IT Security Holidays

Cyber security during the holidays: who protects your IT at Christmas and during the vacations?

At Christmas, Easter or on other public holidays, the doors of companies are often closed for days on end because some or all of the company is on vacation. Cyber criminals take advantage of this to carry out hacker attacks on companies. As operations are at a standstill, these cyber attacks often go unnoticed for a long time. In most cases, by the time the problem is detected, it is already too late - hackers have had more than enough time to access your data and misuse it for criminal purposes. It is therefore important to maintain IT security even during longer absences.

Why do cyber attacks increasingly take place on public holidays?

Even in a world characterized by unprecedented technological progress, the risks of cyber attacks are omnipresent and constantly increasing. What is particularly striking is that these threats occur more frequently on Sundays and public holidays. While these days are normally dedicated to relaxation and celebration, they represent a time of increased danger for companies and organizations. On public holidays, businesses often operate with reduced staff and less supervision. Many employees – including members of your IT team – are on vacation, which significantly limits the ability to respond to security incidents.

Diese geringere Präsenz in Ihrem Büro oder Ihrem Unternehmen kann dazu führen, dass Sicherheitswarnungen und verdächtige Aktivitäten unbemerkt bleiben. Diese Sicherheitslücke schafft ideale Bedingungen für Cyber-Angriffe. Eine Studie des BSI unterstreicht die Annahme, dass Cyber-Angriffe an Feiertagen gehäuft auftreten.

This reduced presence in your office or company can lead to security alerts and suspicious activity going unnoticed. This security gap creates ideal conditions for cyber attacks. A study by the BSI underlines the assumption that cyber attacks occur more frequently on public holidays.

Companies very often communicate their company vacations on their websites and in their social media. This is of course important information for customers or interested parties and creates transparency about availability and accessibility - an important aspect for promoting customer satisfaction. At the same time, the public announcement of company vacations harbors enormous risks: it not only informs customers, but also potential attackers about periods of reduced operational activity. During these periods, companies are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks as monitoring and response capabilities to security incidents are limited. Holidays offer increased chances of success for every step of a cyber attack. The chances are good that an infection of the system will remain undetected during this time. In addition, responding to an attack, such as a ransomware encryption, is particularly challenging when staffing levels are reduced.

Numerous risk factors contribute to companies being more vulnerable to cyber attacks during the holidays. The risks with the greatest dangers are:

Reduced monitoring

During the holidays, organizations often experience reduced staffing levels, which affects the monitoring and management of IT security. The temporary absence of your IT security staff can lead to delayed detection and response to security incidents. This vacuum provides cyber criminals with an ideal opportunity to infiltrate networks undetected and cause damage.

Maintenance and/or safety updates on public holidays or Sundays

Another risk factor is the tendency of organizations to schedule maintenance and updates to security systems during the quieter holiday season. During such maintenance windows, systems may be temporarily more vulnerable to attack, especially if patches expose security vulnerabilities that have not yet been fully addressed.

Carelessness and less caution

The psychological component also plays a role: employees may be less alert to unusual system requests or suspicious activity in a more relaxed holiday mood. In addition, staff working during the holidays may be replaced by substitutes or temporary workers who may not be fully trained in the company's security protocols. Therefore, attackers use the holidays to launch targeted phishing campaigns, knowing that the likelihood of less cautious behavior with emails and other communications is higher when there is less staff and the workload is greater for those present.

Economic motives

Economic motives play a crucial role in the timing of cyber attackers. Targeted cyber attacks can be particularly damaging during public holidays, when many companies' commercial sales are at their peak. Attackers are aware that transactions and the exchange of sensitive information increase during these times. They use this opportunity to cause financial damage through ransomware attacks, data exfiltration or disruption of online services, or to make direct financial gain from the theft of payment information or trade secrets.

Black Friday & Co.

