Cybersecurity During Holiday Season: Risks & Prevention

As the calendar pages turn, signaling the end of another year, a festive tapestry unfolds across the globe. From the cozy gatherings of Thanksgiving to the eerie allure of Halloween, the vibrant celebrations of Dussehra and Diwali in India, and culminating in the yuletide cheer of Christmas and the hopeful countdowns of New Year’s Eve, each festival weaves its own unique spell.  

In the heart of these celebrations lies a cherished tradition: the exchange of gifts.  

The allure of convenient shopping on e-commerce giants like Amazon and Myntra has become increasingly irresistible, especially during the festive season. This shift not only elevates the shopping experience for individuals but also provides a significant boost to sellers on these platforms.   

However, this digital transformation comes with its own set of challenges, particularly in terms of cybersecurity during holiday season.  

The well-known English adage, “Prevention is better than cure,” holds particularly true when it comes to cybersecurity during the holiday season for both businesses and individuals. It’s always more prudent to prioritize safety in the digital realm. This is because once the trap of cybercriminals snaps shut, reversing the damage can be an extremely challenging, if not impossible, task. So, what exactly does cybersecurity entail during this festive period? Let’s delve into understanding its significance and scope.  

Recent research indicates that by the end of 2023, e-commerce fraud in the retail sector is projected to hit a staggering US$48 billion worldwide.  

What is Cybersecurity During Holiday Season?

Cyberattacks are at their peak during the holiday season. Cybercriminals are much more active during this time of the year than ever. People can ensure cybersecurity during this time by avoiding using public WiFi, staying vigilant against phishing scams, not clicking on dubious links in emails, keeping software updated and using strong passwords, implementing MFA, and using credit cards for payments, among many other cybersecurity measures. But these measures are still not enough, it seems. Cybercrime rates are skyrocketing at an alarming level.  

Cybercriminals often target social media accounts to access individuals’ personal information and ultimately their financial details. By the close of 2022, statistics showed that 153 out of every 1000 internet users experienced breaches in their accounts.  

And these attacks not only target buyers, but sellers too. In Australia, cyberattacks occur with alarming frequency, approximately every 10 minutes. Notably, 43% of these attacks are specifically aimed at small and medium-scale enterprises.  

In UK, 32% Businesses suffered a breach between 2022-23. Among these incidents, medium-sized businesses witnessed a 59% increase in cyberattacks, while large businesses observed an even more significant hike of 69%.   

The financial repercussions were substantial, with the average cost of a breach to these businesses amounting to approximately €4,960. On a global scale, the average cost of a cyberattack in 2022 was a staggering US$4.35 million

Risk to Businesses During Holiday Season Sales

Supply chain attacks, ransomware, phishing and other advanced persistent threats are soaring in the retail industry. Cybercriminals are finding new ways of exploiting the vulnerabilities in the retail sectors’ POS Systems, cloud and server, endpoints and IoT devices. The average cost of a data breach industry is equivalent to US$3.28 million as of June 2023 

Financial fraud, spamming, bot-attack, phishing, malware, DDoS attack, fake returns and refund frauds are the top cybersecurity risks associated with the ecommerce retailers, creating the rising importance of cybersecurity during holiday season.  

79% of the businesses in the UK that suffered a cyberattack between 2022-23 said that they faced a phishing scam.  

But there is a ray of hope. Cyberattacks can be prevented by maintaining proper vigilance.  

  1. Retailers should keep a check on their network activity to check for any unauthorised access or even an unusual activity for that matter. Retailers who are based on a multichannel selling strategy should be double focused on getting cybersecurity solutions that work on prevention, detection and response strategy for any cybersecurity incidents. 
  2. Keeping the sensitive data encrypted can also prove helpful. Retail platforms also deploy homomorphic encryption practice to secure their sensitive data from cybercriminals who aim to fetch payment related and other sensitive data of customers for malpractices. 
  3. Network segmentation can help in securing buyers’ financial data, POS details and PII. Network monitoring tools help in monitoring each segment separately and noticing signs of lateral movement and attempts of data breach. 
  4. E-retailers should implement anti-malware solutions as a must, especially on the POS systems. Security patches and timely software updates too are helpful. 
  5. Zero trust approach is also crucial in maintaining cybersecurity in the e-retail sector. This helps to control user and device identity and access. 
  6. As per IBM, retail industry is more on risk with insider threats in the past two years, there has been a 38% hike. And 81% breaches start with compromised passwords, which is why employee training is essential in maintaining password hygiene and securing the digital landscape and cybersecurity during holiday season. 

