The holidays are supposed to be one of the most beautiful and happy times of the year. Most people are thinking about family, friends, events, presents, etc. This is the time of year when most people let their guards down to help others, but unfortunately, it opens a door for thieves to prey on the vulnerability of the innocent.
Retail stores are much busier during the holiday season, with people running around in a hurry trying to get last-minute shopping done while being forced to wait in long lines. However, consumers are becoming more familiar with the convenience of online shopping and the luxury of staying at home while shopping. The only downfall to an increase in internet activity is hackers have more people to prey on. The most common way for a hacker to gain access to credentials is when a user unknowingly gives it to the hacker through a phishing email or a website that is not secure.
It is critical to know the importance of protecting what is yours. Most people lock their car door when they go into a store to avoid theft; they hold their belongings close so nobody will walk off with them. Purchasing items online is the same thing; it is essential to lock and protect the network/passwords to avoid someone stealing them.
There are a few reasons why hackers believe this is the best time of year to steal:
- Password Similarity: When creating passwords, people choose something easy so they can remember it. It is recommended to have a problematic password as well as a different password for every application. Strong passwords will take more effort from the user, but it will also make it harder for a hacker to break into everything that you have. If the hacker manages to get into one application, it will at least help prevent access to the others. Don’t make it easy for the hacker to steal your data!
- Reduction in staff: Organizations are usually pretty generous on giving their employees extra time off during the holidays, which means nobody is keeping an eye on the network. Sometimes a hacker will gain access to a network weeks or months before the actual attack through a phishing email. Once the hacker gains access, they will wait until nobody is in the office, which will give them extra time to go through the entire network and steal everything. Depending on the intent of the hacker, they can also shut the network down or hold data ransom, which is where the organization will have to pay a lot of money to unlock the system.
- Unsecure Networks: It is common for businesses to think the only requirement to protect a network is through anti-virus software. Anti-virus software is important, but it can easily be hacked without the proper backup systems in place, such as firewalls and spam filters, etc. If an educated hacker wants to get into a system that only has anti-virus software, they will most likely be successful. The anti-virus software makes it more challenging to gain access, but it does not completely secure the network. It is recommended to always look for the lock symbol on the browser to verify the website you are visiting is secure. Also, please make sure all of your security and browser versions are up to date.
- Use of Personal Email: Users tend to open their personal email at work due to the convenience of having the computer in front of them. This action is not recommended and can be unsafe for the business network. There may be encrypted data that can get transferred inside the business network when opening unfamiliar files. Once a user clicks on a malicious link in an email or provides their credentials, they are not able to retract their actions. It is essential to recognize any spelling errors in the email or hover the cursor over the web address to see if the pop-up web address matches. It is also recommended to add one extra security measure by enabling two-factor authentication; this will make sure the correct assigned user is trying to gain access to a program.
- Phishing emails: Phishing emails are malicious, replicated emails that appear to be coming from a trusted sender. Realistically, the email is a hacker pretending to be someone else to steal data. Be extremely cautious when opening any link inside an email. If you are looking to track a package or if you receive an email regarding a billing statement, open a new tab or browser and type the URL you are trying to visit.
Every year hackers learn new ways to steal data, especially during the holidays. Every individual that utilizes a computer needs to take precautionary measures to educate themselves on how to avoid becoming a victim.