Holiday Security Threats graphic

5 Security Threats to Watch Out for This Holiday Season

By Matthew Mangels – Director of Information Security & Compliance

The holiday season is fast approaching.  It’s a time full of joy, giving, and festive cheer.  But cyber threats ramp up during the holidays, seeking to exploit the festive season’s increased online activity and often catching individuals off guard.  Darktrace, a global leader in cyber security found that between November and January, the number of attempted ransomware attacks increases by 70% with hackers aware that companies are more willing to pay a ransom during the holiday season to avoid losing valuable data or disrupting operations. 

Remember when Kevin McCallister said, “This is my house, I have to defend it!”  Unlike the Wet Bandits, cyber threats don’t announce their presence with a catchy jingle.   

Here are the top tactics that hackers attempt to disrupt your holiday festivities.  

#1 Phishing Scams with Holiday Lures: “You guys give up, or are you thirsty for more?”  When it comes to phishing emails, it’s best not to engage or challenge. During the holiday season, phishing emails often adopt festive themes, imitating popular retailers or promoting fake holiday deals to lure unsuspecting users. They may also mimic charitable organizations, playing on the season of giving to solicit donations or personal information.  

#2 Insecure Online Shopping Sites: Online deals can be as tempting as a lovely cheese pizza… just for you. The festive frenzy makes shoppers more vulnerable, underscoring the importance of verifying site security and being wary of deals that seem too good to be true.  Fraudulent sites might deliver malware, sell counterfeit goods, or even fail to ship any product after payment.  Make sure the website is genuine before you dive in. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Globally, an estimated 30,000 websites are hacked each day. 

#3 Smart Device Vulnerabilities: An increase in the purchase and use of smart devices can expose consumers to vulnerabilities such as unauthorized access, data breaches, and malware infections.  Setting up your new device without proper security is like saying, “Come and get me!” to the digital Wet Bandits. Make sure you’re not making their job easy by enabling automatic updates, changing default passwords and settings, and connecting devices to a secure, encrypted network. 

#4 Public Wi-Fi Exploits: Using unsecured public Wi-Fi is like Kevin shouting, “I made my family disappear!” It might feel freeing at first, but the risks quickly become apparent.  Bad actors can monitor or intercept data on these networks and even inject malware.  Only connect to known networks that require authentication and support encryption.  Ensure your firewall is on; deactivate sharing settings on your device; avoid accessing sensitive information; and if possible, connect through a VPN. 

#5 Oversharing on Social Media: “Keep the change, ya filthy animal!” is a fun line for a movie, but not something you want hackers to say after accessing your financial details.  Limit sharing details about your location, travel plans, or gifts, which could alert potential burglars or scammers.  Be wary of those copy/paste surveys or silly questions about you.  When answering these questions, you often posted sensitive information about yourself in plain sight.   

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2023, 25% of Facebook accounts were hijacked, while the hacking percentage of Instagram accounts reached 85%.

Cyber threats may be silent attackers, but with vigilance and knowledge, you can prevent them from casting a shadow over your holiday cheer. Just as Kevin McCallister masterfully defended his home, you, too, have the power to protect your digital domain.  

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