holiday ransomware

Hackers don’t take holidays – Preparing for a ransomware attack this festive season

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The holiday period is a particularly critical time for businesses in terms of breaches and cyberattacks, such as ransomware attacks. With most employees taking time off on national holidays such as Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Day, these are perfect opportunities for cybercriminals to strike. A survey by Cybereason revealed that 24% of respondents did not have a contingency plan for attacks during the holidays despite already having been attacked over a holiday period. An alarming 70% of respondents admitted to being intoxicated when responding to such an attack.

This tactic of striking during a holiday has been used many times in the past, with the Colonial Pipeline attack occurring on Mother’s Day, JBS being attacked on Memorial Day, and Foxconn on Thanksgiving. These attacks on such large corporations have shown that the threat of ransomware is not letting up. Rather the opposite — attacks are happening more and more frequently, with 93% more attacks occurring in the first half of 2021 than the same period in 2020.

Holidays mean increased risk of attack

Put simply, ransomware attacks are a type of cyberattack in which the criminals hack into a company’s system or network and take them offline or seize sensitive data. The criminals then demand a ransom to restore the system or not leak the data — costly both in terms of expenditure and damaged reputation.

For retail businesses, like all sectors, the planned absence of staff creates another level of vulnerability to ransomware attacks over the Christmas period. Hackers don’t take breaks. It is crucial that you prepare your organization to defend against ransomware attacks no matter the time of year. At Barracuda, we recommend three simple steps to help protect your organization from ransomware: Protect your email, secure your applications and network, and back up your data.

Festive phishing attempts

It’s not just businesses that are at risk during the festive holiday period. With the amount of online shopping for Christmas gifts increased by the pandemic, and lockdowns following new variants and spikes in cases, there are more opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit consumers. Email and text phishing attacks are to be expected, disguised as order confirmations and shipping updates, as well as the more aggressive version of this attack, spear phishing, which is carefully designed to target a single recipient.

These approaches are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to spot, so it is essential to read every email carefully, including the address from which it was sent, and to refrain from clicking links until you have verified that the email is genuine. To learn more about phishing and how to spot malicious emails impersonating legitimate businesses or contacts, read our information on phishing emails.

What you can do

While traditional perimeter solutions are essential, they are not sufficient on their own. In many cases, the enemy is already inside. Additional security measures, such as network segmentation (especially in industrial environments), regular software updates and patching, logging and alerting, XDR, application and protocol detection, and anomaly detection can defeat attackers who already have a foot in the door, preventing privilege escalation and lateral movement. Barracuda’s CloudGen Firewall offers a comprehensive set of next-generation firewall technologies to ensure real-time network protection.

To defend yourself against phishing and spear phishing it is essential that you learn to identify and protect yourself from such tactics. A recent Barracuda report, Spear Phishing: Top Threats and Trends, Vol. 6, which covers both attack types, is your first port of call. Our AI-based Phishing and Impersonation Protection solution stops both types of email attacks in real time. Try it for free and request a demo.

It’s vital to remember that even though it’s a holiday, it doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Expect to be targeted and plan accordingly — apply our three-point method of protecting your emails, securing your applications, and backing up your data. The time to act against ransomware is before it happens, not in the aftermath.

Happy holidays!

E-book: A three-step guide to ransomware protection

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