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Cybersecurity Tips for the Holiday Season

Russell Nicolet

Holiday shopping is in full swing now that we have entered November. The holiday season is busy for businesses and individuals, whether they are buying decorations and gifts online, making travel plans, or wanting to give back by donating to charitable organizations. This influx of online activity means cybercriminals are also busy trying to take advantage.

There are a few main tactics hackers use on shoppers including, making fraudulent sites and emails, intercepting transactions that aren’t secure, and going after vulnerable computers and devices.

We’ve curated a list of cybersecurity tips that can help you and your team make it through the holiday season safely. Read on to learn why the threats skyrocket during the holidays and the top 13 holiday cybersecurity tips and habits.

Why Do Cybersecurity Threats Rise During the Holiday Season? 

Due to the pandemic, online shopping quickly became the favorite option for buying gifts in 2020. In fact, according to Statista, the US online retail holiday sales grew by 50 billion dollars from the previous year. Statista reported that in 2021 holiday retail sales are forecasted to hit between 843 and 859 billion dollars. 

This increase in online shopping makes the holiday season prime time for cybercriminals to go after users and businesses. Consumers can be rushed and under pressure trying to find the perfect or last-minute gift. They also might be searching for the best deal out there. All this stress and urgency causes consumers to be more distracted and susceptible to potential scams. 

Another factor in the holiday cyberattacks is the sale events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, Super Saturday, and New Year’s Eve. The weekend around Thanksgiving, the weekend before Christmas, and the New Year’s weekend are full of discounts to drive sales which means millions of shoppers are flocking to stores online. 

Cybercriminals will target under-prepared consumers and retailers who engage in the festivities and sales. All businesses, retail or not, should understand the serious cybersecurity risks and damages during this time of year. 

Cybersecurity Tips for the Holiday Season 

We compiled 13 tips and habits that can protect you, your employees, and your business during this hectic time. 

Here’s the list of holiday cybersecurity tips:

  1. Use secure Wi-Fi. Whether your team is in the office or working remotely, ensure that the Wi-Fi network is secure and password protected. 
  2. Avoid using public Wi-Fi when making purchases. Public Wi-Fi can be dangerous and put your personal and company data at risk. Protect your financial information and other sensitive data by steering clear of public Wi-Fi. If you’re working remotely or trying to shop on the go at a cafe or airport, use a virtual private network (VPN), or use your phone as a hotspot.
  3. Keep all software up to date. Before diving into holiday shopping, update the software on all your internet-connected devices, including computers, phones, and tablets. Don’t forget to update all antivirus and security software on company devices as well. 
  4. Protect your passwords. Create strong passwords that are long, complex, and unique to each account you have. Use multi- and two-factor authentication whenever possible. 
  5. Don’t ever give your financial or personal information through email or text. This is a seemingly obvious but crucial rule of thumb to follow.  
  6. Look for “https://” on websites’ URLs. When the “http://” has an added “s” that indicates that the site is encrypted and transfers data safely.
  7. Think before you click. Pay attention to the emails you receive. Don’t open emails, don’t open attachments, and don’t click on links from unknown sources. Cybercriminals will use slightly changed email addresses to trick users. So, even if emails appear to be from people you know, double-check the email address.
  8. Use sites and apps you know. Try to shop on websites of trusted and reliable brands. Access these websites safely and directly by typing in their URL or selecting the URL through a search engine inquiry. 
  9. If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be fooled by the excitement of great sales and discounts from just any website. They can be ploys set up by hackers to scam users. 
  10. Beware of holiday emails. During this season, there’s an influx of emails notifying users of discounts and sales. Cybercriminals create similar emails infected with viruses and malware, hoping to get lost in the mix of deals. Give extra scrutiny to holiday-themed emails, and don’t open emails from sites you don’t know or haven’t visited. 
  11. Watch out for seasonal scams. Another way hackers try to attack consumers is through fake package tracking and delivery emails and texts, fake e-cards, fake charity donation request scams, and emails asking you to confirm purchase information. 
  12. Educate employees. Teach employees cybersecurity best practices to help eliminate human error-caused attacks. 
  13. Monitor your accounts. Pay extra attention to your bank accounts and credit and debit card statements during the holiday season. Most banking apps and sites offer an option to set alerts via text or email. These alerts can help you stay on top of your purchases and stop hackers early.

Stay Safe During the Holidays

Don’t let cybercriminals ruin your holidays. Watch out for any new scams that may pop up during this season, especially those targeting small businesses. Taking the time to implement all or even just a few of these cybersecurity tips will help to prevent attacks and protect you and your business. 

Our team helps companies in Minnesota and Wisconsin improve their cybersecurity. Schedule a security check today with Nicolet Tech.  To learn more about cyberattacks and how to prevent them, head to our blog homepage.

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