During the peak period of e-commerce, such as Black Friday, Christmas, etc., online retailers experience a significant increase in transactions and traffic. This period is characterized by numerous special offers and marketing campaigns, making it difficult to distinguish between "real" communications and potentially dangerous fake messages. Cyber criminals are taking advantage of this opportunity by launching phishing campaigns and fake promotions that look deceptively similar to genuine offers. The flood of promotional emails and special offers provides a perfect cover for spreading malicious links or attachments.

Slow reaction chain

If your IT support teams are understaffed on Sundays and public holidays, as many employees take vacation or the department may not be staffed at all, this leads to a slower response chain for technical problems or security incidents. Cyber criminals are aware of these gaps and can exploit them by planning attacks where they can expect delayed detection and response. A slow response time can have serious consequences, from extending the duration of a security incident to increasing the impact of an attack. For example, if a security incident occurs and is not responded to immediately, attackers can steal more data or cause more damage.

Importance of end-to-end IT security

Companies must ensure that their security measures and policies are not neglected on public holidays. Ensuring the security of your company data around the clock is a top priority.

Proactive, preventative protection is far more effective and cost-efficient in this regard than reactive action. The threat of hacker attacks should never be underestimated, as they can

  • can result in considerable financial losses,
  • can completely paralyze your business processes for a period of time,
  • can cause considerable damage to your company's image and reputation.

Constant IT security - 24/7 - 365 days a year - ensures that company data, customer information and business processes are protected and helps to maintain trust and credibility with your customers and business partners.

Challenges for companies

Companies face numerous challenges when it comes to protecting their networks and data from hacker attacks, especially on Sundays and public holidays. These times pose particular risks, as normal business processes are often not maintained.

The key challenges in detail:

The big resource problem: personnel & time

On Sundays and public holidays, IT teams are often understaffed and those who are working are often busy with basic operational tasks and taking on the work of colleagues. Time for monitoring and responding to security incidents is limited.

Cost factor not to be underestimated

The cost of maintaining robust cyber security on public holidays is a significant challenge for organizations. Operating costs are often higher on these days, as there may be additional charges for staff working on public holidays. Additional expenses for overtime or holiday pay for IT security staff exacerbate this burden.

Investing in preventative security measures such as firewalls, antivirus programs and other security tools is a financial burden. Moreover, it is not just the one-off investment or acquisition costs, but also the operating, maintenance and update costs.

Up-to-date technology: hardware & software at the cutting edge

Keeping your hardware and software up to date is crucial for the security of your data. Outdated systems often have undiscovered security gaps that can be exploited by hackers.

Continuous IT maintenance

Cyber security requires continuous maintenance, including regular updates, patches and monitoring of the network infrastructure. Hardly any small and medium-sized business can afford to maintain 24/7 IT monitoring. Resources are often limited and the cost of constantly monitoring IT systems can be prohibitive. Even larger companies face the challenge of monitoring their IT infrastructure around the clock, especially on Sundays and public holidays when staffing levels are thinner.

Lack of understanding of the team

Employees are often the first line of defense against cyber attacks. Their ability to recognize phishing attempts and other fraudulent activity is critical. However, on Sundays and public holidays, less trained staff may be on duty or employees who are not normally in direct contact with customers may have to take on these tasks, increasing the risk of security breaches.

Feasibility of safety measures

On Sundays and public holidays, it is difficult for many businesses to strike a balance between ensuring adequate security and maintaining business continuity. Companies must ensure that their security protocols are practicable and feasible on these days without disrupting operations too much.

How to solve your IT security problem on public holidays and Sundays and during your company vacations

Proactive measures are the key to solving IT security problems on public holidays, Sundays and during company vacations. Make sure all your systems are updated with the latest security updates. Implement a robust firewall that monitors the incoming and outgoing data on your network. With a firewall as a service, your company network is secured via an external VPN server. This allows you to intervene before the data reaches your network. Secure email archiving and backup solutions are not only important for meeting your compliance requirements, but also ensure that no data is lost in the event of a cyber attack. Traditional anti-virus programs quickly reach their limits when it comes to the complexity and AI sophistication of malware. This is where more comprehensive solutions, such as FortiEDR (Endpoint Detection and Response) with innovative endpoint security and real-time visibility, analysis, protection and remediation, are needed to identify and stop breaches and attacks.

