Can Ransomware Really Ruin Your Christmas Party?

December 6, 2016 3:02 pm Ellen MacKay

The Christmas Season is upon us and for many employees this brings with it the excitement of the office Christmas party. For many, the Christmas party is a time to bond with their teams, make some “moves” on the dance floor and get the glad-rags on for one or two festive nights. However, this year’s Christmas party could turn out to be not the celebration one would expect. If you are in doubt about how ransomware could affect your Christmas party then read on.

Cybercriminals are targeting service- based businesses this Christmas. The reason that this type of business is so lucrative for a cybercriminal is that they usually to do not have an IT team or in-house expertise in the software used by ransomware.

The user most likely to be targeted will have IT systems in place in their business however they will not be IT-focused. In other terms this user will probably not have backups, security awareness or remedial plans in place. These types of businesses are a prime target as it is often less expensive for them to pay the ransom rather than pay for the remedial work that would result from a ransomware attack.

Here are some examples of the businesses particularly susceptible to attack:

Hairdressers

For many employees, a trip to the hairdressers is a must before the Christmas Party. Appointments are booked weeks in advance and a last-minute vacancy is rarer than a Bulbasaur in your kitchen (that’s a rare Pokémon in case you weren’t aware). Imagine what would happen if there were no appointments, no bookings and no waiting list?

This may sound like a dream come true to many however the effect of ransomware on a hairdressing business can have a disastrous effect. Many salons have CRM systems in place that hold all of their customers’ personal information such as D.O.B, name, address and their styling preferences. In some cases, notes held on these CRM systems may even include information regarding the customers’ children or spouse.

Ransomware is used by cybercriminals to encrypt or lock these customer records as well as all calendars and scheduling systems thus leaving the salon in a challenging position. The only options available are to pay up or suffer the consequences. These consequences can be a loss of income as well as reputational damage.

Beauticians

Another item on the party-goer’s agenda is the beautician or nail technician. Being self-employed or working for a small company leaves many beauticians and nail technicians vulnerable to a ransomware attack. Christmas is the busiest time of year for these businesses especially with consumers buying services for both themselves and others as Christmas presents.

This service provider like the hairdresser heavily depends on their ability to schedule their clients’ appointments to ensure the sustainability of their business. A ransomware attack would render this booking business process redundant. Ransomware is often downloaded onto these individuals’ systems through visits to fraudulent websites and or links contained within phishing emails. This year has also

seen a spike in ransomware being downloaded from “malvertsing” which is often found on social media. Social media and social networks are a marketing tool used by many of these service providers to communicate with their clients and to also advertise their products and services. This is a factor many scammers are delighted to exploit.

Taxi Companies

Another service targeted by cybercriminals this Christmas are taxi businesses and self-employed taxi drivers. Taxi services depend on their contacts and their bookings to ensure a successful Christmas period. Like the other service providers discussed previously, taxi drivers will often have pre-bookings from large parties or groups.

Ransomware used to encrypt or lock any of this information can have a detrimental effect on this type of business. Brand reputation can be destroyed as pre-booked customers are left waiting in the cold during the festive break. Again another fact that cybercriminals use to their advantage and another reason why taxi businesses are more likely to pay the ransom than lose their files or destroy their reputation.

Hotels

Hotels are one of the most commonly used venues for Christmas parties. The devastation that a ransomware attack could have on this type of service provider is immeasurable.

Not only will hotels have records of Christmas party bookings but they will hold information regarding catering whether in-house or third-party, room occupancy and customers’ personal data.

Large chain hotels will have access to more advanced IT services and may even have a back-up plan in place for such an attack. However small to medium-sized hotels most likely will not have multiple back-ups or remediation plans and are therefore the perfect target for ransomware.

Ransomware is on the increase and many individuals are happier to pay a ransom fee than lose their files or personal data. Cybercriminals use this time of year to target party goers as they are less focused and are more vulnerable to an attack. It is important that you raise awareness and to be careful what you download or click when browsing the Internet. Metacompliance have a range of eLearning courses that can help you raise awareness within your organisation. Contact us today for a free demo and keep your Christmas Party plans safe this season.