The holidays are typically a time to relax and spend time with loved ones, but the White House reminded corporate executives and business leaders that malicious cyber actors don’t take the holidays off in new guidance issued on Dec. 16.

The guidance aims to help organizations reduce their risk of becoming the victim of a cyberattack and ensure a “cyber safe and secure holiday season.”

“Historically we have seen breaches around national holidays because criminals know that security operations centers are often short-staffed, delaying the discovery of intrusions,” Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology, and National Cyber Director Chris Inglis wrote in the guidance.

“In many cases criminals plan and actually begin an intrusion before the holiday itself – they infiltrate a network and lie in wait for the optimal time to launch an attack. It is therefore essential that you convene your leadership team now to make your organization a harder target for criminals,” they wrote.

Neuberger and Inglis offered a number of recommendations and best practices for organizations, including:

  • Ensure patches are up-to-date;
  • Know your network, ensuring logs are enabled;
  • Change your passwords and mandate multi-factor authentication;
  • Manage your IT and security teams schedules to ensure you have sufficient holiday coverage;
  • Conduct spear phishing and other exercises to raise employee awareness of common attacks;
  • Exercise your incident response plan in advance and conduct rigorous security stress tests; and
  • Back up your data.

The guidance also encouraged IT teams to reference the websites of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and FBI for technical information and resources.

Another helpful resource specific to ransomware attacks is, the Federal government’s one-stop-shop for ransomware resources and alerts.

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.