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Top Tips for Consumers and Businesses to Stay Safe Online this Holiday Season

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Top Tips for Consumers and Businesses to Stay Safe Online this Holiday Season

There is an uptick in cybercriminal activity during the final months of the year due to higher online retail activity – 90 million people shopped online on Black Friday 2021, spending $10.7 billion and 77 million on Cyber Monday, spending $8.9 billion. Compared to 2020, the 2021 Black Friday/Cyber Monday saw a 90% jump in mobile traffic and a 46% increase in desktop traffic.

Adobe expects netizens to splurge approximately $209.7 billion in the two months between November 1 through December 31, 2022. It is safe to say that there will be many distractions to lure in unsuspecting shoppers. There is also a relaxed attitude across organizations with a sense of being off-duty. However, cybercriminals never are.

“The holiday period is not just a time for bargain hunters, it’s also a time for criminals to hunt for financial information, sensitive data and new victims. People need to know the threats, they need to understand what to do, and what to look for. By helping people with the right security behaviors, we’ll keep more people safe,” Oz Alashe, CEO of CybSafe, told Spiceworks.

Besides carrying out run-of-the-mill scams, threat actors purposely turn on the aggression to exploit any publicly disclosed zero-day vulnerabilities. This has given rise to two of the most significant cyber incidents in recent years – the SolarWinds software supply chain attack that came to light in December 2020, and the Log4Shell vulnerabilities, first exploited in December 2021.

“As we enter into one of the busiest seasons of the year for online activities, it is imperative that users remain vigilant in preparation for the upcoming wave of expected cyber attacks,” Stu Sjouwerman, CEO at KnowBe4, told Spiceworks.

“The world is slowly but surely returning to normalcy post [the] pandemic. However, for many of us, spending more time online, especially when shopping and connecting with friends and family, is the new normal. This presents more opportunities for social engineering attacks and for bad actors to exploit organizations.”

So before you give into the allure of a deal too good to be true this Cyber Monday or any upcoming Christmas/Hanukkah sale, consider the following advice Spiceworks collated from security domain experts.

Security tips for the holiday season for consumers

Online shoppers are an easy target simply because of the higher number of consumers going online, resulting in greater transaction volumes. Surya Varanasi, CTO at StorCentric, believes consumers may be looking to save up by grabbing the best available deals.

“With inflation hitting its highest level since 1982, and a recession looming, retailers must ensure they are in an ideal position to meet customer demand, service expectations and capitalize on a time when consumers may be open to loosening their purse strings,” Varanasi said.

To cater to this increased interest, marketers amp up promotional campaigns. So it is challenging to spot malice in an email deluge. Scammers may try to steal personal and financial information through phishing to compromise data, deploy malicious software, steal identities, and dupe consumers off money.

“When it comes to phishing emails, these are increasingly common – and purport to be from banks to best selling brands,” Rachel Jones, CEO of SnapDragon Monitoring, told Spiceworks. “Increasingly sophisticated scams range from brand websites being duplicated, to what look like genuine ‘special offer’ emails and social links, all which ensnare unsuspecting shoppers. Serious fraud can result as financial details are captured and non-existent products are never delivered…the list is endless causing irreparable emotional and financial damage.”

Here’s what consumers need to stay wary of, according to KnowBe4:

  • Verify links by checking domain spellings. Malicious sites often have slight modifications or can also be entirely unfamiliar. 
  • Only tread and shop on sites you’re familiar with or are reputable.
  • Thoroughly review reseller and auctioneer profiles and check their history of selling.
  • Research the parent company of a website if you are shopping from it for the first time.
  • Monitor credit card usage after using it for a transaction.
  • Verify confirmation emails.
  • Refrain from shopping on social media.

“Much more needs to be done by businesses and online platforms to protect the consumer but, at the moment, the onus is very much on the shopper to ensure they are buying genuine products from genuine sellers,” Jones added.

Security tips for the holiday season for organizations

Ransomware gangs could ramp up operations during the holiday season against organizations with their guard down. Organizations also have more to lose; thus, the payoff is significantly higher than targeting individual users.

 “While retailers are well aware of the importance of uptime and data security, many continue to struggle, particularly during high-stakes shopping periods,” Varanasi added, highlighting the need for a rock-solid backup plan in place in case of a ransomware attack. “This is a time when data backup and data security best practices are critical.”

“Today, many backup and security processes have become highly automated. But, as ransomware and other malware attacks continue to increase in severity and sophistication, it is clear that proper cyber hygiene must include protecting backed up data by making it immutable and by eliminating any way that data can be deleted or corrupted,” Varanasi said.

