Proven Holiday Cybersecurity Tips for Organizations to Safeguard your Digital Presence

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Cybersecurity Tips for Your Organization

The holiday season is around the corner, and so the attackers are ready with their tools to leverage vulnerabilities. In recent years, some of the most impactful cyberattacks have also been discovered during Christmas and New Year.

If you are a CISO or a senior security professional, then you don’t need to fret more. Here, we have provided a complete list of approaches, techniques, and methods that can help you secure IT infrastructure during holidays and enjoy the festivals with your loved ones.

An Insight Into Holiday Season

In the West, the holiday season is during Christmas and New Year (25th December to 1st January). During this time, most organizations declare holidays, as Christmas is the biggest festival among the people in American, Australian, and European continents.

Also, retail sales are at their highest at this time of the year. People buy stuff for their homes and gifts for their loved ones.

According to the Deloitte reports, 65% of people are shopping online, and the number is increasing this year. Among these people, 29% are looking to purchase their favorite products on event sales, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

As online shopping increases, so does the risk of becoming a victim of a cyber-attack. Let’s look at its details in the further section.

Why Focus More on Security During Holiday?

Most employees are on holiday or working from home during Christmas and New Year. Also, email marketing campaigns are on the verge. Due to this, personal and organizational cyber security is at the highest risk during the holiday period.

Attackers try their best to impersonate companies and conduct phishing attacks as the security professionals are not around.

In addition, numerous firms have also discovered a rise of 73% in cyber attacks during the holiday period 2022. And this number is going to increase more in 2023.

– On Average, Cyberattacks increase by 40% in holiday season. 

If we look at the holiday season of 2022, numerous attacks are impacting the core of globally recognized organizations, such as:

  • Ransomware attack on Rackspace
  • Russian Market being hit by a data wiping tool
  • Microsoft Exchange malware attack

All such factors conclude that the holiday season can be an open invitation for attackers if you lack any security control. To help you in this aspect, we have provided the TTLs from top security professionals, supporting the prevention of illegitimate actors during holidays.

Tips, Techniques, and Tactics To Strengthen Cybersecurity

You can follow the tips, recommendations, and techniques below to secure your digital presence when most of the employees are on holiday.

#1: Use SSL/TLS For All Server-Browser Communications

Nowadays, most of the companies offer their service and products through a website. Whenever a customer has to purchase a product, they navigate to your site, add it to the cart, and make the payment. However, if your website is not secure, all the customer details will be accessible to a hacker. Also, it will initiate legal action against the firm.

So, you should use a trusted SSL/TLS certificate for your website such as OV SSL or EV SSL. Such a digital certificate enables HTTPS to transport every bit through an encrypted channel. As a result, data integrity and confidentiality are maintained. Also, you align with the defined security standards to operate an online business.

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#2: Automate Certificate Renewal

All the companies operating online, providing software, and even communicating internally use a digital certificate, such as SSL/TLS and Code signing certificate.

All these certificates have a validity period, after which they start displaying errors to users and disabling them from accessing the software. Sometimes, confidential information is also disclosed through errors in browsers, which can be useful to attackers.

So, before the beginning of the holiday season, you should ensure that all the certificates are valid until the office resumes. However, if you discover a certificate expiring during the Christmas break, its renewal must be automated. You can use the certificate manager applications for automating the certificate lifecycle.

Renew your Digital Certificate Now without any Hassle

#3: Update OS, Applications, Drivers and Firmware

In recent years, numerous breaches have been registered, and one of their main root causes was outdated operating systems, firmware, and drivers. Such software files can contain vulnerabilities, leading the attacker to exploit them and gain privileged access to the organization’s internal system.

To avoid any such mis happening at your firm, update all operating systems, drivers, and firmware files to the latest version. In addition, always test the update in an isolated environment before pushing it to the significant machines. It will make you ensure that the update fulfills compatibility, security, stability, and performance requirements.

#4: Update Firewall Policies

Network intrusion and exfiltration are the prime attack types preferred by hackers to enter into a company’s system. To prevent illegitimate attackers from breaching your network, utilize a next-generation firewall with IDS (Intrusion Detection System) and IPS (Intrusion Prevention System) functionalities.

In addition, you should update all the firewall policies according to the working hours and availability of the employees. Moreover, both standard and extended access lists used for DMZ, internal, and public-facing systems should also be updated according to the:

  • The number of employees working remotely.
  • The number of employees working on-site.
  • Working hours and shifts of the employees.
  • The expected user traffic.
  • The type of data packets allowed for transfer during holiday break.

#5: Configure Backup Servers

Backup servers must be configured and tested before the Christmas break starts. It will help you ensure the data availability. The backup server will be highly helpful in the following cases:

  • If the main server crashes, the backup server will start providing the services without interruption.
  • You can use a backup server if an attack gets executed and data is deleted.
  • If a system error occurs, it causes the OS to crash. Then, you can use the backup server to recover the configuration.

