Digital shoppers this holiday season are giving businesses everywhere a reason to celebrate. Online consumers are still breaking sales records in almost every retail category despite higher sticker prices, lower sales discounts, and limited product inventories.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

With the big digital holiday shopping events like Cyber Monday now over, this year saw a $62 billion increase in U.S. sales (up 4% YoY), making one thing clear – it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. This data from Salesforce, a global leader in CRM, shows that consumers are not quite ready to sacrifice one of the most hallowed traditions of the holiday season: spending money. Even with the news of ongoing supply chain disruptions, rising inflation rates, and a new Covid-19 variant threatening global markets.

While digital shopping might help ensure product availability and minimize a Covid-19 holiday surge (compared to in-person holiday shopping), the increase in online shopping this holiday exposes shoppers and businesses to the disastrous effects of the holiday gift that no one wants: cybercrime.

In a year that witnessed unprecedented rises in digital crime, businesses and consumers worldwide must step up their efforts to protect themselves from the increased risk.

Unfortunately, these terms are becoming synonymous with the holiday shopping season:

  • data breaches
  • identity theft
  • fraud
  • scams
  • ransomware attack
  • cyber threats

Cybercrime Risks

Despite repeated warnings and high-profile cyberattacks in 2021, the state of cybersecurity readiness among U.S. businesses is alarmingly deficient.

Did You Know? According to digital security research reported by Forbes, almost 80% of IT security leaders believe their organizations still suffer from insufficient cybersecurity protection, despite the overall increases in digital security investments made during 2020.

Information from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) delivers more bad news, showing that the number of publicly reported data breaches this year has already exceeded the total for 2020, which itself saw an explosion over the previous year in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. This erupting trend is only expected to increase moving through the end of the year and beyond.

To make matters worse, criminal actors are taking advantage of weaknesses in the supply chain to target businesses indirectly. Supply chain attacks rose by 42% in the first quarter of 2021, with at least 137 organizations reporting attacks through 27 third-party vendors.

Coupled with the increasing integration of IoT devices in our lives (averaging 5,200 cyberattacks each month) and the accelerating level of ransomware sophistication, the risks posed to modern businesses and their consumers by the state of global digital security are at an all-time high.

How to Respond to Increased Risk

Despite the growing cause for alarm, there is no reason to panic. By following cybersecurity best practices, leveraging purpose-built security technology, and consulting with professional digital security experts, businesses and consumers can remain secure this holiday season.

Here are some of the most effective ways to reduce the risks associated with cybercrime:

  • Be Proactive – Don’t wait until you or your business has fallen victim to an attack before deciding to focus on cybersecurity. Organizing a strategy for protecting your assets should be a top priority, including developing effective Incident Response Plans that can help you recover in the event of a successful attack. Likewise, companies should be prepared to respond to notifications that a supply chain member has suffered a breach and work with their IT partners to ensure their data is still secure.
  • Identify Your Risk – Businesses and consumers alike should regularly assess their level of risk, identifying and prioritizing their digital weaknesses. An assessment should be a comprehensive process and is often improved by the assistance of cybersecurity experts who specialize in risk assessment and mitigation services. On the individual level, this may include securing antivirus software for personal devices or relying on identity theft monitoring service memberships. For businesses, the knowledge and experience provided by dedicated risk assessment investigators are tools they cannot afford to go without.
  • Train Your Team – Companies should make cybersecurity awareness training a routine part of their overall defensive strategy, taking the time and effort to ensure team members know how to identify threats and respond to them. Additionally, as part of the establishment of Incident Response Plans, businesses should conduct mock breach scenarios to ensure that their team can respond quickly enough to mitigate. Team member training should address issues like password security best practices, identifying and preventing phishing attacks, keeping personal devices secure, and who to notify when a threat is suspected.
  • Use Multi-factor Authentication – Relying on only one method of securing your digital assets is a mistake. With multi-factor authentication, users can help ensure that, even with a compromised password or stolen device, criminal actors will still be unable to access sensitive information or valuable business systems. This method requires authorized users to verify several authentication markers before access is granted, even incorporating biometrics like fingerprints and facial recognition to strengthen digital security profiles.

Be Smart this Holiday Season

Businesses and consumers need to be vigilant this year. While people are taking the threat of cybercrime more seriously than ever before, it can be all too easy to reach a level of dangerous complacency if you haven’t yet fallen victim to a successful cyberattack.

That’s why it’s so important to enlist the services of dedicated cybersecurity professionals whose job is to help ensure that you’re always prepared. And although the expense of securing effective cyber defenses may at first seem unappealing, the price of falling victim to cybercrime that could have been avoided far outweighs the cost of investment.

Give yourself the most valuable gift of all this holiday season: the gift of ‘peace of mind.’ Don’t let yourself become just another holiday cybercrime statistic. Set up a FREE 30-minute consultation to start your journey to become cyber secure. 

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