Top 5 ways to ensure cyber security during the holidays

Safety should never take a vacation

This time of year, many consumers know their information is at risk. Online and brick-and-mortar shopping is on the rise and hackers are on the lookout for easy targets. Most people know to lock their phones, use electronic payment services instead of direct credit card info and other commonly spread tips.

But what about protecting your business?

Cyber security is a year-round effort. One lapse and your business or your clients’ information could be compromised. There are steps you can take to keep your business safe. Some are obvious, some are not, but all are important. Here’s what you can do to make sure your company doesn’t find a lump of coal in its stocking.

Don’t ignore unknown phone numbers

If you’re like me, you screen your phone calls – not only on your personal phone, but at work, too. You want to avoid scams and cold calls, right?

Here’s why you shouldn’t.

I was traveling with a co-worker and he received a call from an unknown number. He ignored it, but I decided to pick it up (rude, I know). Turns out it was his bank, calling to inform him of two $500 purchases at a big box retailer.

Would the bank have left a voicemail? Probably. But in today’s hectic world, how many hours do voicemails sit unheard in your inbox? Too long. These hours matter when it comes to remedying security problems.

That $1,000 to your personal account could be much, much worse if the target was your company.

Familiarize yourself with fraud protocols

In the above example, the scammer was able to use credit card information without identification because the amount was under the retailer’s fraud protocol. It would have been easy to miss that small amount if you’re a large company. Numerous little charges can go undetected for some time – often enough time to get away with it – so it’s important to be familiar with when banks or partners will flag odd-looking purchases.

If you don’t want to pore over pages and pages of bank statements looking for weird charges, you can save time by knowing these protocols inside and out.

Know who is on vacation and have a plan

Every company struggles with staffing during the holidays. Regardless of whether your security team is small or large, even one person away can severely hamper your security program.

Two of the worst security events I had to work happened on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. You have to not only plan for having one person away, but many. Review procedures, response plans and make sure you know who is filling in where and when.

This, of course, matters year round. But during a time when your staff is thin, be extra vigilant.

Be aware of expenses, money exchanges

While it isn’t as catastrophic as a breach, unauthorized money can affect your company’s bottom line. Even employees at small companies can find themselves the targets of messages that can lead to transfers of money to those outside your company.

Similar to staffing, keep an eye on (and inform your team) who is managing the approval for expense reports and other company financial items. It could prevent your employees from giving money or access to people outside your company and protect your bottom line.

Protect your brand from dummy sites, stores

Fake websites (and even brick and mortar stores) try to sell counterfeit products with the goal of getting your information.

There are services out there that can help identify digital footprints – websites, mobile apps and other indicators that a company or product is legitimate – and root out potential imposters.

Saving your bottom line is nice, but imagine selling a fake product to a customer who gets their information stolen. You will lose that customer. The damage to your company’s brand could far surpass any monetary amount.

The holidays can be a stressful time for any company. Staffing is thin, budgets are leaner and the threat of cyber attacks may be higher than any other time of the year.

Just remember: good security practices should never go on vacation.

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