Is your network prepared for the holiday shopping season?

This year is coming to a close, and for many retailers, this season means one thing: an uptick in shoppers, sales and revenue resulting from the holidays. In many business circles, these final months are the busiest time of the year, and it’s important to be prepared for the rush of activity, transactions and customer demands.

This is also a prime period for cybercriminal activity and data breaches. For this reason, it’s not only critical to be ready for a rise in customers, but also prep your company’s security measures.

2016 Predictions: What does this season have in store?

This year, consumers plan to come out in full force for in-store purchases as well as online transactions. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2016 Consumer Survey:

  • Shoppers plan to spend around $935 each to fulfill their holiday gift lists.

  • Overall, holiday-related sales will increase by 3.6 percent, reaching a total of $655.8 billion overall.

  • Consumers also plan to buy for themselves, spending an average of $139, the highest amount seen in the 13 years this survey has been taking place.

Consumer security: A top priority

This season also provides ample opportunity for hackers who look to target businesses during their busiest time of year. PricewaterhouseCooper contributors Bryan Oberlander and PJ Ritters noted that some of the biggest data breaches to ever occur have taken place during the holiday shopping season. What’s more, PWC’s Global State of Information Security survey discovered that attacks on consumer businesses have increased 154 percent, and the compromise of customer records rose 27 percent.

Previous breach incidents show the importance of having a security-centered focus going into the final months of the year. One of the most well-known is the Target breach, which illustrated the significance of securing connections and access with outside, third-party vendors. In addition, numerous end-of-year attacks on point-of-sales systems demonstrate that securing all platforms across a business should be a top priority.

“Retailers may be more vulnerable this holiday season due to the fact that there are more access points for sophisticated cybercriminals to exploit across the omnichannel given the pervasiveness of highly distributed endpoints spanning kiosks, in-store Wi-Fi, mobile point-of-sales and the prevalence of IoT devices,” Level 3 Communications noted in a recent press release.

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Preparing for the rush ahead

While the window is short, there’s still time to make preparations in the best interest of your business’s customer service and security capabilities. Here are a few top strategies to consider going into this pivotal time of year:

  • Ensure all critical software is up to date: This includes the tools used to support your company’s online and e-commerce presence as well as its security solutions. In this way, support is better guaranteed for the rise in customer demands and shopping activity, and any known security exploits can be guarded against. Closing any gaps in data protection – especially when it comes to customer information – is essential.

  • Secure all access points: This includes ensuring authorized access inside and outside the business with robust user credentials and a strong firewall to protect the network itself.

  • Have response plans in place: It’s much better to have contingencies in place and not need them than to be caught off guard unprepared. Plans here should extend to breach response, as well as ensuring the ability to support customer needs should any service outages take place.

  • Guard the network: Protecting the underlying network isn’t just imperative for e-commerce companies, but for brick-and-mortar retailers as well. As physical stores increasingly leverage captive portals for their customer Wi-Fi as well as in-store mobile offers, it’s important to ensure that the network underpinning these capabilities is protected.

Holiday preparedness doesn’t just revolve around being ready for shoppers – your network should also be guarded against emerging threats as well. To find out more, contact the experts at Untangle today.