For many businesses, the holiday period is the busiest and most profitable time of year. With sales ramping up and employees taking annual leave, it’s not uncommon for important tasks to fall by the wayside in the midst of the Christmas madness.

Unfortunately, this can offer the perfect opportunity for hackers to target unsuspecting businesses. A recent study shows that ransomware attacks rise by 30% throughout the holiday season, as businesses are often distracted and cybersecurity is far from the top of their priority list.

The good news is that a robust cybersecurity strategy can safeguard your business from the consequences of a data breach, ensuring that you and your data get through the silly season unharmed.

Make cybersecurity an essential part of team training

Hackers use a wide range of tactics to gain access to data, so it’s essential that your employees understand what a potential attack might look like and the responsibility they have to stop it. This will minimise the risk of human error enabling a hacking attempt and help to create a cyber-safe culture amongst your team.

To facilitate this, all staff should go through regular cybersecurity training. This training should cover common hacking tactics, how to spot them, and what an employee should do if they believe your business is at risk. Some of the most common ways that hackers attempt to access your data is by sending fake links, invoices, and files via email. Often all it takes is one employee to perceive these emails as legitimate for a hacker to gain access to your systems and customer data and even receive payments fraudulently.

By making cybersecurity a company-wide responsibility, you minimise the risk of a mistake causing widespread damage to your business. With more eyes trained to identify the signs of an attack, you will have a greater chance of stopping it before damage occurs.

Implement cyber-safe policies

When most people think of cybersecurity, they think of IT experts working in a far-away room to keep a company’s data safe. The truth is that one of the most effective ways you can protect your business is by implementing policies that make day-to-day activities more secure.

One of the most important examples of this is a secure password policy. Your company should be using a secure password manager for all login information, as this makes your login details much more difficult to steal and your important accounts, like banking and bookkeeping websites and apps, much more difficult for hackers to access.. A reputable program will not only store your passwords for you but will also help you to create unique passwords that cannot be easily hacked. Multi-factor authentication should also be used wherever possible to ensure that you will be notified if an unauthorised login occurs.

If you self-manage your website, make sure to keep plugins up to date at all times. Updates will usually come with important security features, so outdated software can leave gaping holes in your website security. The best way to manage this is to allow automatic updates so you are always running on the latest version of all programs.

Securely store your data

From customer data to confidential business information, a data breach can cause serious damage to your reputation and as a consequence cost your business thousands in lost revenue, not to mention should you lose access to your operational systems and website because of a hack, the costs involved getting operational again can be significant. This is why it’s important to securely store your data in a cloud-based system, as it will remove the risk of data being easily accessed in the event of a cyber-attack and provide you with an up-to-date data source at all times.

The type of software you use will depend on the size of your business and the type of data you’re storing, so it’s critical to choose a reputable company that offers the right level of security for your needs. For most cloud-based services, automatic back-ups are available to ensure minimal upkeep on your end. Train your employees to keep sensitive information in a secure system and never on a desktop where it can be easily accessed by hackers.

As cyber-attacks become more and more commonplace, businesses can no longer afford to put cybersecurity on the back burner – especially around the holiday period. Putting strong policies in place is essential to protecting your business from the devastating impacts of a data breach.

Liz Ward is CEO and co-founder at Navii.