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Christmas is rapidly approaching, which, for many people, means spending quality time with family, opening presents, and relaxing at home for a week or two. Unfortunately, for businesses and organizations with lean IT security teams and tools, downtime this holiday season may not be an option.
In November, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency and FBI issued a joint alert that reminded organizations to stay vigilant during the holiday season. Organizations should remember that cybercriminals don’t take annual leave. If anything, cybercriminals prefer to strike when offices are likely to be closed or understaffed (i.e. Thanksgiving break and Christmas break).
To illustrate this point, let’s highlight some recent, significant ransomware attacks, all of which coincided with major holidays: Butler County Community College in Pennsylvania and Lewis and Clark Community College in Illinois ransomware attack (Thanksgiving), Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack (Mother’s Day), JBS USA Holdings Inc. cyberattack (Memorial Day), and the Kaseya breach (4th of July weekend).
If these recent incidents are anything to go by, many business leaders may have their Christmas break interrupted by cyberattacks. While cyberattacks on large businesses and organizations dominate the headlines, this does not mean that small and midsize businesses and organizations have nothing to worry about. According to the CISA, “Cybercriminals view holidays and weekends—especially holiday weekends—as attractive timeframes in which to target potential victims, including small and large businesses.
For cybercriminals, vigilant IT security teams are some of their biggest enemies because they are the ones preventing them from having a successful attack. This is one of the key reasons why cybercriminals prefer to carry out attacks during the holiday season when many businesses and organizations will be understaffed. During the holiday season, many members of a business’s IT security team will be away from their desks.
For security teams that are already understaffed, and become even more understaffed due to absences during the holiday season, maintaining and monitoring networks and addressing threats during the holiday season becomes impracticable. This gives cybercriminals several opportunities to scrutinize networks for vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals will often carry out brute-force attacks on unsecured endpoints or exploit stolen credentials.
There will also be cases when cybercriminals have already found their way inside a business or organization’s network, but they are waiting until the perfect time to strike, like a holiday break or weekend. Since it can take a significant amount of time for ransomware to spread through a network, if no one ever notices that a ransomware attack or other cyber attack is taking place, the damage cybercriminals can do increases. With many members of IT security teams taking time off during the holiday season, cybercriminals know that the chances of someone detecting and stopping a cyberattack are low.
Cybercriminals also know that businesses and organizations that are attacked during the holidays are generally unable to react swiftly. Some IT security team members may be vacationing out of state or possibly out of the country and will be difficult to contact because they may have left their devices at home. Cybercriminals are more than aware that attacks during the holiday season will increase their chances of being paid because some businesses and organizations will be willing to pay the ransom if it meant regaining access to their critical data during such a busy time of the year.
An attack can target your business or organization at any time. However, during the holidays, employees and users are likely to browse more websites and share information as they search for deals that are too good to pass up. Unfortunately, many of those websites could be less than secure. They’re purchasing new services and subscriptions (and creating new passwords for those services). If your IT security teams are not at full staff this holiday season, your networks will be more vulnerable to attacks.
Factor in the number of ransomware attacks that have already taken place this year, that’s a Christmas recipe for trouble. Businesses and organizations need secure authentication to remain active and competitive. While passwords continue to be the go-to verification method, poor hygiene and weak or no authentication can make them vulnerable to theft. Businesses and organizations need to be prepared for the battle against cybercriminals to defend themselves against the heightened cybersecurity risks this holiday season.
Your business or organization can protect itself against cyberattacks, password vulnerabilities, and weak authentication by following remembering these Holiday Tech Tips:
While it has become obvious that cybercriminals prefer to strike when IT security teams are on holiday breaks and home for the weekend, this doesn’t mean that your organization will have to unwrap the unwanted gift of a cyberattack. However, making enhancements to your organization’s cybersecurity strategy will decrease the chances that this type of gift will be waiting for you when returning from the holiday break. Making enhancements to your cybersecurity strategy will decrease the chances of an attack on your organization.
No organization should enter the holiday break without strong passwords and MFA(multi-factor authentication), patched and updated systems and applications, and continuous monitoring in place. Your organization also needs to have backup and disaster recovery plans and incident response plans in place, especially since members of the IT security team may not be readily available during the holiday break.
If you have concerns about your organization’s current state of cybersecurity, it may be better to rethink your cybersecurity infrastructure altogether. Organizations require top-notch tools and resources that will not just protect the organization during the holiday seasons, but year-round. Add Colorado Computer support to your Christmas list, and let us help your organization combat ransomware and the cybercriminal Grinch this holiday season.
Contact us today to schedule your consultation.