As we close out what has been a difficult year for many, there’s a temptation to slack off being aware of the cyber risks out there, but the holiday season statistically sees an increase in cyberattacks, and experts are predicting that this year will be particularly bad. This year with COVID-19 restrictions hindering in-person activities, online purchases are expected to have a record-setting year. Cybercriminals are anticipating this, and will ramp up their efforts to take advantage of both unaware shoppers and unprotected businesses, looking to exploit sensitive information and data for the purpose of hacking. In this article, we take a look at how to stay one step ahead of the bad guys. We’ve done the research so you can actually enjoy your holidays with loved ones, rather than having to be on guard duty 24/7.
- Be Careful With Holiday-Themed Emails. Retailers go out of their way to send out emails touting sales and special deals, and they all look really shiny! And by all means, take advantage of those savings, but understand that phishing emails will also look festive. Pay particular attention to an email if you don’t recognize the sender, or it’s rife with spelling errors. That might be a clue that someone overseas is trying to get you to give your credit card information, or open an email with a virus attached to it.
- Slow Down. We’ve all clicked on a deal, only to see a pop up telling us that the special price is only available for a limited time—sometimes only minutes! Personally, I click right out of these because retailers often use this tactic to pressure you into making a bad decision that will result in buyer’s remorse, but hackers also use it to get you to throw caution to the wind, enter your credit card information, and click the buy button before you’ve really checked out the site. It’s OK to slow down and take a minute to make sure you trust the retailer on the other end.
- Beware of Phone Phishing Scams. I don’t know about you, but during the month of December, I am working to meet deadlines faster so I can have more time to bake cookies, attend parties, and savor the moments of peace and joy that are unique to this time of year. And all the while, I’m juggling phone calls and emails from clients. Normally, I don’t answer the phone if I don’t recognize a number, but I’ve occasionally broken my own rule, and there is usually someone on the other end trying to sell me something. They’re typically harmless telemarketers, but one time in particular I remember the person on the other end had an air of urgency and needed to verify me before he would even explain what the call was about. And when I say verify, he needed me to confirm my mother’s maiden name and the last 4 numbers of my social security number! When I refused, he tried to intimidate me with vague consequences that made me laugh out loud and hang up. Stay vigilant—this time of year scammers are counting on you juggling ten things at once and hoping you’ll have a momentary lapse in judgment.
- If You Must Work While Mobile, Be Extra Aware of The Risks. Many people wind up working during the holidays from hotels, airports, and anyplace that has free WiFi. But there are additional risks that come with working on-the-go, so be sure that you’re not using an unsecured network. Hackers will sit in coffee houses and lie in wait for unsuspecting victims who are tired, working against a deadline, and figure that using the free WiFi this one time won’t hurt. Trust us, it’s not worth it. A moment in lapsed judgment can wind up costing you thousands of dollars, and damage your professional reputation when you have to explain to clients how their information got leaked.
- Pay Attention to Your Server Activity. Server mining happens with more frequency during periods of shutdown, like holidays, when schools, businesses, and others are not using the majority of their server capacity. You’ll want to keep an eye on the activity level, and if it seems off to you, make sure to look into it right away. Buzz Cybersecurity offers Managed IT Services that can help with this.
- Keep You Updates Updated! The excitement of getting to see family, coupled with fast-approaching deadlines means that during the holidays, many companies and employees are more likely to put off patching until the beginning of the year, and hackers will look to take advantage of this. Updates and restarts are often seen as a frustrating barrier to getting out the door and often get overlooked, but take the time to audit. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention.
- Keep the Faith. As we celebrate the holidays, we want to encourage you to keep your faith in things above, and not in too-good-to-be-true sales and specials that make grandiose promises. If you get a nagging feeling that something isn’t right, don’t ignore that. At Buzz Cybersecurity, we like to think that we all have a built-in sense of discernment that helps to protect us when others would seek to harm us in some way. We encourage you to pay attention to that.
We hope you and your loved ones enjoy the happiest of holidays and stay safe. And if you want to have us run a diagnostic on how you’re doing with protecting your assets, contact us so we can help you to have peace of mind this holiday season.