“This the season to be jolly,” echoes the famous traditional Christmas carol “Deck the Halls”. Some research suggests otherwise: Tis the season to be cautious. The UAE Cybersecurity Council recently issued a warning that public and private institutions, as well as individuals, are at risk of cyber-attacks during the holiday season and the New Year celebrations. People and companies are letting their guard down, which is a perfect time for cybercriminals to strike.

The council highlighted the need for all authorities and institutions to activate their cyber defence systems, raise individuals’ security awareness about cyber-attacks, and cooperate with relevant authorities to proactively share relevant information.

As the use of digital services increases, hackers are able to take advantage of the holiday season by using hacking tools that have become easier to use. Cybercriminals are aware that companies’ networks are more strained during the holidays because of increased traffic. The sudden surge in users is not something that many websites are prepared for. As a result, hackers are able to penetrate networks unnoticed and launch attacks such as distributed denial of service (DDoS). Cybercriminals have also been increasingly using ransomware to attack their victims in recent years. This type of malware locks or encrypts files on a system until a ransom is paid.

The UK-based cybersecurity firm Darktrace released a report in December 2021 showing that ransomware attacks increase by 30% over the holiday period compared to the monthly average. Phishing is also at its peak as scammers use emails, texts, and fake websites to trick people into giving out their personal information. Retailers have more consumer data as a result of increased shopping. This is why 24% of attacks are targeted at retailers in order to steal confidential customer information.

In light of this, it is no surprise that governments around the globe issue warnings at the end of the year urging businesses to remain vigilant. Fraudulent online activities during the holiday season are often called “holiday scams,” and the FBI reminds consumers every year: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is”. In 2021, holiday scams cost victims over $500 million in the US alone, according to the FBI. It won’t be any different in 2022.

The implementation of zero-trust security architecture can reduce the chances of being hacked by limiting privileges and requiring authentication before data access is granted. Staying ahead of cybercriminals requires investing in reliable solutions and keeping up with the latest protections.

You might be interested in the Avnon Academy Cyber Program to learn more about cybersecurity. Designed to train officials and students of all levels in advanced technologies and cyber skills, the academy’s cyber program offers a comprehensive and intensive curriculum. We establish, train, and guide entire cyber units for various sectors, leveraging the Avnon Group’s vast operational experience and the expertise of Israeli experts in various cyber fields. Wishing you a happy and safe holiday season and a prosperous new year.