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'Tis the season for.... phishing?

Well, pumpkin day has passed and it's time to bust out the other box of decorations.

The holiday season is upon us, and it's a time for joy, celebration, and, unfortunately, heightened cybersecurity risks. As we deck the halls and spread festive cheer, cybercriminals are also gearing up for their own version of holiday shopping – phishing campaigns. In this article, we'll explore the reasons why phishing activity tends to surge during this season, and more importantly, we'll offer valuable tips to help you and your organization stay safe from cyber threats.

'Tis the Season for Phishing

While the holidays are a time of joy and generosity, cybercriminals see them as a time of opportunity. Here's why phishing campaigns tend to spike during this season:

1. The Rush of Online Shopping

With the convenience of online shopping, more people turn to the internet to find the perfect gifts. Cybercriminals know this and create fake websites and phishing emails that mimic well-known retailers to steal your personal and financial information.

2. E-greetings and E-cards

As we send warm wishes to our loved ones with e-greetings and e-cards, cybercriminals exploit the trust associated with these messages to deliver malware or direct victims to phishing sites.

3. Financial Transactions

From booking flights to making hotel reservations and purchasing event tickets, financial transactions peak during the holidays. Attackers launch phishing attacks with fake invoices, payment requests, or travel confirmations to trick individuals and businesses.

4. Seasonal Scams

Holiday-themed scams, such as fake charity appeals, "letters from Santa," and holiday job offers, often contain phishing elements to collect personal information or financial contributions.

5. Distracted Consumers

The holiday season can be hectic, with many individuals multitasking and juggling various responsibilities. This distraction makes people more vulnerable to falling for phishing attempts.

Major Holidays: A Prime Target for Cyberattacks

Not only do phishing campaigns increase during the holiday season, but major holidays themselves often become the backdrop for large-scale cyberattacks. Attackers understand that people's guards may be down during these times. Here's why major holidays are prime targets:

1. Reduced Staffing

Many organizations have reduced staffing during holidays, making it easier for attackers to go unnoticed and extend their dwell time within compromised systems.

2. Delayed Response

With IT teams operating with reduced staff or being on holiday themselves, the response to cyber incidents may be delayed, giving attackers more time to execute their malicious activities.

3. Distracted Workforce

Employees may be less vigilant about cybersecurity during major holidays, increasing the likelihood of falling for phishing emails or other social engineering tactics.

4. Higher Transaction Volumes

On major holidays like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, online shopping spikes, providing attackers with more opportunities to launch successful phishing campaigns.

Tips to Stay Safe

Amidst the festive cheer and the hustle and bustle of the season, it's essential to remain vigilant against phishing threats. Here are some practical tips to help you and your organization stay safe:

1. Be Skeptical of Emails and Links

Exercise caution when clicking on links or opening attachments, especially if the sender is unknown or the email looks suspicious.

2. Verify Emails and Requests

If you receive an email requesting sensitive information or payment, verify its authenticity through a trusted channel before taking any action.

3. Shop from Trusted Websites

When shopping online, stick to well-known and trusted retailers. Verify the website's legitimacy by checking for security indicators like HTTPS and padlock icons.

4. Use Strong Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication

Ensure your accounts are protected by using strong, unique passwords and enabling multi-factor authentication whenever possible.

5. Stay Informed

Educate yourself and your employees about the latest phishing tactics and common scams to recognize and report them effectively.

6. Implement Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Organizations should conduct regular cybersecurity awareness training to educate employees about phishing threats and how to respond to them.

7. Update and Patch

Keep your software, operating systems, and antivirus programs up to date with the latest security patches.

8. Report Suspicious Activity

If you encounter a phishing attempt or any suspicious activity, report it to your IT department or the appropriate authorities promptly.

Wrapping it all up

As we embrace the holiday season, let's also embrace the responsibility of staying vigilant against phishing attacks and cyber threats. By understanding the increased risks during this time and following best practices for online safety, we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our organizations from falling victim to cybercriminals' holiday schemes. Remember, the best gift you can give yourself and your organization is the gift of cybersecurity awareness and preparedness..... or a new Furby (yes, they are back and still terrifying).

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