Cyber Monday is one of the biggest e-commerce shopping days of the year. It's also one of the biggest days for malware attacks and other fraud schemes targeting retailers across the country. Every holiday season, thousands of fraudulent websites, emails, third-party mobile apps and social media posts are created using the names of respected brands to lure online shoppers into giving up their credit card information to hackers.
But shoppers aren't the only victims of Cyber Monday fraud. The brands whose names are used in these malware and phishing scams take a serious reputational hit following a successful cyberattack.
"When hackers impersonate a trusted brand, consumers say, 'Shame on the retailer,'" said Dylan Sachs, director of incident response at brand management and technology firm BrandProtect. "A cyberattack diminishes the brand's value for the consumer."
While national and international retailers like JCPenney are the most frequent targets of brand fraud, small businesses aren't completely immune. Based on data collected from BrandProtect's proprietary monitoring technology for a study last holiday season, Sachs predicts an uptick in Black Friday- and Cyber Monday-related cyberattacks using brand names of businesses of all sizes.
"Scammers can target a regional retailer with the same tenacity as national one," added Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, BrandProtect's chief marketing officer. "The folks who are preying on Cyber Monday shoppers have done their homework and know who they can target."
Sachs and Mancusi-Ungaro offered the following tips to help businesses avoid falling victim to Cyber Monday fraud:
Continually monitor social media. Though hackers can strike in many places, social media accounts are often targeted. Therefore, guarding your brand's social media accounts is one of the first lines of defense against fraud. In the weeks leading up to Cyber Monday 2012, BrandProtect found more than 60,000 tweets mentioning the shopping "holiday," some of which included links to fraudulent sites. If your business is tweeting about Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, or retweeting other brands, be sure that any URLs point to legitimate, trusted websites.
Stay on top of current events. Sachs noted that spam tactics change significantly during the holiday season, with hackers capitalizing on time-sensitive current events and charity-related scams. While most spam filters will catch obvious phrases like "Act now!" and "Great offer!" from unknown senders, consumers and businesses alike should be on high alert for more sophisticated malicious emails claiming to be from respected brands.
Watch your employees. An unsuspecting employee doing holiday shopping at work or opening an infected email attachment is one of the leading causes of malware attacks. Vigilant employee monitoring, and education on what to watch out for, could prevent the serious data breaches that allow cybercriminals into your system.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.