Ahhh the holiday season – it’s all office parties, Fiji trips and mad shopping sprees! It’s easy to get carried away in the fun and games of silly season, but in the background the working world still needs to tick over, and one thing you shouldn’t lose focus on is cybersecurity. Cybercriminals ramp up their activities during this time, taking full advantage of the diluted vigilance of distracted office workers across Australia. It’s a perfect opportunity for hackers to target corporate networks with increased phishing attempts and other threats.
Think about it – there’s more online shopping, more electronic gift exchanging, more late nights and often reduced IT staffing. There’s also a corresponding uptick in ransomware attacks, malware infections, and network intrusions to take advantage of these, so your business cyber defences and security operations need to be on the money.
We don’t want you to fall victim to the Christmas hacking Grinch! To stop this happening, Smile IT has put together a few timely tips to help you avoid common cybercrime pitfalls of the Christmas holidays. Let’s check them out!
How to Keep Your Corporate Network Cyber-secure Over the Festive Season
Tip 1: Update and secure all devices
It’s critical to ensure all devices and software connected to your business network are running the latest versions. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in outdated operating systems and apps, so being prompt with your patching and updates closes down this avenue for them. We’d recommend employees enable two-factor authentication on all devices, adding that extra layer of sign-in security. Passwords should be strong and changed regularly, and firewalls and antivirus software should be enabled on all devices. These are all standard procedures for a secure business network, but it can be tough to stay on top of them when the Christmas cake is getting distributed around the office!
Tip 2: Be cautious with online shopping
Online shopping explodes in popularity during the festive season, which of course catches the eye of hackers around the world. Malicious scams to empty that company credit card are a dime a dozen, so whether you’re shopping for personal or business reasons you need to know what to look out for.
You must shop on a secure website for a start, particularly from a business device or network. This is easy to check for – always ensure you’re using a site with an HTTPS URL and not an HTTP one. This means it has an SSL certificate in place, which gives it an extra layer of security. Also be on the lookout for poor grammar, out-of-place language or sketchy contact information on websites. Bookmark trusted online retailers and avoid clicking promotional links in emails. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is, so stay away from that link!
Tip 3: Keep an eye on suspicious emails and messages
Around the holidays, hackers send gift cards, e-greetings, charity requests, and shopping discounts. The thing is, they’re all phishing lures! Phishing scams play on emotions like fear, urgency, and excitement, and there’s a lot of urgency and excitement floating around at the end of the year. Keep a wary and vigilant eye on your emails and regularly remind your staff of their cyber security training.
Here’s a quick recap on email security best practice for the holidays: Check the sender’s address for inaccuracies. Don’t click links in messages from unknown senders. Look for poor grammar and spelling errors. Avoid opening attachments from suspicious emails. Double-check donation or gift card requests to ensure they are valid.
Remember, dodgy phishing links can download malware or direct users to fake login pages to harvest credentials. Clicking links in unverified emails can lead to a world of cyber security pain!
Tip 4: Secure your business Wi-Fi network
You’re likely to see more guest devices connecting to your office Wi-Fi network over the holiday season. You know – team spouses or friends, or other office party guests. You need to reinforce all the precautions that secure your network, ensuring encryption protocols are in place to stop unauthorised users from accessing company data.
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure the Wi-Fi is secured: Change the default router admin passwords. Disable WPS connections. Use WPA2 or WPA3 encryption instead of WEP. Hide the SSID instead of broadcasting it. Enable MAC address filtering. Use a firewall and blacklist suspicious connections.
Tip 5: Protect your personal information on social media
We get it – you’re super excited about that luxury tropical holiday you’ve been saving up for for ages now. You want to tell the world! Except… don’t. don’t hop onto social media and put your vacation dates in. Not only will miscreants know that your house will be empty, but it can make the company more vulnerable. A hacker could assume your identity, convince a colleague they are you through social engineering and gain access to your corporate network.
It’s good practice to always keep your personal information far away from social media. During the holiday season, this becomes even more important.
Tip 6: Safely dispose of old gadgets and gift packaging
Gifts seem to fly in all directions at this time of year, and many people use it as an opportunity to upgrade their mobile devices. Before recycling or discarding old laptops, phones, drives and other hardware, all data should be wiped out according to industry standards. Reformatting or factory reset alone won’t fully erase previous business data, the empty space on the device needs to be cleaned.
With new devices, before allowing any of them onto your company network, ensure they’re properly secured with antivirus software, encryption, and set up with strong passwords. They should have all the latest software updates and patches in place too before they get connected.
It’s not just devices you need to worry about. Something as innocuous as wrapping paper could place you at risk of cyber-attacks! Gift wrapping, shipping labels, or packaging could all contain identifiable customer data and business addresses, which can all be used against your business. Shred everything and ensure no personal information is identifiable on anything going into the trash.
Tip 7: Keep the team vigilant and informed about cybersecurity
We mentioned above how vital it is for your team to stay vigilant to cybersecurity threats. It’s worth mentioning again! All companies in today’s age should be engaging in cybersecurity training, and now is a good time to reinforce it.Keep employees aware of new phishing techniques, seasonal scams, and cybersecurity best practices. Grow that culture of vigilance! If something seems suspicious, encourage reporting it. Most data breaches come about through human error, and humans are particularly error-prone in the festive season.
Get Cybersecure this Christmas with Smile IT
The holiday period doesn’t have to be the most vulnerable time of year for your business cyber security. You can follow the above tips for keeping your devices, network, and confidential data protected over Christmas and the festive season. Don’t let the cheer of the season bring an unwelcome gift of a data breach!
If you want a stress-free holiday, why not team up with the Brisbane cybersecurity experts? Smile IT can perform a comprehensive risk assessment and help implement robust defences tailored to your business. Contact us today, and one of our specialists will get the ball rolling with a cybersecurity audit.
When he’s not writing tech articles or turning IT startups into established and consistent managed service providers, Peter Drummond can be found kitesurfing on the Gold Coast or hanging out with his family!