Prepare for Cyber Monday security concerns

With the peak of online shopping nearly upon us, users need to protect themselves from social engineering attempts

In a couple days the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving, and Black Friday—the official launch of the 2013 holiday season will go into high gear. Traditionally, the Monday following Thanksgiving is Cyber Monday—the day the online retailers offer holiday deals too good to pass up. Cyber criminals know this as well, though, which makes Cyber Monday a very risky proposition.

Last year, social Internet protection specialist BrandProtect found that nearly 3,000 fraudulent website domains were registered using Black Friday or Cyber Monday as identifying terms. Cyber Monday is used as bait for spam and phishing emails, and it infiltrates mobile apps and social media.

The excitement and anticipation of jumping on an awesome Cyber Monday deal before it sells out drives people to forego security best practices, or even basic common sense. They'll install apps, open email attachments, and click on suspicious links without thinking twice all in the name of a great holiday bargain.

It's a problem for the employees—especially in BYOD situations where the worker is using their own PC or mobile device to do their Cyber Monday shopping. It's also a major concern for employers as questionable online behavior by employees exposes network resources and company data to risk.

[Retailers tracking customers via Wi-Fi suggests that privacy really is dead]

Here are a few tips you can use to minimize your Cyber Monday risk:

1. Patch your systems. Most exploits and malware attacks target known vulnerabilities for which patches have already been developed. Make sure your operating system, applications, and any network hardware are current with the latest patches and updates and you will thwart most attacks.

2. Update your anti-malware. Make sure your antivirus or antimalware security software is up to date with the most current signatures. Attackers often come armed with new attacks and zero day exploits, but many will also use viruses, Trojans, and bots that your antimalware software should be able to detect and block.

3. Educate your users. This is the most important step. The user is always the weakest link in the security chain, and an uninformed user can easily subvert even the best security tools and techniques. Make sure your users are aware of the increased risk, and that they're especially observant for deals that seem too good to be true. Make sure your users know that Cyber Monday is not an excuse to circumvent security policy, or forget basic security principles.

It's virtually impossible to completely prevent your users from doing a little online holiday shopping on Cyber Monday. Make sure you're prepared, and follow these steps to minimize your risk and enable your employees to find holiday deals without compromising your network.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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