As the holiday season approaches, online shoppers are preparing to take advantage of the discounts and deals offered by many retailers. While this is an exciting time for shoppers, it is also a time of heightened cyber security threats.

Long holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s are a prime time for cybercriminals to launch attacks, as the extended time away from work and school gives them more opportunities to exploit vulnerable systems.

Cyber security threats can take many forms, from malware and viruses to phishing scams and even malicious mobile applications. Malware is malicious software designed to gain access to a computer or network without the user’s knowledge.

Viruses are designed to spread from one computer or device to another, while phishing scams attempt to trick users into giving up personal information, such as bank account numbers or passwords.

Malicious mobile applications can also be used to steal data or gain access to a user’s device.

Common Retail Threats
Retailers have experienced numerous threats in 2022 and should be aware that a cyberattack on retail businesses ranks high on the holiday wish list of cybercriminals.

Phishing, malware, SQL injection, and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are the most common threats for retail businesses during the holidays.

Phishing. Stressed retailers and distracted consumers can fall victim to phishing scams this holiday season. Cybercriminals intentionally capitalize on the holiday chaos to catch their victims off guard, using ploys like fake customer satisfaction surveys and bogus shipping notifications.

Retailers and security teams must be prepared to combat an influx of phishing, spear-phishing, and social engineering scams during this time of year. Security awareness training can prepare employees to spot these threats.

Malware. Cybercriminals steal valuable payment data from retailers and consumers. One common execution is infecting point-of-sale (POS) devices with malware. If your business is using legacy systems or outdated software, it may be vulnerable to bad actors and known exploits. Like all technology, it’s important to constantly update your POS systems to stay safe.

SQL injection. Though unsophisticated, this type of code injection attack against retail businesses can be highly effective during a period of high activity, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

Cybercriminals attack a retailer’s website through an unpatched vulnerability to steal consumer payment data during an online purchase or redirect links to a malicious website. That’s why it’s crucial to monitor your data security practices, identify your vulnerabilities, and manage and patch those vulnerabilities with updates to keep attackers from penetrating your network.

DDoS attacks. During a holiday sale, a slowdown or complete halt to consumer purchases can be a devastating financial blow for a retail business. But that’s the goal of a DDoS attack. In such an attack, the cybercriminal disrupts the normal flow of traffic on a server or network by overwhelming its capacity with fake internet traffic.

As a result, actual consumers are unable to access the retailer’s website or services, forcing the retailer to miss out on sales. In 2022, DDoS attacks increased year over year by 109%, according to the California Business Journal. The average DDoS attack costs between $20,000 and $40,000 for every hour it continues.

How To Improve Your Security Posture
Retailers need to prepare before the holiday season begins. Taking a few important steps can help keep your retail business merry and bright this holiday season.

Patch and update vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals will attempt to exploit any weakness in your network to gain access, but you can help keep them out with timely patches and updates.

Increase staff. Human attackers must be confronted by human defenders, so make sure your cybersecurity team is fully staffed to confront potential cyber threats.

Offer employee training. Having employees who are aware of and knowledgeable about cybersecurity can help mitigate attempted attacks during the holiday season.

Work with a security service provider. Your retail business needs the right cyber defenses in place to protect against an attack, and partnering with a provider service such as managed detection and response (MDR) is a smart way to mitigate risk and manage the high volume of threats.

Take Action
As a retailer, you count on the holiday season surge in sales and revenue to round out your year. But you must keep in mind that cybercriminals are working against you to undermine your best efforts.

Know the cybersecurity threats you may encounter and how to improve your security posture. It may be the difference between coal in your stocking and money in your pocket.