Last year, as consumers flocked online to buy flowers, chocolates, and other gifts for their loved ones to celebrate Valentine’s Day, researchers at cybersecurity firm Check Point found something unsavory – indeed, downright malicious.
In the run-up to February 14, 2021, cyber attackers launched over 400 new Valentine’s Day-themed phishing emails targeting innocent users every week, a 29% increase on the previous year. Heartless hackers are now deploying a bigger-than-ever arsenal of Valentine’s Day scams, including phishing emails and fake e-greeting cards filled with malware, phony florist websites that steal credit card information, and dozens of other tricks. True, if you’re security-savvy, you probably won’t be fooled. But your employees might.
Cybercriminals long ago figured out that most people are less guarded around holidays when they’re festive and busy, so the bad actors escalate their attacks at these times. But you can fight back.
1: Be on high alert during your high season
You’re well-aware of the most critical times to your business. If you run a pool-cleaning company, the summer months are your peak period. The weeks and months before Christmas are make-or-break if you have a toy store. Easter and Halloween are your big seasons if you operate a candy shop.
These are the times when your systems and data must be up, running, and working smoothly. You know this. And who else knows? Hackers! They will use this knowledge to target your business when it is most vulnerable and extort the maximum ransomware payoff. Hackers understand that if they choose Valentine’s Day to compromise the website of a flower chain, the chain will pay a hefty price to get its systems back up and running because every hour down is more dollars lost.
All businesses should be on high alert during their high season. They must ensure that they have the proper protection to thwart hackers and that their defences are strong when they need them the most.
2. Back up and encrypt your data
Offline backups and data encryption can play a crucial role in protecting your organisation from ransomware attacks. You should quickly restore any compromised systems if you have good offline backups. The backups also need to be offline because all your online connected drives will be locked up in the event of a ransomware attack.
Encrypting your sensitive data is also highly recommended. If attackers gain access to your critical assets, they won’t be able to extort you if your data is securely encrypted.
3: Educate your employees
Almost 90% of security breaches are caused by human error. But a security awareness training programme can effectively teach your employees what they need to know to prevent breaches, such as how to recognise those phishing emails that open the door for almost half of all ransomware attacks.
You can also help by reminding your workers to practice good cyber hygiene, especially now that employees often do their jobs remotely. Stress the importance of basic measures like backing up data on a consistent schedule and in multiple places. If workers are storing data primarily on a USB drive, remind them to back up that data on a hard drive or in the cloud. If they’re storing data primarily in the cloud, remind them to save a copy offline.
4: Add MFA to your systems
Here are two stats to think about. Eighty-one percent of breaches leverage stolen or weak passwords. One million passwords are stolen every week.
But you can protect yourself against pilfered passwords with multifactor authentication (MFA). It’s one of the easiest and best ways to defend your company from a hack and brings an extra, effective layer of security to your systems.
Adding a second authentication factor, such as Google Authenticator, is vital for protecting your accounts. Using a password wallet that stores all your passwords and creates long, complex passwords for each account is also recommended. Always, of course, make sure to turn on two-factor authentication for the password wallet account.
5: Test your defences
While it’s essential to have a strong backup, as mentioned above, it is just as crucial that you’re able to recover lost data quickly and thoroughly. Are you? To be sure, you must test. You should regularly test your backup copies to be sure they can reliably restore your data.
You should also test your security regularly. An excellent way to do this is with penetration testing. A pen test is a simulated attack on your business that evaluates the security of your IT infrastructure. A thorough, professional pen test will cost £10,000 to £30,000. Yes, that’s expensive. But keep in mind that the average cost of a data breach is now over £3.5 million.
A lot of hearts will be bursting on Valentine’s Day. A lot will be broken too. Make sure yours isn’t one of them. Take steps to protect your business from cyberattacks and spend your February 14 reaching out to those your care about – not desperately trying to reestablish contact with your lost data.