Furthermore, you need to implement daily backups for complete data to let employees use that information for their operations after the break.

#6: Enable VPNs (Virtual Private Network) and SSL

Most of the employees work remotely during Christmas and New Year. To secure their access to the company resources, you should configure a VPN service. The VPN will establish a secure connection from the employee’s system to the company’s internal network. Also, it will help you track the services being used, data being retrieved, and operations being executed.

Additionally, the attackers will be prevented from performing a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. The data integrity and confidentiality will be retained until the VPN is enabled with the strongest encryption algorithm.

Further, you must ensure that a valid SSL certificate is configured on the websites owned by your company. It will support you in maintaining user security and offering services seamlessly. Using an authentic SSL certificate from globally renowned CA like Comodo, Sectigo, Certera, and DigiCert is always recommended.

#7: Have an Incident Response Team on Standby

Thoroughly plan every possible threat and risk factor to create an incident response plan. All critical cyber-security personnel should be on standby to immediately react if anything unexpected happens. Whether it’s an application, network, endpoint, infrastructure, or other security team, all must be available on call.

In addition, focus on the following points while creating an incident response plan:

  • Secure and multiple communication mechanisms must be planned.
  • All the team members should be clear with their roles and responsibilities.
  • The fleet should be available if the team is required on-site.
  • On-site and cloud-based security systems should be automated during the holiday time.
  • Everything should be logged and monitored.

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#8: Upgrade To MFA

Globally renowned cyber-security firms and professionals recommend MFA or Multi-Factor Authentication. For a robust security infrastructure, MFA must be configured on every system.

You can follow the below MFA plan to avoid data exfiltration:

  • Configure user credentials + OTP-based authentication for remote users.
  • Configure ID Card + Biometrics authentication for employees coming to the office.
  • Log the authentication details, such as date and time, and cross-verify them with the employee’s shift timing.
  • For the critical systems, use an HSM and password-based multi-factor authentication. It will enable only authorized users with hardware modules to access and modify confidential information.

#9: Perform Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is a must to perform tasks before the holidays. It helps you identify the vulnerabilities, assess their criticality level, and plan mitigation. While performing risk assessment, you are required to focus on the following aspects/factors:

  • All the identified vulnerabilities/risks/threats should be assessed based on qualitative and quantitative factors.
  • If possible, multiple mitigation mechanisms should be planned following the level of risk.
  • Appropriate teams should be informed about the identified risks and the procedure to follow in case of emergency.
  • Perform the risk assessment on all primary and secondary assets, including the backup servers and endpoint systems. Additionally, try to cover all three network layers: core, distribution, and access.

Assess the security posture of your website,identify the malicious areas and resolve the security concern

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#10: Utilize Email Digital Certificates

Regardless of the holidays, you should prefer using email or SMIME certificates in your organizations. It will help the employees to authenticate the identity of the sender easily and also encrypt the messages. Due to this, confidential information will remain secure, and phishing attacks will also be reduced.

#11: Provide Training

During the holiday season, most of the business offer heavy discounts due to Christmas and New Year. They use email marketing campaigns to reach out to their customers and target audience. Attackers also use this email technique to gain valuable insights.

Illegitimate actors use spoofed email addresses to perform phishing and whaling attacks. To prevent these attacks, you need to train the workforce to differentiate between authentic and spoofed mail, offering discounts.

Recommended: What is Email Spoofing? Definition, Example & Prevention

In addition, the employees should be trained not to click any unauthorized link, to open a third-party site on their work device, and to always access websites with HTTPS only.

#12: Update Employee Device Policies

Cyber attacks can be encountered from anywhere, so you should prefer providing company devices to employees for work from home. All the laptops and mobile given to employees must be bound to organizational policies.

You should define the access lists to deny access to third-party websites, e-commerce stores, streaming services, and unsecure web apps. In addition, installation of additional software, using a USB, and connecting to public Wi-Fi must be restricted. Similarly, you can define the policies according to your requirements to make the IT infrastructure secure during holidays.

Concluding Up

With the rise in cyber-attacks during the holiday season, it’s necessary to follow the top-recommended techniques, tactics, and procedures. As a security professional or CISO, you can provide training to employees, have a team on standby, conduct risk assessments, update complete infrastructure, and automate IDS, IPS, logging, and monitoring systems.

In addition, you are required to have a check on all the activity to ensure data integrity and availability. By doing so, you can provide a gift of confidentiality to your loved ones and business stakeholders.

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta

Janki Mehta is a passionate Cyber-Security Enthusiast who keenly monitors the latest developments in the Web/Cyber Security industry. She puts her knowledge into practice and helps web users by arming them with the necessary security measures to stay safe in the digital world.