The holiday season (especially during Black Friday) is a time of celebration and gift-giving. It’s also a prime time for cybercriminals to take advantage of the increased online activity during the holiday season. With many IT personnel on vacation, the risks of security breaches are higher than ever. Ensuring the cyber security of your Black Friday and other holiday sales is of utmost importance. Failing to do so can lead to a cascade of detrimental consequences, both for your business and your customers (yikes!). Cyberattacks during this high-traffic season can result in data breaches, compromising sensitive customer information (like credit card details, bank information, addresses, and personal data). Such breaches can lead to a loss of trust, eroding customer confidence in your brand. Financial losses from fraudulent transactions, customer refunds, and the cost of resolving security breaches can also be significant. Furthermore, a compromised website can disrupt your operations, leading to downtime and missed sales opportunities. Therefore, investing in robust cyber security measures is not just a simple precaution; it's a critical strategy to safeguard your business's integrity, protect customer trust, and ensure a successful and secure holiday shopping season.
To ensure your online presence and financial information are secure during this busy season, here are five essential security tips you can implement today:
Update All Your Systems and Devices
Before the holiday season kicks off, it's crucial to ensure that all your systems, including your phone, tablet, and computer, are running the latest software updates. Do not put these off! These updates often include security patches to address vulnerabilities, making your devices less susceptible to cyberattacks. Additionally, don't forget to update other hardware on your network, like printers, smart speakers, and routers, as cybercriminals can also target these. While it may seem tedious, it is worth ensuring everything is up to date to help strengthen your devices’ security.
Keep Your IoT Devices Secure
In addition to the traditional devices, it's essential to focus on the security of Internet of Things (IoT) devices connected to your network. These devices can be things such as smart speakers, home security cameras, and other IoT gadgets, and can be entry points for hackers. Make sure you update the firmware on these devices and change default passwords to enhance their security. Do not make it easy for cybercriminals. Default settings are easy to use, but you should get in the habit of personalizing your password. Note: do not use a generic or easily guessable password. Use a phrase or suggested password (be sure to write it down somewhere!) for added security.
Update Your Website Software
If you run an online store, your website is your primary interface with customers. It’s what gives people an impression and understanding of you and your brand. That’s why it is so important for your website's software to be up to date with the latest security patches. For those using e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, or WordPress, pay extra attention to third-party apps and plugins. Remove any that you no longer use, as these can become potential security vulnerabilities (and can bog down your site). Before doing so, always create a backup of your website and have an IT specialist on standby in case any issues arise.
Monitor Your Financial Accounts
During the holiday season, it's essential to keep a close eye on your own bank and credit card accounts. Regularly review your transactions for any suspicious or unauthorized activities (even if the amount if only a little amount). If you spot anything unusual, report it to your bank or credit card company immediately. Early detection of fraud can prevent significant financial losses. Financial establishments and institutions usually have fraud departments and protocols in place that help users report suspicious transactions and even get reversals of those transactions. It is just important to be vigilant.
Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
One of the simplest yet most effective ways to enhance your online security is to enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on your accounts. This includes your webshop software, email accounts, and, perhaps most crucially, your social media accounts. Cybercriminals often target social media profiles during the holiday season, aiming to spread malware or engage in identity theft. This can compromise your brand, its image, messaging, and more. With 2FA, even if your password is compromised, an additional layer of security is in place, preventing unauthorized access since another password, passcode, or combination is necessary to get access to the platform. While it may seem annoying at times, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Use a Secure VPN Service
If you're working remotely or shopping from a public location, using a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) service is essential. A VPN encrypts your internet connection, making it much more challenging for hackers to intercept your data. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, this added layer of protection can make all the difference in keeping your information safe. You can get a VPN for a decent price that allows you to connect anywhere around the world. Because platforms and other applications are not accessible from certain areas of the world, a VPN could also help you bypass this limitation by allowing you to connect to an IP address in a different country through your VPN. This will make it look like you are connecting somewhere else and can allow you access to certain features, content, and services that would otherwise be unavailable. VPNs are a great investment for any business owner!
Other good VPN options:
Don’t Go Lax Over the Holidays
The holiday season should be a time of joy and celebration, not stress and anxiety about cyber threats. By following these five security tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to cyberattacks during Black Friday and the holiday season (giving you peace of mind). Remember that cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics, so maintaining a proactive and vigilant stance on security is the best way to protect yourself and your online assets. Don’t set yourself up for failure! Protect your brand, assets, and yourself. Stay safe, and enjoy the festivities without worrying about your digital security.