The holidays are about celebrating and experiencing the joy of giving to loved ones. While shoppers are busy researching the latest trends and gifts, cybercriminals are just as busy finding ways to litter the digital landscape with scams, data breaches, and other exploitative ways of obtaining personal data.
It’s important to increase the precautions that are placed to safeguard customer and business data during the festive season. Data security is not only vital for businesses but for customers as well. Let’s delve into why businesses should elevate data security measures during the holiday season.
1) To Address the Increase of Online Shopping
As the holidays approach, online shopping increases everywhere across the internet as everyone checks out the special holiday deals. This surge provides the perfect opportunity for additional cyber threats to occur. While it’s always nice to browse stores in person for the perfect gift, shopping online can be the easiest option for those with hectic schedules.
“This increase in traffic is ideal for cybercriminals looking to score big on obtaining consumer information. Elevating data security measures during this time is paramount to prevent cyberattacks,” says Dominique Zimmermann, CEO and Head Designer of Bombshell Sportswear.
Cybercriminals have plenty of ways to obtain personal information from companies and their customers. Just as children spend the season trying to stay off of Santa’s bad list, businesses and consumers want to avoid landing on the list of data and security breaches.
2) To Be Proactive Instead of Reactive
Preventing a data breach is more cost-effective than trying to clean up the aftermath. During the holiday season, taking extra measures to ensure that all security systems are secure prevents major financial repercussions in the event of a breach.
“The financial hit that a business can take is astronomical when you consider the legal expenses and potential loss of customers,” explains Jonathan Zacharias, Founder of GR0. “It’s a business-smart strategy to be proactive rather than reactive, and that means considering a boost in safeguards.”
Before the holiday season approaches, take the time to evaluate if there are any security weak spots and make a plan to boost defenses. This will give IT teams ample time to prepare and will allow for quicker response and recovery in the event of a breach. This will also help to minimize the impact and any damages caused.
3) To Protect Company Information
Companies either have either a product or an idea that sets them apart from others. This proprietary information needs to be protected from cybercriminals who may want to steal this information and sell it to competing companies.
“With increased traffic on the website, valuable assets need to be secured to ensure intellectual property is kept away from competitors,” shares Maggie Brown, Founder and CEO of Recess Pickleball. “Companies and their employee’s livelihoods can be put at risk when these assets are left unprotected.”
Employee information is also important to protect. If a company experiences setbacks from cyber attacks, its employees may question how secure their own personal information is. This can negatively affect trust and morale across departments within the organization.
4) To Protect Brand Reputation
Companies and brands have a certain reputation to maintain to encourage customer loyalty. Not only does this product or service encourage repeat purchases, but customers also trust the brand. People are more likely to continue to be repeat purchasers of brands that they trust.
“Trust is a fundamental piece when it comes to relationship building with customers,” says Andrew Meyer, CEO of Arbor. “Trust is also a consideration in the decision-making process that our customers make when purchasing products from us. We want them to know that we take their data seriously.”
Even if a crisis occurs, companies that are known to have a strong reputation for data protection will be better able to weather the storm of negative events. It’s important for businesses to keep customers in the know of what measures are taken to protect their information.
5) To Avoid Governmental Interference
The government maintains and enforces laws on data security measures that companies must abide by. This includes rules for processes like how electronic payments are processed and how customer information is stored. These regulations are especially important when online shopping peaks during the holidays.
“The government wants to ensure that businesses are doing all they can to safeguard customer data. Complying with these standards keeps information safe and the company in compliance. It also helps to prevent government interference,” advises Max Schwartzapfel, CMO of Fighting For You New York.
Being transparent about security practices allows everyone to see that the business takes data security seriously. This accountability keeps the government at bay and helps to build customer trust.
6) To Protect Against Remote Work Security Gaps
Security gaps can occur when employees working from home use their devices for work or use a work device for personal shopping. During the holiday season, schedules are usually less rigid. Cybercriminals do not rest, so extra protection is needed during the more relaxed and festive environment.
“Businesses with remote workers should recognize that employees will use the same device to do work and shop online. It is important to add extra security precautions to protect both the company and employees from would-be cybercriminals,” shares Richard Li, Co-Founder of July, a company known for offering some of the best carry on luggage on the market.
Many companies also use virtual private networks (VPNs) that employees must log on to before accessing any company data. This can help ensure the security of remote working environments, which has continued to become extremely popular following the COVID-19 pandemic.