Varanasi suggests policy-driven data integrity checks “that can scrub the data for faults, and auto-heals without any user intervention.”

For recovery, Brian Dunagan, VP of engineering at Retrospect, stressed the ability to detect ransomware or any other malware-based attacks clubbed with a high availability solution to mitigate the cost of downtime, which can have an “impact on a retailer’s business reaches far beyond the immediate loss in sales.”

“My advice to them is this,” Dunagan said. “It is a given that you must deploy data security and high availability (HA) solutions. A simple 3-2-1 backup strategy is also essential (i.e., always have at least three copies of data; two onsite on different media, and one in an offsite location). However, as a successful cyberattack is likely just around the corner, you must be able to detect ransomware as early as possible to stop the threat and ensure your ability to remediate and recover.”

“A backup solution that includes anomaly detection to identify changes in an environment that warrants the attention of IT is a must. Administrators must be able to tailor anomaly detection to their business’s specific systems and workflows, with capabilities such as customizable filtering and thresholds for each of their backup policies.”

Varanasi opined that dual controllers and RAID-based protection should help organizations provision uninterrupted data access as part of their high availability solutions in case of a cyberattack or a simple component failure. “In this manner, recovery of data will also be faster because RAID-protected disk arrays are able to read faster than they can write,” Varanasi said.

While Varanasi and Dunagan’s suggestions hold well as a response mechanism, DH2i CEO and co-founder Don Boxley recommended organizations avoid the issue entirely with a software-defined perimeter (SDP).

“As we head into what is arguably one of the busiest and most important seasons of the year for retailers, maintaining data access and security is paramount. What is virtually impossible to accomplish with VPNs can now however be achieved with the more modern, innovative and real-world proven software defined perimeter (SDP),” Boxley told Spiceworks.

“SDP enables organizations to build a secure software-defined perimeter and use Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) tunnels to seamlessly connect all applications, servers, IoT devices, and users behind any symmetric network address translation (NAT) to any full cone NAT: without having to reconfigure networks or set up complicated and problematic VPNs. By leveraging SDP this holiday shopping season, organizations can ensure safe, fast and easy network and data access; while slamming the door on any potential cybercriminals or Grinch.”

Jones pointed out that organizations can do more to help consumers stay safe. “Businesses must communicate with their customers about this [phishing email] threat, making clear what a genuine emails looks like and warning customers to be diligent, what a fraudulent email may seek to request (and what a genuine one would never do) and to seek direct advice if the slightest bit concerned,” Jones said.

“If a business sees its site is being duplicated by criminals, they must ensure it is taken offline with speed and efficiency before it causes harm. Common themes for fake sites are slight alterations in spellings, new domains (.co rather than .com for example). We would always recommend the shopper seeks out the genuine brand’s site with care and attention.”

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How to Ensure Customer Retention During an Economic Downturn

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How to Ensure Customer Retention During an Economic Downturn

Are you worried that an economic recession is on the horizon? You can bet every business owner is.

Certainly, the last two years haven’t been easy on the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic took almost every business to the cleaners. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is adding salt to an already wounded economy.

Officially, the economy is not in a recession, but there are signs of a downturn. During economic turmoil, consumers reduce their spending. This directly affects businesses.

To ensure your business stays afloat, it’s important to focus on customer retention. In this article, we’re sharing some of the strategies you can use to retain customers during an economic downturn.

Read on!

Reach Out to Your Customers

The first practical step is to establish communication with your customers about the economic situation.

Let them know that you’re worried about the economic downturn, and acknowledge that it will likely influence their future spending on your business. Most importantly, reassure your customers that your business is open to making changes to accommodate their budgets.

Also, use this as an opportunity to ask for feedback on how they would want your business to meet their needs during this time.

Take a Flexible Approach with Payments

Every business owner wants customers to make payments on time, or once an order is delivered. Some will even require customers to make upfront payments.

Regardless of whatever billing strategy you use, during an economic downturn it’s wise to be flexible; otherwise, you will lose loyal customers.

A flexible approach could mean giving customers more time to make payments or developing personalized payment plans. For example, if you’re a subscription-based business, don’t cancel a customer subscription on the renewal date. Extending the service by a few days is a show of goodwill and can make a big difference in your quest to retain your customer base.

Revamp Your Loyalty Program

Roughly 90 percent of businesses have a loyalty program in some form. If yours has worked great over the years, you might be tempted to keep it unchanged. 

However, during harsh economic times, consumers want the greatest value for their money, so your loyalty program might not be enticing enough. This is why you need to revamp it.