Es ist ebenso wichtig, dass Ihre Mitarbeiter in Sicherheitsfragen und -protokollen geschult sind und wissen, wie sie auch außerhalb der regulären Arbeitszeiten auf Vorfälle reagieren müssen. Notfallpläne sollten klar definiert sein, sodass auch Vertretungen ohne Verzögerungen reagieren können.

It is equally important that your employees are trained in safety issues and protocols and know how to respond to incidents outside of regular working hours. Contingency plans should be clearly defined so that substitutes can also respond without delay.

Ensuring IT security requires in-depth expertise, constant availability and significant initial investment. An IT security service provider that offers 24/7 monitoring and support can be a cost-effective and expert solution. With this option, you benefit from ongoing expertise and you minimize the risk of security incidents, even when your business is closed. In addition, working with a service provider transforms investments into predictable monthly operating costs that you can accurately plan and budget for.

Advantages of external monitoring

External IT monitoring offers your company comprehensive cyber protection. Your data and infrastructure are monitored around the clock, resulting in the following benefits:

  • Early detection of problems: Continuous monitoring - 24/7 - means that disruptions and security breaches are detected at an early stage. This enables immediate analysis and the initiation of countermeasures before major damage occurs.
  • Rapid response to security incidents: A sophisticated monitoring system identifies irregularities immediately. This means that security incidents can be detected in real time and rectified quickly to minimize the risk of data loss and other damage and restore operations as quickly as possible.
  • Scalability: IT monitoring solutions are flexible and scalable. They can grow with your business and adapt to changing requirements, making them a viable long-term solution.
  • Prevention: By detecting and resolving problems at an early stage, you prevent costly downtime and avoid potential consequential damage to your company and your customers.
  • Security and up-to-dateness of IT systems: IT security service providers ensure that your systems are always up-to-date and protected against the latest security threats.
  • Specialist expertise and know-how: An IT security service provider brings in-depth specialist knowledge that is essential for the maintenance and security of your IT systems. This expertise is particularly important as it ensures that security measures are not only reactive, but also preventative and strategic.

Advantages of IT service flat rates

IT service flat rates offer a special solution to protect your IT. Your IT is professionally maintained without you being surprised by unforeseeable costs. The flat rates are based on a fixed monthly fee that depends on criteria such as the number of servers, their age and the number of workstations. All included services are precisely defined in the service contract and requests and problems are systematically processed via the IT ticketing system.

Tips for more IT security on public holidays

In addition to internal and external IT monitoring, you should definitely take the following tips to heart to avoid becoming the next cyber victim.

  • Update your IT: Make sure that all operating systems, servers and applications are up to date to close vulnerabilities.
  • Backup management: Secure your data by creating regular backups. Store these in a secure location so that they can be restored in the event of an attack or data loss.
  • Train your employees: Carry out cyber security training to make your employees aware of potential threats. Employees should pay particular attention to suspicious activities and emails, especially before the holidays.
  • Emergency plan and emergency contact: Develop a security incident response plan that outlines what your organization will do in the event of an attack. Also make sure employees know who to contact in the event of an incident.
  • Move to multi-factor authentication, as passwords are a weak "wall of security". Multi-factor authentication (MFA) strengthens security by requiring you and your employees to complete multiple verification steps during the login process. With MFA, you ensure that access is only granted to the actual user.

So that you can enjoy Sundays and public holidays in peace and take the pressure off your teams, it is best to rely on experienced MSSP service providers. With the right partner and the right tools, a cyber attack on your company can be prevented at any time of the year.

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