Guidance & Tips

The 12 cyber security threats of Christmas

December 19, 2023
The 12 cyber security threats of Christmas

As the festive season gets into full swing, it’s important to acknowledge the increase in digital risks during the build up to Christmas. Much like our preparations for seasonal festivities, cyber criminals also gear up to exploit the celebratory spirit through an increased frequency of cyber-attacks. Join us in the below as we highlight 12 cyber threats to be aware of this festive period and provide guidance on how to protect against them.

Does the frequency of cyber attacks increase during the festive period?

In December 2021, a report from Darktrace, a cyber security company based in the UK, revealed a global surge in ransomware attacks during the holiday season.

Darktrace noted a 30% uptick in the average number of ransomware attacks during the holiday season compared to the monthly average. Additionally, the researchers identified a 70% average rise in attempted ransomware attacks in November and December compared to the months of January and February.

12 cyber threats to lookout for

Ransomware Attacks

During the holiday season, the hustle and bustle can serve as a distraction for the threat of ransomware attacks. Exploiting the chaos, cyber criminals may encrypt your organisation's data, holding it hostage and demanding a ransom for its safe release. Mitigating this requires the implementation of regular data backups and robust cyber security measures.  

Phishing Attacks

During the festive season, the presence of festive-themed phishing emails, a well-known tactic in the cyber criminal arsenal is always something to be aware of. One common example of a festive phishing message is centred around messaging regarding delivery updates or fake Amazon/Apple billing invoices following the increase in activities such as buying gifts. These deceptive emails pose as trusted entities like banks or delivery services, concealing malicious links or attachments within. Guarding against this threat necessitates the implementation of phishing simulation testing, a practice that equips employees to recognise and respond to potential threats.  

Insider Threats

The stress of Christmas can elevate the likelihood of insider threats within your workplace, encompassing potential risks such as data theft, fraud, or malicious activities initiated by disgruntled employees. Mitigating this risk involves the implementation of stringent access controls and monitoring systems to enhance overall security measures.

Unsecured Online Shopping

During the build up to Christmas, many employees end up shopping for gifts online during work hours or on their lunch break. Fake online websites and fraudulent deals are typically created to trick shoppers into giving away personal information such as bank details or addresses, giving these away could lead to financial loss or identity theft.

Malicious Gift Cards  

In the season of giving, Cyber criminals may send seemingly harmless electronic holiday cards containing malware to compromise workplace systems. These fake gift cards could be impersonating a colleague either giving away a gift card or requesting the victim to make a gift card purchase. It’s important to always double check these requests with the individual asking and fellow colleagues.  

Updates for Security and Management of Patches

As the year comes to an end, the significance of maintaining current software and systems might be underestimated by several organisations. Cyber criminals frequently target known vulnerabilities in outdated software, particularly during the holiday season when IT staff availability may be reduced, and defences may be weakened. It's important to make sure that all systems, including those for remote work, receive thorough patching and updates. Enforcing a robust policy for patch management assists with closing security loopholes and strengthening defences against potential cyber threats exploiting outdated systems.

Unattended Workstations

With holiday celebrations and team events, employees may leave their workstations unattended with computes and information unlocked, creating opportunities for unauthorised access or data breaches.

Fraudulent Charity Schemes

During the holiday season, cyber attackers frequently leverage Christmas festivities to establish deceptive charity websites, capitalising on the generous spirit of employees. It's crucial to prompt your workforce to authenticate the credibility of charitable organisations before engaging in any donations or clicking on provided links.

Unsecured IoT Devices

The incorporation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices as part of your holiday decorations may bring an added layer of festivity to your space. However, it's important to note that this integration also carries potential security risks. If these IoT devices are not adequately secured, they may become susceptible to unauthorised access, exposing your network and potentially compromising the privacy and security of your home or workplace.

Disguised Malware in Festive Applications

Malicious apps disguised as holiday-themed applications can compromise mobile devices and steal sensitive information. These deceptive apps often exploit the festive season's increased app downloads, making it important for users to exercise caution, install applications only from trusted sources, and regularly review app permissions.

DDOS Attacks

A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the normal functioning of a targeted server, service, or network by overwhelming it with a flood of internet traffic. These attacks are more likely to occur at this busy period due to factors such as increased online activity or distracted IT Staff. Deploy measures for DDoS mitigation to safeguard the security of your digital presence.

Travel Related Threats  

This is a time of year where lots of people tend to travel, whether it be to visit families or go on a festive holiday there are always people on the move. This could pose a risk to workplace operations however as employees that are travelling may utilise unsecure Wi-Fi networks that can expose them to data interception by cyber criminals. This is where we encourage the use of VPNs and secure Wi-Fi connections when working elsewhere to help prevent this from happening.  

Spend your Christmas protected  

Whilst adhering to best practices is important, the reality remains that breaches can still happen. It underscores the importance of having a robust incident response plan in place, enabling swift identification and proactive measures to safeguard company systems. To enhance overall security, consider investing in dependable backup solutions and adopting a decentralised approach to data security. This approach ensures stringent access control and adds an extra layer of protection. Remember, even during the holidays, cyber criminals still operate, emphasising the continuous need for vigilant cyber security practices.

As an experienced and trusted cyber security partner, we work with our clients to ensure they’re as protected against cyber attacks as they can be all year round. Want to find out more about working with Cybaverse? Get in touch to speak with a team member about our services.

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