It’s that time of year again. People are busy spending time focused on things other than work, and with the recent shift to remote work, employees are more distributed than ever before. However, not everyone is filled with nostalgia and goodwill towards all during the holiday season. Cyber-criminal organizations large and small take advantage of the distraction and increase their attacks accordingly.
IT and cybersecurity are essential services for most organizations. The support staff never get to leave the system unmonitored, but often rely heavily on reduced staffing or skeleton crews during the holiday season. Cyber-crime has taken this shift of priorities into account and specifically designed attacks to take advantage of the reduced posture of organizations. The holidays are more vulnerable to cyberattack than ever as attackers go on exploiting the lack of staffing, the natural feeling of increased trust, and the pervasive remote work environment.
1. Lack of Staffing – Cybersecurity Coverage Issues During the Holidays
What should I do if my IT and Cybersecurity staff are all out for the holidays?
Most organizations above a certain size should always ensure that cybersecurity and IT staff have overlapping coverage during the end of the year. It’s a best practice to have continuous monitoring of the network, with analysts covering the security tools while network operations are on standby to fix any infrastructure issues.
In scenarios where you have no IT staff, ensure they are reachable or that a backup has been trained from another team. Cybersecurity is a bit different – 24/7 coverage is needed for all security. Attacks usually happen during times that nobody is expected to be monitoring the systems (late at night, Christmas Eve). If your team cannot afford to keep this coverage, hire an outsourced security team to monitor instead.
2. Increased Trust – People are More Trusting During This Time of Year
What can I do to prevent my employees from clicking holiday-themed phishing emails?
The holidays are a special time of year, most everyone is a bit more trusting due to the conditions and atmosphere. Cybersecurity awareness training with simulated phishing emails is a service specifically designed to take this trust and ensure that attackers can’t exploit it.
Cybersecurity awareness training with phishing training is what it sounds like – specially designed training programs focused on teaching users what a phishing email looks like and how to detect them. Your users are your greatest vulnerability – cybersecurity tools can only cover so much. By training users to look for holiday-themed phishing scams such as fake Black Friday ads, your organization can keep your email and communications secure.
3. Remote Operations – It’s Cold and Snowing, Employees Work Remotely
My staff is working remotely for the holidays, are they at greatest risk of cyber-attack?
Long answer short – yes, remote work introduces greater risk for cyber-attack. This risk is due to the inherited requirement that remote work requires new pathways into the corporate system to be opened for use by employees.
With many working remotely, the need for robust VPN security and endpoint protection is more pronounced than ever. Attackers know compromising a system on a home network is easier than breaching a corporate firewall, and by taking a system over for control, they can use the VPN to attack the corporate system or SaaS applications. Work with a security team to ensure your endpoints and VPN security are up to par. Specifically – consider an EDR and modern firewall solution.
4. Status Quo – People Don’t Want to Rock the Boat During the Holidays
I saw something strange, but it’s the holidays and I don’t really want to raise concern since I’m about to be off for 2 weeks.
This is one of the biggest risks associated with the holidays – complacency. Many people see unusual activity, phishing emails, and even ransomware messages but continue their business in hopes that it won’t interrupt a vacation timeline. By letting security issues sit undisturbed, employees are creating an even greater impact. The longer an attacker dwells within a system, the higher the risk of a catastrophic incident.
Report suspicious activity to your security team immediately, even if the holidays are just around the corner.
The holidays are a special time to shift your focus for a bit towards the things that really matter. Don’t let a cyber-attack ruin the season, proactively plan for the shifting threat environment associated with holiday festivities. Our team is here to help organizations take the time to develop a plan to ensure your systems stay safe and secure during the holiday season.
From our team at Scarlett Cybersecurity – Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!