The holiday season is, unfortunately, a time of increased risk and vulnerability for businesses and organizations. Cyberattacks tend to spike during the holidays, as hackers take advantage of the reduced security measures, increased online activity, and heightened pressure that characterize this period. Service desks are prime targets for hackers.


Consumer Online Spending Increases

People tend to spend more during the holiday seasons, and they are increasingly doing so more online. On Black Friday 2022, consumers managed to spend $9.2 billion online, a 2.3 percent year-over-year increase. With this type of activity, companies have a lot more consumer data on-hand. This means that hackers will have that much more valuable data to steal.

Consumer data can include personal information, such as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and credit card numbers, as well as behavioral data, such as browsing history, purchase history, preferences, and interests. This data can be used by hackers for various purposes, such as identity theft, fraud, phishing, spamming, or selling to other malicious actors.

To protect consumer data, companies need to implement strong encryption, authentication, and authorization mechanisms, as well as monitor and audit their data flows and transactions. They also need to educate their customers on how to spot and avoid phishing emails, fake websites, and other scams that may try to trick them into revealing their sensitive information.

Service Desks Are not Fully Staffed

During the holidays, service desks may be understaffed and under pressure. There may be fewer people available to respond to threats and the service desk employees who are there may be too busy dealing with requests to stay vigilant against threats.

Service desks are responsible for providing technical support and assistance to end users, as well as maintaining and troubleshooting the IT infrastructure and systems of the organization. They are often the first line of defense against cyberattacks, as they can detect, contain, and resolve incidents before they escalate and cause more damage.

However, during the holidays, service desks face several unique challenges:

To overcome these challenges, service desks need to plan ahead and prepare for the holiday season. They need to allocate sufficient resources and staff, as well as implement backup and contingency plans. They also need to train and educate their staff on how to identify and respond to cyberattacks, as well as how to protect themselves and their devices from being compromised.

Companies Have No Emergency Plan for an Increase in Cyberattacks

Many companies also may not have strategies in place to address the escalation of holiday cyberattacks. Compared to how they could respond to an attack that occurs during a regular weekday, companies will take much longer to analyze, stop or recover from one that occurs during the busy holiday season.

Cyberattacks can have severe consequences for companies, such as:

To mitigate these consequences, companies need to have a comprehensive and effective emergency plan for dealing with cyberattacks. They need to establish a clear and consistent incident response process, as well as assign roles and responsibilities to the relevant teams and individuals. They also need to communicate and coordinate with their internal and external stakeholders, as well as report and disclose the incident to the appropriate authorities.

Companies Are More Likely to Pay Ransom

Companies may opt to pay ransoms quickly to stop the ransom amounts from increasing and to not lose any more business. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the data or systems of the victim and demands a ransom for the decryption key. Ransomware attacks have become more prevalent and sophisticated in recent years, as hackers use various techniques to evade detection, spread infection, and increase pressure.

Some of the factors that may influence the decision to pay ransom are:

However, paying ransom is not a guarantee of getting the data or systems back, and it may also encourage more ransomware attacks in the future. Therefore, companies should avoid paying ransom, and instead focus on preventing, detecting, and responding to ransomware attacks. They should implement robust security policies and practices, such as updating and patching their software, encrypting and backing up their data, and educating and training their staff. They should also have a contingency plan and a recovery strategy in case of a ransomware attack.

For hackers, all these factors create an ideal situation for launching service desk attacks. For example:

Why the Service Desk is a Prime Holiday Cyberattack Target

The service desk is typically the first point of contact for end users who are unable to login to their account or access needed company resources. The service desk can perform or facilitate critical, high-risk functions such as resetting passwords, creating new accounts (including administrative accounts) or eliminating multi-factor authentication for users who have been locked out of their accounts.

This capability of bypassing security policies is a double-edged sword: While serving as the first line of defense against hackers and point of contact for employees, the service desk also serves as a back door to your network through social engineering.

Social engineering is the art of manipulating people into performing actions or divulging information that they normally would not. Hackers use various techniques, such as impersonation, deception, persuasion, or intimidation, to exploit the human factor of the service desk and gain access to the network or data.

Common Attacks Involving the Service Desk

How to Protect the Service Desk from Holiday Cyberattacks

The service desk is a vital component of the organization’s security posture, and it needs to be protected from holiday cyberattacks. Here are some of the best practices that can help the service desk to prevent, detect, and respond to cyberattacks:

The holiday season is a time of increased risk and vulnerability for cyberattacks, as hackers take advantage of the reduced security measures, increased online activity, and heightened pressure that characterize this period. The service desk is a prime target for hackers, as it can perform or facilitate critical, high-risk functions, such as resetting passwords, creating new accounts, or eliminating multi-factor authentication. Hackers use various techniques, such as impersonation, deception, persuasion, or intimidation, to exploit the human factor of the service desk and gain access to the network or data. To protect the service desk from holiday cyberattacks, the service desk needs to implement a strong authentication and authorization policy, educate and train the service desk staff and the end users, monitor and audit the service desk activities and incidents, and report and escalate any suspected or confirmed cyberattacks. By doing so, the service desk can enhance its security posture and resilience, and ensure a safe and happy holiday season for the organization and its customers.