A person wearing a santa hat is sitting on a laptop, enjoying the holidays.

Hackers and the Holidays!

Cybersecurity Alert: Navigating Digital Threats During Festive Seasons

The holiday season, a time of festivity and reduced staffing in many businesses, presents a unique opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities in corporate networks. Recent trends and incidents have shown that attackers increasingly target businesses during holidays, taking advantage of reduced vigilance and the overworked state of employees who remain on duty.

 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have noted that threat actors often choose holiday periods for their attacks. This timing is strategic, as the attackers evaluate a victim’s ability to respond and the likelihood of a quicker ransom payment to regain access to data or prevent sensitive information leaks. To counter these threats, organizations are advised to engage in proactive threat hunting on their networks. This involves understanding the IT environment’s routine activities, reviewing data logs, and employing automated security alerting systems. Establishing a baseline of normal activities is crucial to identify anomalies that could indicate a network breach​​.

 

The cost of ransomware attacks is significant, averaging around $4.62 million, which is more expensive than the average data breach. Phishing emails are a common tactic used by attackers, leveraging the holiday season when end-users are less vigilant. The increased frequency of phishing scams during this period can lead to the planting of malware on corporate systems. Additionally, the holiday season often sees a rise in data breaches and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, exploiting the distracted state of employees and the high volume of online retail activity​​.

 

Organizations also face challenges due to the overworked and burned-out state of employees during the holidays. Lax cybersecurity hygiene, such as delayed responses to software vulnerability alerts and overlooked phishing emails, can create openings for cybercriminals. Multifactor authentication (MFA) fatigue is another concern, as employees may inadvertently grant access to attackers. Furthermore, threat actors exploit various system vulnerabilities, including Microsoft Exchange and remote desktop protocols, and engage in sophisticated ransomware attacks, often involving data theft and extortion​​.

 

In response to these heightened risks, organizations are advised to conduct phishing simulation training, reinforce password policies, and implement breached password protection. Additionally, having a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that includes regular updates, vigilant monitoring, and a trained and alert workforce is crucial for mitigating the risks associated with holiday cyberattacks. Employing these measures can significantly reduce the chances of a successful cyberattack and ensure business continuity even during vulnerable holiday periods.