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With holiday travel season already here, cybersecurity should be at the top of your list of concerns. While working from a secure location, like the one you should have at your home or office, you can be confident that your actions are generally protected. However, when using unfamiliar networks and mobile hotspots while on the road, you inevitably make yourself more vulnerable to hackers, viruses, and other threats to your cybersecurity. Not to mention, the last thing anyone wants on their winter vacation is to hear that their site has been hacked.

Today we wanted to talk about those concerns and provide some helpful preventative measures to maintain your data security while traveling this holiday season.

Increased Concern over Cybersecurity Threats

There is an undeniable excitement over the digital transformation businesses and individuals are currently experiencing. The wide range of connected devices now available offer incredible opportunities, but they also expose the unwary user to new security risks. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated and more organized in their attacks on private and public organizations. Microsoft currently deflects around 1.5 million fraudulent login attempts to their consumer online services daily. What’s more, security is the #1 cited obstacle to corporate IoT adoption.

Nigel Gibbons, Director of Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing of Microsoft Partner VBC, says that we are ever increasing our own exposure. “With every 1,000 lines of software code the attack surface is growing exponentially. So even taking out user or admin error or negligence, with the complexity in IT systems today the chances of an exploit are almost guaranteed somewhere, and the more ‘things’ added, the greater the complexity and chance of something being missed.”

But the overall benefits from emerging technologies (such as IoT and Big Data) far outweigh the risks. It’s clear from what we’re seeing that customers need the latest security features to protect their businesses, their consumers, and themselves. So, while employees are taking a little time to relax and prepare for the new year, make sure that your digital security is not left unattended.

Tips to Improve Your Cybersecurity

Nigel says that if you do nothing else, make sure you register your domains with haveibeenpwned.com. On this site, you can check to see if your website or email addresses have been breached and if so, in which breaches your data has been illegally accessed. From there, you can take the necessary action to protect yourself, such as changing your password.

“Identity theft is the number one attack vector and identifying compromised user credentials is critical in getting ahead of the threat that will come. You can guarantee that if the credentials have appeared on a dark web hacker’s trophy shelf, someone will be trying the locks with the key.”

– Nigel Gibbons, Director of Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing, VBC

Other tips include best practices such as keeping your anti-virus software up to date if you are still housing your servers on-premises. If you are a cloud-based company, back up your files to the OneDrive. Familiarize yourself with the security features built in to Office 365 and Azure platforms. When on the road, avoid using unfamiliar or questionable hotspots to do any work on your corporate intranet or even for online shopping or banking. Do what you can to protect your password, and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. If one login is breached it can cause a domino effect that will completely ruin your holiday.

Cybersecurity Best Practices

Nigel recommends companies do the following to protect their cybersecurity even when processes are running as normal.

  1. Maintain an up to date audit of your IT environment so you know what should be there and account for everything.
  2. Baseline your network so you know what is ‘normal’ and can detect ‘abnormal’ traffic. Creating a new baseline when new devices are added or changes are made that could impact this.
  3. Have breach response insurance in place so you can afford to recover your business.
  4. Use network segmentation so that you can isolate your network to contain breaches.
  5. Do not trust vendor IoT security, as there is currently no consensus or standard on how to implement security in IoT.
  6. Be aware of other technology that increases your risk of cyber threat, such as:
    • Social media
    • BYOD & mobile computing
    • Software Defined Networks
    • Robots, hardware and software
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Digital Currencies
    • Blockchain
    • Advertising Networks (Malvertisements)
    • Autonomous vehicles & their telematics units that control infotainment
    • Increased Hyper-connectivity

The best thing you can do to prepare your business for vacations and holiday travel is to build out a security policy based on the best practices and common sense behaviours that will protect you from the vast majority of security risks. From there, you should be able to rest easy with the knowledge that your business and customers are protected, even when you are away.

How do you protect your digital assets while on a skeleton crew over the holidays? Share your tips with partners in the comments below.

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