Cybercrime is a concern throughout the year, but the holiday season is especially susceptible. The FBI has recently issued a warning regarding the increasing frequency of ransomware attacks that occur on weekends and holidays, despite the fact that this trend is not novel. As cybercrime continues to escalate, holiday cybersecurity measures must be strengthened.

Customers will rush to online marketplaces and physical stores to complete their holiday purchases, resulting in a substantial upswing in both financial and operational activity within the retail and logistics sectors. An increasing number of individuals are falling prey to ransomware, spyware, and phishing attacks that compromise sensitive information, mostly during the holiday season. To prevent substantial financial loss and brand damage to your organization, it is vital to prepare your systems, personnel, and data for the surge in cybercriminal activity that occurs during the holiday season. Initially, we will discuss the most substantial obstacles that retail establishments are poised to confront in the rush season of the year.

Information from credit cards

The 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) reveals that credit card information theft continues to be a significant issue in the retail sector, accounting for 37% of all breaches reported this year. By inserting malicious code into a retailer's credit card processing page, threat actors can compromise the functionality of the website and pilfer sensitive payment information without being detected. One of the most malevolent methods by which cybercriminals obtain payment card information. In 2023, PoS servers constituted the remaining 8% of credit card breaches, while web applications were responsible for 70% of such incidents.

Typosquatting

In order to deceive unsuspecting customers, "typosquatting" is a form of online deception in which legitimate companies' names are frequently misspelled. This approach remains effective throughout the entire year; however, it demonstrates its true potential during the holiday season, when consumers are in a frenzy to complete their shopping lists. When customers are in a hurry, they are more likely to submit credit card information without first verifying it. By luring customers with time-sensitive deals, cybercriminals have the opportunity to acquire sensitive personal information during the holiday season.

Ransomware attack

Ransomware is a sort of malicious software that encrypts individual data, systems, and files. In order to either expose sensitive information to the public or prevent their victims from accessing a computer system, cybercriminals frequently employ threats. According to the 2023 DBIR, the median cost of ransomware has doubled in the last two years, demonstrating that it continues to pose a substantial risk across industries. Retail establishments are especially susceptible to ransomware attacks during the holiday season. Retailers are more susceptible to yielding to exceedingly exacting demands during their busiest season, as they cannot afford to have any of their systems or data compromised.

Reasons for the other surge in cyberattacks during the holiday season

  • Prior to developing comprehensive cybersecurity strategies, it is critical to identify any potential vulnerabilities.
  • Despite the fact that the majority of businesses have strategies in place to mitigate the effects of cyberattacks, these strategies can occasionally prove inadequate during the holiday season as a consequence of a surge in security incidents.
  • Personal information is disclosed for the purpose of completing a transaction, be it conducted offline or on an electronic platform.
  • Organizations may encounter challenges in monitoring their systems and data during this period as a result of the significant increase in transaction volume.
  • Another contributing factor to the proliferation of cyber hazards is the lack of employee training.
  • Cybercriminals exploit the holiday season through the use of deceptive emails and the creation of fraudulent websites that effortlessly take sensitive information from users.
  • Presently, domain spoofing is a prevalent element of cyberattacks, causing damage in the billions of dollars.
  • Attackers may use tactics like limited-time offers, best discounts, direct contact, and account transfers to lure victims into thinking they can have a fantastic experience at an unbelievable price. The price tag is astronomical, to put it mildly. They provide you with an irresistible (false) offer!
  • By getting swayed into contributing to fake charity campaigns and providing personal information.
  • In addition, the increasing likelihood of cyberattacks provides hackers with more opportunities to compromise corporate networks, particularly if they employ phishing and other methods to circumvent cybersecurity measures.

Effective strategies for organizations to minimize the potential risks

Although CISA and the FBI have not yet compiled a definitive threat report predicting the occurrence of a cyberattack during the holidays, they have compiled recommended strategies for organizations to mitigate the risks associated with all types of cyber threats, including ransomware.

  • Retailers may utilize threat intelligence and mitigation services to identify vulnerabilities for their own protection. These solutions can establish defenses in a variety of ways, including by eliminating instances of typosquatting, being proactive, and, in certain circumstances, identifying the perpetrators.
  • PCI 4.0 is the global standard for operational and technological standards pertaining to the security of account data. With each compliance-related step toward PCI 4.0, your retail operation will become more secure. The present is the time to commence that endeavor.
  • Schedule "on-call" security personnel for the observance of holidays.
  • It is crucial to educate end users year-round, but particularly during the holiday season, about the dangers of clicking on dubious links and succumbing to social engineering schemes such as spear phishing.
  • If possible, restrict automatic responses to internal contacts and use generic out-of-office messages for external recipients.
  • Establish and uphold encrypted offline backups of data, and regularly verify the backups.
  • Enhance user consciousness regarding the potential hazards associated with accessing malevolent websites or downloading malevolent attachments.
  • Particularly through the use of virtual desktop infrastructure and the restriction of remote desktop protocols (RDP), restrict access to resources via internal networks.
  • Assess the security stance of third-party vendors and those with whom your organization is interconnected.
  • Replace obsolete software and operating systems with versions that are currently supported.
  • Patch and update software frequently to the most recent versions available.
  • Implement an automated and centralized patch management system.
  • Perform routine vulnerability scanning in order to detect and resolve weaknesses, with a particular focus on devices that are exposed to the internet.
  • Ensure that robust passwords are not stored on a system that an adversary could potentially access or are reused across multiple accounts.
  • It is recommended to deploy multi-factor authentication (MFA) across all services, with a specific emphasis on accounts that access critical systems, VPNs, and remote access.
  • Conduct routine audits of administrative user accounts and establish access controls in accordance with the separation of duties and least privilege principles.
  • Maintain ongoing and vigilant surveillance for ransomware threats throughout the holidays and weekends.

Despite the diligent efforts of exceptional team members, this season is exceptionally hectic for any organization; thus, businesses require platforms and solutions that enhance the visibility and transparency of the cyber security environment. Hackers take advantage of desperate customers during the holiday shopping sales that impact malls and online retailers. By implementing and adhering to policies and compliance regulations, organizations ensure that all employees are provided with secure internet access. It provides comprehensive visibility and reporting capabilities to facilitate informed decision-making and optimize network performance. It provides seamless connectivity and an efficient and scalable design, enabling your team to focus on development and production while cybersecurity concerns are minimized.

As the holiday season approaches, it brings with it the exchange of gifts, joy, and an abundance of discounts designed to entice consumers to spend their hard-earned money. In light of the impending holiday purchasing season, it is critical that organizations that have not yet implemented cybersecurity measures for their premises prioritize such initiatives. Although it may take some time, each incremental measure taken towards this goal should contribute to the security of your retail operation. Every single one of your personnel, permanent and seasonal, requires training. For the sake of improved quality and safety in the coming year, ensure that your business is as secure as possible during the holiday season.