Risk to Individuals During Holiday Season Sales

Online shopping makes things much more easier for buyers. They don’t have to get into a hectic schedule of going to buy and distribute gifts. Buyers can now simple order online and get it delivered to a desired address. But with all these benefits come the risks too. These are risks to cybersecurity during holiday season that could possibly expose buyers sensitive data like financial information or addresses, or more. Exposure of such data can present a myriad of perils to buyers.  

Cybercriminals also send spoof emails to buyers that lead to fake web pages. These fake web pages imitate original websites and are almost indistinguishable and smartly siphon off personal information and payment details of the customers for further exploitation.  

But it is still possible to prevent such mishaps. Here are a few ways buyers can implement to prevent data and financial loss.  

  1. Stay vigilant of fake online shops. Cybercriminals try to imitate original logos, fonts and layouts from trusted e-commerce sellers to compromise buyers personal information. But buyers need to stay vigilant and not fall into the trap no matter how amazing discounts are offered in the trap. 
  2. Cybercriminals send emails to buyers for tracking delivery of their items. When buyers click on those links, they either download a malware on their device or are redirected to a scam site where their personal information is stolen. 
  3. Prevent falling into social media scams by not clicking on every link you find on the social media platforms. A lot of these links could lead you to some very drastically negative outcomes like huge financial losses. 
  4. Never click on pop-ups. Whenever you are browsing a site, never click on pop-ups offering attractive discount coupons. These could lead you to malicious sites and possibly expose you to a cyberattack. Always close pop-ups. 
  5. Never fall trap for charity phishing scams. People donate for charity out of goodwill, and cybercriminals use this intent to their personal advantage. A lot of such links lead visitors to malwares or scamming sites. 
  6. Avoid using public WiFi for online shopping or while doing any financial transaction. These seem to help you save data but many times fraudsters use such networks to gather sensitive financial information. 
  7. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US are focused on protecting the rights of buyers. Sellers not following these regulations in their respective geographies can lead them to paying hefty fines. 

Events Ticket Scams

As people plunge into the holiday mood and plan to participate in festive events, scammers come running to exploit them in their hale and hearty moods. Cybercriminals sell fake tickets and create duplicate event listings. Scammers also produce false “error” messages at the time of payments.   

How to prevent getting trapped into such events? Read further.  

  1. Buy event tickets and passes only from trusted and official sources. Try not to buy them from thrid party sellers that sell tickets for prices too low to be true. 
  2. Always check properly if the event page is original. Scammers replicate original pages and lure innocent people. 
  3. Beware if someone is asking for a direct money transfer for an event ticket. There are sure shot scammers. 

Online payment fraud is expected to inflict a staggering cost of US$343 billion on businesses from 2023 to 2027. In the United States alone, a striking 53.35 million citizens fell victim to cybercrime in just the first half of 2022. These figures underscore the critical importance of cybersecurity during holiday season.  

While cybersecurity offers immediate benefits, particularly during the high-risk holiday season, its advantages extend far beyond the short term.   

Long-term benefits of cybersecurity during holiday season include secure data and networks, protection for users and devices, better regulatory compliance, business growth, and enhanced safety of personal data, among others.   

This holiday season, let’s commit to safeguarding ourselves against cybercrime with mindful steps of vigilance, embracing both the immediate and enduring benefits of cybersecurity. 

Media Disclaimer: This report is based on internal and external research obtained through various means. The information provided is for reference purposes only, and users bear full responsibility for their reliance on it. The Cyber Express assumes no liability for the accuracy or consequences of using this information.

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