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Information Security: Wrapping up the year

21 December 2022
In the aftermath of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, James Keenan, NQA’s Information Security Assurance Manager, gives his thoughts on getting the most out of the busy trading period and planning for next year from an information security perspective.
With Christmas fast approaching and Santa loading his sleigh, the busiest online retail period that started with Black Friday will be continuing into Boxing Day sales.

Every year there is a lot of information published around Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day sales but this is nearly always focussed on the consumer and how individuals can keep safe online. What about all the businesses?

For businesses, preparation is the most important and effective way to make sure that you take full advantage of the increased opportunities the holiday season presents and avoid falling prey to the bad actors out there (who are also in one of their most lucrative periods).

One of the easiest ways to prepare is to know what went before. Sales volumes are forecast with the knowledge of previous years’ performance in this quarter, and this approach can be applied to your online presence and network performance. This profiling is the most important starting point to building your strategy and your baseline. Knowing what to expect allows you to set alerts and detect quickly when the unexpected happens, which can then be investigated.

With that in mind, and before enjoying Christmas dinner, schedule a review of the period. Discuss what went well, what didn’t what could be done better. Save your system log records before they disappear, and be sure to review them - they will be busy, but is everything as you would expect? Does anything not feel right?

A good way to start is to plot activity against a timeline, looking for busy periods or spikes in data entering and leaving your network, especially in areas you wouldn’t expect it. Who is logging in, when, and should they be? Do you understand the reasons behind what you find?

The knowledge you do gain can be used to immediately tighten up potential weak areas, but you can also keep the data for capacity planning or business cases for new equipment. Don’t forget to build this information into your business continuity plans and add to your risk registers too.

Of course, this is a retrospective look but we have Webinars planned in 2023 to prepare well in advance, where we will cover all the things that can be done to remove as much stress as possible for everyone during the busy period. With the new ISO 27001:2022 encouraging focus on alarm monitoring and threat intelligence, we will explore what this means for you in the context of Black Friday and beyond.

Hopefully you get everything you wanted at Christmas but unlike that Christmas wrapping heading to the recycler don’t throw out all your data - it is a real gift, so make it work for you all year!