s vital that your users understand how to identify potential attacks, and what steps they can take to resolve one. This is especially important at a time where users may be working under pressure in the run-up to Christmas, or logging on at home to check in on things during the break.
Undertaking phishing and security awareness training can help you assess the gaps in your teams’ knowledge, and help reinforce best practice to prevent a breach.
- Seek specialist support
Many small and medium-sized organisations won’t operate with dedicated security personnel, but even for larger organisations, finding, recruiting and retaining skilled security experts is a challenge right now. We’re facing a cybersecurity skills gap, but that doesn’t mean that specialist support isn’t still within reach.
Outsourced Security Operation Centres, or SOCs, can deliver 24/7 protection from a team of security experts without the need to build your own team. This alleviates some of the responsibility for protecting your organisation away from your own team, without compromising on resilience.
Alternatively, the rise of AI-powered solutions can also help extend your security capability, harnessing evolving threat intelligence to spot attacks and remediate without the need for human intervention.
Give your business the gift of reinforced protection
Whatever the make-up of your current security posture, our team knowledgeable team can help you identify the best route to an enhanced security posture. Whether you’re looking for more immediate assistance, or are considering a new security project in the New Year, get in touch with us to discuss your requirements.