Protect Your Data This Holiday Season

As employees prepare to leave their offices before the holiday week, it’s important to protect your data and ensure business networks are secured from cyber threats like ransomware.

Protect your data from the Grinch

The holiday season is a joyous time for people to spend time with their family and friends to enjoy some time away from work. However, this time away from the office also creates an opportunity for cyber criminals to cause havoc on your networks and computer systems. With employees out of the office, hackers now have a chance to try and enter the network without detection, and carry out a ransomware attack on your business. It is important that the organization puts in place extra caution with improved cyber security and policies.

Ransomware and the holiday Season

The holiday season has long been an opportunistic time period for the cyber criminal community. A study from anti-malware research firm Malwarebytes exemplifies that there was an increase of the Ryuk ransomware variant between late December 2018 and right before the New Year. What might seem a coincidental statistic should be attributed to cyber crime’s intent to disrupt these businesses during their most vulnerable time.

Below is a graph (courtesy of Malwarebytes) that depicts an uptick in ransomware during this period:

Phishing season continues into the winter

2019 has been an outlandish year with an increase in phishing attacks & the cleverness in which these malicious emails are sent. Threat actors are using heavier extortion tactics & better grammar usage which is making these phishing messages harder to detect. A report finds that spam emails accounted for 57.6% of global email traffic with a large percentage of those being phishing attacks.

How to protect your data

As 2019 comes to an end, we must look forward to the new year and the growth opportunities it can bring to improving your company’s cybersecurity. Business leaders & management are encouraged to send out a company bulletin outlining the new initiatives the business will be undergoing in 2020 to improve upon cybersecurity and data protection. Good cybersecurity culture will bring added value to the organization and it’s clients, as data security becomes part of their larger risk management.

  1. Disconnect computers from the network
    • If your company does not require access to business information or data while employees are away, it’s best to disconnect computers from the network while they’re not in use. This will prevent any unauthorized access from spreading laterally on your network via employee computers and potentially install malware or ransomware.
  2. Change your passwords
    • Businesses should require employees to change their passwords used with their emails, operating system, and any other services that require these credentials. Hackers will try their best to break into your accounts using all the latest password breach lists. Changing your passwords is a painless task that creates a much more secure cybersecurity environment for your company.
  3. Create an offline backup
    • We encourage organizations to create offline data backup right before they head out the doors to celebrate the holidays. This will ensure you can get back up and running with your latest business documents in case the networks are encrypted in a ransomware attack while you are away from the office. If you run a small business, creating a backup on a simple external hard drive can be a major recovery solution with little cost to you.
  4. Use a strong antivirus solution
    • Treat your computers to a holiday gift this season with professional antivirus software. If your company isn’t already investing in cyber security products like antivirus, it can be a high asset in stopping malware & ransomware in their tracks. A good defense for ransomware is consistently monitoring your networks for suspicious activities. 
  5. Warn employees of phishing holiday emails
    • The holiday season will be filled with celebrations and events, as employees might be receiving an invite to your annual ugly sweater party. Train employees to detect phishing emails that will mimic these jolly invites that are secretly transmitting ransomware & malware onto your computers. 
  6. Remove old accounts 
    • Were there any employees who made the naughty list and are no longer working for the company this year? It is important that these accounts are removed, and you monitor which accounts have access to business documents and data. Keep a log of the privileged access management to see which employees are accessing data & network systems. 

Before your company shuts its doors leading up to the holiday, it’s critical you take some time to go through a checklist of action items so you can protect your data. Follow our Proven Data Holiday Data Checklist!

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