In preparation for Thanksgiving in the United States, we plan for holiday travel, eating together, watching football — and ringing in the holiday shopping season. But with all of the good cheer this season brings, it also brings extra activity online — which means cyber crime increases as well. Does your business prepare for the holidays by picking up extra bandwidth to support an increase in web traffic on your servers? Are you making sure to review your security plans?
The holidays are often the busiest time of the year for individuals, families, and businesses, and it’s also the busiest time of the year for hackers. Past years have seen an increase of 7 to 10 percent in online criminal activity during the holiday shopping season. One year in particular, 2015, resulted in an 84 percent increase of malware-related issues. Fend these off — and focus on enjoying time with family and friends instead — by crafting two specific business strategies: one for Cyber Monday, and one for Small Business Saturday.
Last year, Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) reported that Cyber Monday brought in $6.6 billion in online sales. With so much money going through online transactions, businesses need to review, revamp or redefine their security specifically for this day.
1. Create a checklist specific to your online presence to evaluate its security. It may include penetration testing, load testing, updating your SSL/TLS, keeping all plugins updated (avoiding Adobe Flash if possible), only collecting the customer data that you need, reviewing the security of your vendors and cloud providers, and setting a regular schedule to review and test.
2. In addition to reviewing your online site security, help your employees protect their own data by encouraging strong security on their mobile devices. If they connect to your network with a BYOD policy, this is even more important! ADI reported that 25 percent of online sales during back-to-school shopping season happened on smartphone devices. Help employees understand the importance of only doing this when they’re on a secure network. That could mean it’s safe on their home networks, the business network, their mobile data provider or when using a VPN for all public WiFi connections. Otherwise, others on the network can steal their financial data, personal information, usernames and passwords. Private Tunnel provides strong security at a low monthly cost through our VPN.
3. Similarly, provide your customers with a strong mobile shopping site. Last year, consumers spent almost $36 billion during holiday shopping on their mobile devices. And mobile accounted for over half of all traffic to retail websites. If you can provide your customers an excellent mobile experience, you can turn more of those visits into sales.
“We don’t want cyber Monday to turn into cyber ‘Crime Day’ for people trying to get the most for their hard-earned cash,” Francis Dinha, OpenVPN CEO stated.
Started in 2010, Small Business Saturday is tucked in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shoppers hit the crazy sales on that Friday, then shop from their desktop or mobile devices on the following Monday. In between, they are encouraged to patronize small and local businesses. (The specific term is actually trademarked by American Express.)
For small businesses, the differentiating factor is personal touch. The rapidly changing retail environment may feel like a steamroller paving highways for large corporations with no thought for the small businesses in the path, but two factors can give you a competitive edge: providing personal service, and contributing within your local community. If you become a victim of a cyber crime, that trust and touch gets demolished. For your business, the best thing you can do is prepare ahead of time.
Francis Dinha talked about how to prep: “While the large companies have an infrastructure to prevent cyber attacks, some of the small to medium sized businesses are the ones who can be the most vulnerable if they don’t protect themselves using additional security measures.” He recommends using VPN to encrypt information in and out of your network. Adding that layer of protection to your network secures your company’s digital information and protects the privacy of your web experience.
With security strategies in place for these important days, you can focus on your employees, your customers and your family, instead of worrying about the impact of increased cyber crime. The words of Benjamin Franklin still ring true today: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."