Black Friday & Cyber Monday: Shopping Frenzy or Cyber Risk?

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COVID-19 has not only transformed the way we shop for goods and services, but also the way in which organizations conduct their business.   A recent global study reported that since the emergence of COVID-19, consumers now interact online with companies 60% of the time as opposed to only 42% in 2019, and 61% said they expect to spend more time online after the pandemic than they did before it appeared. In addition, COVID-19 has also forced companies to quickly pivot to a remote workforce, with 88% of organizations encouraging or requiring their employees to work from home. So what does this mean for businesses? What does it mean for consumers? Will Black Friday and Cyber Monday be full of deals and opportunities or full of cyber threats and cyber risks? 

A banner year for e-commerce

When it comes to e-commerce, 2020 is shaping up to be a banner year. Online sales have grown exponentially, and this holiday season is expected to drive more online revenue than ever before. It will also be an optimal time for e-commerce businesses to reach more audiences, obtain a bigger share of the market, and maximize their sales. Online consumer spending in the US alone is predicted to be up 35.8% from last year as shoppers increasingly try to avoid large crowds and long lines. 

Consumers will benefit too

Consumers too will benefit from the accelerated shift to e-commerce. They can look forward to earlier and longer-lasting Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) deals, a phenomenon known as Black Friday and Cyber Monday creep, as well as many special and unique holiday sales and promos. Products across the board, from electronics and apparel to footwear and health and beauty, will likely see a huge spike in online sales this BFCM.   

But so will cyber criminals

Unfortunately, this same explosive growth in online activity presents lucrative opportunities for cyber criminals too, putting both retailers and consumers at risk. Some of the cyber threats to be expected during this BFCM are account takeovers, distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS), COVID-19-related phishing scams, formjacking, and third-party cyber attacks.

So what does all this mean?

Cybercrime is exceedingly dangerous to both businesses and consumers, and the damage they cause doesn’t necessarily end with the cessation of an attack. Businesses that experience a cyber-attack can suffer a loss of reputation, loss of customer data, business disruption, and financial damages beyond the attack itself such as legal fees and even bankruptcy. Consumers who’ve been attacked can experience financial loss, identity theft, stolen credentials, and theft of medical data and other sensitive information. The threats are very real, very present, and expected to be even more pervasive during the holiday shopping season. However, that’s not to say that you can’t defend yourself and your business while still reaping the benefits of an active BFCM shopping season.

Forewarned is forearmed

Awareness is the first step toward a strong cybersecurity defense. Whether as a personal policy or a business policy, awareness is about checking links before clicking on them, verifying email addresses before opening emails, using strong passwords, and checking by phone with relevant persons before complying with requests for funds or sensitive information. Keeping your software and systems updated is another crucial defense measure. All software and system updates should be implemented when updates are released in order to keep your systems and software resilient and free from vulnerabilities. Finally and perhaps most importantly, individuals and businesses should always install robust antivirus software to detect and avert potential cyber attacks. 

The most unusual BFCM

2020 is also shaping up to be the most unusual BFCM we’ve ever experienced. The gigantic migration to ecommerce shopping suggests a chart-busting holiday season, but the security challenges are also undeniable. This means that BFCM during COVID-19 is full of not just deals and opportunities, but cyber threats and cyber risks too. Overcoming those risks so that everyone can safely enjoy the holiday shopping season requires implementation of the basic cybersecurity measures mentioned above. And after all the struggles of 2020, I think we can all agree that everyone deserves a happy, safe, and secure holiday shopping season.