The holiday season is approaching, bringing joy, family gatherings, and celebrations. As we dust off the decorations and begin drafting shopping lists, security professionals must grapple with an underlying concern: the increased risk of cyberattacks.
Year-end festivities bring a rise in online activities – shopping, holiday greetings, and more. Unfortunately, this bustling digital activity attracts cybercriminals ready to exploit the season’s goodwill, creating an enormous risk of endpoint attacks.
As festive preparations get underway, we at Qualys are committed to ensuring you have one less thing to worry about. To that end, we are excited to offer Qualys customers to try Qualys Endpoint Security between now and Dec 31, 2023. Before diving into its details, let’s first understand the broader threat landscape that drives the need for such protective measures.
Understanding the Holiday Cyber Threat Landscape
The idea that cyber threats ramp up during holidays and long weekends is not just speculation—it’s grounded in real-world events that have made headlines. Over the last decade, many of the most significant breaches have occurred on or around the holiday season, including the 2013 Target breach, the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures, the 2020 SolarWinds supply chain attack, and many more.
Zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange Server (CVE-2022-41082 and CVE-2022-41080, also known as ProxyNotShell) serve as a recent example of how a cyber-attack can have a substantial impact from both the technical and the people perspectives. A wave of exploits in late December 2022 chained these vulnerabilities together to allow attackers to achieve remote code execution on critical enterprise infrastructure.
Log4j provided similar disruptions in 2021.
Research shows that average ransomware attacks increased by 30% over the holidays. Holidays are a time for many people to take a break from work, but cybercriminals keep busy.
Why are cyber threats active during the holiday season?
Several factors converge during the holiday season, making it attractive for cyber threats:
- Reduced Staffing: As the holiday season rolls around, even the most diligent cybersecurity professionals need a well-deserved break. Reduced staffing often means organizations run their cybersecurity with a “skeleton crew.” This can mean slow response times, missed threats, and less bandwidth to manage and respond to incidents. It’s a perfect time for cyber adversaries to strike, fully aware that defenses might not be as robust as they usually are.
- Online Shopping Surge: The holiday season brings huge sales, deals, and last-minute gift purchases, which sparked a flurry of e-commerce activity. Because of this, cybercriminals often intensify their phishing campaigns to trick users into revealing personal information.
- Increased Use of Corporate Devices for Personal Use: Over the holiday season, corporate devices are increasingly used for personal purposes as users take advantage of holiday offers and deals on personal devices. The risks associated with inadvertently downloading malicious software and accessing compromised websites are significantly increased.
The Morale Factor of Holiday Cyber Threats
Beyond the immediate technical impacts of cyber threats, there’s an often-underestimated human element to consider during the holidays. As cyber threats increase during these festive periods, any successful breaches or compromises can deliver a severe blow to the morale of an organization’s security team.
Team members, who might already be feeling the strain of year-end pressures and looking forward to cherished time with loved ones, can find their spirits dampened by the stress and anxiety of security incidents.
Organizations globally scramble to patch their systems and mitigate potential exploits. For many IT and cybersecurity professionals, discovery means long hours of unplanned work, pulling them away from holiday plans and year-end breaks.
The sense of urgency, combined with the personal sacrifices made by countless professionals, underscored how cyber incidents can outsize morale, amplifying the technical challenges organizations face during such times.
Best Practices for Protecting Your Organization Over the Holidays
These unique challenges demand increased vigilance from security teams. Some recommendations for staying ahead of cyber attackers include:
- Invest in Prevention and Automation: Knowing that staff might be limited, ensure that automated prevention and response systems are up-to-date and fine-tuned. This will help stop threats before they get a foothold and minimize the need for security analysts to engage directly.
- Stay Updated: Before the holiday season kicks in, ensure that all software, especially security software, is up-to-date. Patches should be applied to fix known vulnerabilities, focusing on high-risk vulnerabilities that are prone to be exploited by ransomware groups and other adversary groups.
- Check Backups: Ensure that all critical data is backed up regularly. Ransomware attacks can be especially prevalent during this time, and having robust backups can prevent significant data loss.
- Reiterate Security Best Practices: Remind employees of best practices before the holidays begin. This includes not clicking on suspicious links, especially from emails claiming to offer holiday deals, and always using secure and varied passwords.
- Stay informed: Defenders must stay updated with the news, as new threats can emerge and move quickly.
The holiday season, while a time of joy and relaxation for many, is a period of heightened vigilance for security professionals. By staying proactive and considering these recommendations, security teams can ensure the festive season remains merry and secure.
Qualys Customers Offer: Gain Peace of Mind with Qualys Endpoint Security
Amid this growing complexity, Qualys is proud to introduce an exclusive offer to our valued customers: Try Qualys Endpoint Security between now and Dec 31, 2023, to:
- Protect against holiday threats by stopping ransomware, phishing, and other threats while also helping to rapidly remediate vulnerabilities that attackers use to gain a foothold in the first place.
- Give your team breathing room since Qualys consolidates siloed tools and delivers centralized visibility for proactive security and efficient incident response.
- Save time and money as Qualys Endpoint Security leverages your existing Qualys Cloud Agent, empowering you with better protection in just a few clicks.
This limited-time offer shows our commitment to your cybersecurity, ensuring you navigate the holiday season—and beyond—with peace of mind and robust defense mechanisms in place.