7) To Ensure Continued Customer Trust
The most valuable asset for any company is their customers. Maintaining customer trust is key to keeping strong relationships. As repeat customers come back to the companies and brands they trust the most to cross off their holiday shopping, maintaining the highest level of data security is essential.
“Be clear with customers about additional security measures that are taken during the holidays. Customers should be aware they may have to use two-factor authentication or a CAPTCHA to access their accounts. While this may take an extra moment, it is an extra safeguard to protect customers, and they will appreciate the security of their personal data”, says Asker A Ahmed, Director of iProcess Global Research.
Customers not only care about the product or service that a company provides but also how they conduct business. Transparent communication about security efforts reassures customers and strengthens their trust in the company or brand in question.
8) To Protect Against Insider Threats
While it’s important for a business to protect against outside threats, the inside must be protected as well. Employees who have access to sensitive data can accidentally or intentionally abuse their privileges to this sensitive data, leading to security breaches. Background checks, continuous monitoring, and tech education for employees can help safeguard against insider threats.
“Training opportunities should be offered to help increase awareness related to phishing emails that can lead to information leaks,” advises Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce. “These opportunities allow businesses to relay to their employees that they are the first defense and most vast security net the company has.”
Businesses may choose to hold additional training to bring extra attention to the fact that cybercrimes tend to be on the rise during the holidays. Regular training and communication enhance the overall strength of security in an organization.
9) To Prevent Phishing Scams From Occurring
Businesses can take proactive steps to avoid phishing scams from occurring during the holidays. Emails can be generated that look almost identical to emails that are sent by a company, which can cause serious problems for customers if they click on links that look like they were provided by the company.
“Phishing scams have become extremely life-like. Always bringing attention to the latest phishing attempt keeps everyone from employees to customers in the know,” provides Patrick Schwarzenegger, Co-Founder of MOSH.
Companies can be vigilant by addressing previous phishing attacks. Publicly recognize real-life phishing attacks, so customers can stay aware of scam emails in their inbox. Once a phishing scam is recognized, a company should then avoid using those email templates to avoid further confusion.
10) To Maintain Peace of Mind
The holiday season is meant to be enjoyed with friends and family, drinking hot cocoa and wrapping gifts. The last thing anyone wants to be doing is cleaning up the mess from a security breach. On the flip side, customers also do not want to deal with the hassle of having their personal information leaked to cybercriminals.
“Protecting customer trust, avoiding financial consequences, and maintaining brand reputation are all things that can bring peace of mind when investments are made in security precautions during the holidays,” explains Kristen Pechacek, Chief Growth Officer of MassageLuXe, a prominent spa franchise.
While it’s essential for businesses to secure their customers’ personal information, it is also advantageous to educate customers on being proactive on their end, too. Send reminders that customers will never be asked for their passwords via text or email and that they should never give out their credit card information to someone claiming to be from the company.
11) To Stay Ahead of Attackers
You may be taking well-deserved vacation time off during the holidays, but cybercriminals will not be resting during this time of the year — especially when internet traffic is at its highest. When elevating data security measures, companies must be prepared for multiple types of attacks.
“The root cause is a failure of imagination. A failure to imagine the sophistication and persistence of their attackers,” says Malcolm Marshall, head of Cyber Security at KPMG.
Teams must always keep themselves updated on all the different types of scams out there. Then there must be firewalls put into place to protect the company and customers from being at risk. The more defenses that are put into place, the safer everyone will be.
12) To Keep Other Vendors and Companies Safe
Companies routinely work with other companies to supply them with materials. Cybercriminals are starting to not only go after customer information but also the information of vendors hoping that the company will pay them for products or services rendered. Cybercriminals will try any vantage point possible to gain access to company information.
“If you put a key under the mat for the cops, a burglar can find it, too. Criminals are using every technology tool at their disposal to hack into people’s accounts. If they know there’s a key hidden somewhere, they won’t stop until they find it,” says Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
When considering data security, look at the partner companies. Are their data security protections up to par? For example, cybercriminals can pose as vendors asking for payment. The question to ask is if there are procedures put into place to ensure that all vectors are safely guarded.
Keep Dreaming of a White Christmas (With No Data Breach Nightmares!)
During this festive time period, everyone wants to celebrate the holiday spirit. In the dark corners of the internet, cybercriminals are gearing up their latest ploys to exploit security gaps. As the holidays approach and online shopping increases, it is crucial for companies to bolster their defenses. With these precautions put in place, all businesses and consumers can enjoy the holiday season.