The Most Hackable Time Of The Year

It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, BUT the holidays have now become the most “hackable time of the year.” Hackers are looking to steal personal and credit card information or hold data for ransom. Just a reminder… on the FRIDAY heading into Memorial Day weekend, it was meat processing giant JBS. On the Friday before the Fourth of July, it was software company Kaseya and, by extension, over a thousand businesses of varying size. It remains to be seen whether Christmas weekend will see a high-profile security meltdown as well, but one thing is clear…  Hackers love holidays!

Truthfully, hackers love regular weekends, too. But a long one? When everyone’s off carousing with family and friends and avoiding anything remotely office-related? That’s the good stuff. And while the trend isn’t new, a joint warning issued by the FBI and the CISA underscores how serious the threat has become.

Top 5 Reasons Holidays Make Organizations More Vulnerable to Cyberattacks

1. Reduced Staff

Throughout November and December, many employees use their vacation days to travel, visiting family and friends. This can leave an organization vulnerable, as employees meant to be “holding down the fort” are no longer on site. In addition, employees working remotely can compromise security as many are likely to be logging on from non-secured Wi-Fi hotspots and using devices that may not have security features.

2. Employee Online Shopping

During the craziness of the holiday season when everyone is short for time, who wants to hit the mall? Not many now a days!  So, it’s no surprise that employees make some online gift purchases while at work. Unfortunately, they may be targeted by a malicious ad that’s offering a hot deal. Without thinking, they might click an ad that winds up infecting the entire network.

3. Email Overload

Inboxes fill up fast during the holidays. There are emails from friends and family, holiday party invitations, purchase receipts, shipping confirmations, and a host of other communications. Because of this, employees—even those who’ve been trained to be wary of suspicious emails and links—are a lot more likely to put their guard down. Scammers know this and use this to their advantage.

4. Use of Personal Email

Employees are much more likely to use their personal email during the holidays to do online shopping and other tasks. But unlike company email which is more likely to block suspicious links and attachments, personal email isn’t usually filtered for malicious content by the organization. 

5. Password Similarity

Most people have dozens of online accounts, and it can be a challenge to remember all those passwords (especially when some of them are only used around the holidays for shopping or sending e-cards). Rather than continually fill out “forgotten password” forms, many people use the same or similar passwords for their retail accounts as they do for their organization’s network. Because the holidays are when most people access retail accounts, this gives hackers an in, hurting consumers, employers, or both.

That said, there are steps companies and individuals can take to better protect themselves from hacks, both ahead of a long weekend and beyond. The FBI and CISA’s recommendations echo best practices for most cybersecurity situations: Don’t click on suspicious links. Make an offline backup of your data. Use strong passwords and a password vault. Make sure your software is up to date. Use two-factor authentication. Use care when using remote access tools. And maybe keep a few extra people on call this weekend, just in case.

Holiday hacking is going to continue—and likely increase due to online traffic, distracted employees, and decreased resources. Much has been written in regard to the best way to protect your organization from cyber threats but if you’re concerned about security this holiday season, you may want to consider partnering with a managed service provider specializing in security like AlphaONE … we can help evaluate security of your systems or support your staff when both threats and employee vacations are at their highest. With AlphaONE, you can gain peace of mind of knowing that your organization is in good hands—even while managing a skeleton crew at the holidays! Our team can help you stay protected this holiday season—and beyond. Contact one of our experts today to learn more.