Some of the most successful loyalty programs embrace personalization, which is what you should do when refreshing your program for customer retention during a recession. Know the kinds of rewards your customers want and redesign the program with their needs in mind instead of offering the same rewards to everyone.

Increase Customer Retention to Beat an Economic Downturn

Shaky cash flow is a leading cause of small business failure. Yet, it’s exactly what’s bound to happen to most businesses when consumers cut their spending during an economic downturn. But if you’re able to maintain a high rate of customer retention, you will be in a good position to achieve cash flow stability and save your business.

Do you need more small business advice? Stay tuned to the business section of the blog.

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What are your top business ideas that you think would be successful?

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What are your top business ideas that you think would be successful?

Introduction

A successful business idea is any concept that has the potential to generate profits and become a successful venture. Starting a business can be an exciting and rewarding experience, as it can provide both financial and personal satisfaction. With the right business idea and the right attitude, anyone can make it happen.

In this article, we will discuss ten business ideas that have the chance to be successful. From online coaching to pet care services, these ideas can provide the necessary foundation for starting your own business.

Business Ideas

1. Online Coaching: With the help of the internet, anyone can become an online coach and offer their services to a wide audience. Whether it’s career advice, health and fitness tips, or financial advice, there’s always a demand for those who can provide guidance and support in any field.

2. Online Personal Shopping Service: With the rise of online shopping, more people are turning to personal shopping services to purchase items they don’t have the time or energy to buy themselves. Becoming an online personal shopper can be a great way to make money while helping others.

3. Virtual Event Planning: The coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for people to host large events, but virtual events are becoming increasingly popular. As a virtual event planner, you can help clients plan and organize everything from weddings to corporate events.

4. Food Delivery Service: With the rise of food delivery apps, this is an ideal time to start a food delivery business. You can partner with local restaurants and deliver their food to customers in your area.

5. Tutoring Service: If you’re an expert in a particular subject, you can offer tutoring services online or in person. Whether it’s for school, college, or test prep, there’s always a demand for tutors who can help students learn.

6. Home Cleaning Service: Cleaning is a chore that many people don’t enjoy, making it an ideal opportunity for a business. You can offer home cleaning services to busy professionals and busy parents who don’t have the time to clean their own homes.

7. Social Media Consulting: As more businesses realize the importance of having a strong presence on social media, social media consulting is becoming a popular business opportunity. You can help businesses create and manage their social media accounts, create content, and increase their reach.

8. Online Course Creation: If you have expertise in a particular field, you can create online courses that teach others about it. From cooking courses to coding courses, there’s always a demand for online courses that can help people learn new skills.

9. Freelance Writing: Freelance writing is a great way to make a living while writing about topics you’re passionate about. Whether it’s writing blog posts, creating web content, or writing books, there’s always a demand for writers.

10. Pet Care Service: Pet owners are always looking for reliable and trustworthy pet care services. Whether it’s pet sitting, dog walking, or grooming, you can start a business that helps take care of people’s pets.

Conclusion

These are just some of the business ideas that have the potential to be successful. With the right business idea and the right attitude, anyone can make it happen. Starting your own business can be an exciting and rewarding experience, as it can provide both financial and personal satisfaction.

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Digital Fashion Week New York reveals a three-day schedule alongside NYFW

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Digital Fashion Week New York reveals a three-day schedule alongside NYFW

The organisers behind Digital Fashion Week New York have unveiled a jam-packed three-day schedule for its upcoming edition, set to run alongside the physical New York Fashion Week.

From February 9 to 11, the event will feature both physical and digital aspects, each designed to offer insights, vision and strategies for adapting to a digital future.

A Networking and Speaker Summit will be held in person on the first, during which industry figures will take part in panel discussions covering key topics from digital fashion, such as protecting models’ identities in the future and how artificial intelligence (AI) could change design.

The following day will see the opening of the event’s Metaverse Fashion Experience, where visitors can explore a virtual world using a Ready Player Me avatar that can be dressed in special garments from digital fashion week design winners.

During the event, it will be possible to attend virtual panel discussions that address critical issues and offer solutions to questions surrounding fashion’s future.

On the final day, both in person and online, visitors can view an animation screening followed by a performance by Mariah the Scientist with a layered phygital fashion show, as well as various other immersive experiences.

Designers involved include Ilona Song, RightDirection, Lorena Bello and Zero10, which has also worked on creating augmented reality (AR) iterations of designs by five digital creators, two of which will have physical representations at the shows in New York on February 11 and London on

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