Overcome Holiday- and Pandemic-induced IT Challenges

November 24, 2020
Applications, Cloud, Customer Service, Data Protection, Financial Services, Hybrid IT, IT Security, IT Services, Network, Retail

A lot of things have been canceled or postponed thanks to the pandemic. Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t among them. Nor is cybercrime. That’s why it’s imperative for all organizations, not just those in retail, to be extra vigilant over the coming weeks in terms of IT security — and their IT resources in general.

Ensuring sufficient bandwidth and scalable IT resources are available is a given. So is making sure comprehensive IT security measures are in place to ward off cybercriminals. Equally important: tested backup and disaster recovery (DR) plans need to be employed to mitigate potential downtime and ensure all essential data and systems are available when needed.

COVID-19 Ups the Pressure

The end-of-the-year holidays traditionally put a strain on retailers’ IT systems as consumers clamor for online holiday deals. Website traffic surges. Logistics systems struggle to keep inventory, fulfillment, shipping, and other processes up-to-date, accurate and reliable.

Expect the pressure on IT to increase substantially as COVID-19 restrictions drive people to shop online even more. But it’s not just retail that will feel the effects of holidays during a pandemic.

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Lockdowns, restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, and other COVID-19 recommendations and mandates will likely cause an increasing number of people to look to the internet for more of their holiday season entertainment and socializing. That means more streaming of movies and games. More virtual tours and family gatherings via video conferencing platforms. More of anything that can be done or accessed online.

It’s likely that surges in COVID-19 cases will lead more people to work remotely if their jobs allow it. Many may require it. That means more meetings and collaborative work sessions will take place online, and more remote IT support will be needed.

There’s also a good chance that more students will move from in-person classroom learning to online learning. Fitness classes and other types of instruction will move online as well.

Restaurants may lean heavier on online takeout orders to keep business operations going. Telemedicine consultations may outpace in-office medical visits. Many financial transactions are already taking place online; expect that to increase if banks discourage or cease in-person interactions.

Organizations that have never had to rely on the internet to conduct business may now have to be creative and find ways to do so if they are to stay in business.

Extra bandwidth will be needed. More comprehensive security will be needed. Application support will be needed. The list goes on. Bottom line: we can expect this year’s holiday season to be impacted by the coronavirus — and for it to be a busy time for IT across just about every industry.

The Holiday Cybercrime Surge

Whether for business or pleasure, more people online over the holiday season translates into more opportunities for cybercriminals. The retail industry is particularly vulnerable.

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Cyberthieves know that retailers use time-limited offers and low prices to encourage shoppers to input their credit card numbers and other personal information to make purchases. Expect to see them using similar tactics or masquerading as actual brands to dupe victims into taking the same actions. That not only hurts the consumers who fall victim to the ploy. It hurts the reputation of the companies.

Many companies count on holiday business for their survival, so they can’t afford for their eCommerce or other systems to be down or their data to be unavailable. That makes them prime targets for ransomware. Another threat: distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks with hackers bombarding servers with requests until they slow to a crawl or crash.

Retailers are also at increased risk of cybercriminals planting malicious links and code in branded websites and mobile apps where consumers click. The cyber-thieves may even set up clone websites and social media profiles to steal consumer personal or payment information.

The same tactics are likely to be used against non-profit organizations that use the holiday season to encourage donations to support their causes.

Social engineering ploys will likely increase across most industries, with employees working remotely served as primary targets. Even the most dedicated employees may find themselves taking more breaks to engage in online shopping and other activities while working from home. Then when they receive fake emails warning that their computers are infected or requesting them to provide their passwords or other personal information to avoid some kind of negative repercussion, they’re more likely to take unsafe actions.

While not related to either the holidays or COVID, business-disrupting natural disasters are more likely to occur this time of year, especially in the Midwest. That includes flooding and ice storms that can take a data center offline.

Holiday IT Survival Tips

Between the holidays and COVID-19, IT has a lot to deal with — but there are ways to mitigate some of the issues and minimize potential business disruptions.

  • Make sure you have the necessary IT resources to accommodate website traffic surges and other seasonal IT demands. It’s not too late to move some workloads to the cloud and take advantage of its’ scalability, flexibility, and built-in security. Even if you can’t make the move this season, it’s a good time to start exploring your cloud options. Make sure you look for those built using PCI and HIPAA standards to boost overall security and help you achieve your compliance requirements and
  • Beef up the security of your data and applications with advanced IT security services that provide full-spectrum, customizable protection to mitigate threats, risks, and potential damage. Opt for the managed variety to free up internal resources and take advantage of the latest technologies that most managed security services providers offer.
  • You can never have too much security in place. Take advantage of services like US Signal’s Website and Application Security (WaAS) to strengthen your IT defenses and protect against a wide range of internet-based threats, including volumetric, distributed, and multi-vector DDoS attacks, SQL Injection attacks, and content scraping.
  • Implement system monitoring to keep your IT systems secure, at peak availability, and performing optimally.
  • Employ vulnerability scanning to identify your organization’s IT security vulnerabilities. No in-house expertise is required if you go with a managed option whereby the provider handles all vulnerability scanning tool setup, configuration, implementation, and management.
  • Use threat intelligence tactics to identify phishing ploys and scams posing as your brand, and lockdown compromised online accounts. Monitor the dark web too. That’s where criminals sell stolen information and assets.
  • Educate customers, employees, and all other stakeholders about potential security issues. Share with them what you’re doing to combat threats and educate them as to what they can do to be safer.
  • Be ready to deal with ransomware attacks and other downtime-causing events. Have tested backup and disaster recovery plans in place to minimize downtime and data loss, so you can maintain business operations.


Take Action

Even in the best of times, IT has its hands full. Throw in the holidays and a pandemic, and it can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are solutions that can help. One is to partner with an IT services provider like US Signal that can help overcome many of the challenges, whether it's through the provision of managed security services, a comprehensive disaster recovery plan, or a combination of services. Find out what US Signal can do for you. Call us at 866.2.SIGNAL or email: [email protected] .