Staying Safe on Cyber Monday

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Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving that has become the online retailer's version of Black Friday, will likely be more popular than ever this year, thanks, in part, to concerns about the H1N1 flu virus. In fact, Forrester Research forecasts an 8 percent increase in online retail sales over last year.


Forrester has also found that the majority of Internet users have significant concerns about the security of their personal data when doing business online, something businesses need to keep in mind during the holiday season when the Bad Guys intensify activities specifically around commerce-related brands.


There are two security risks that businesses need to be especially aware of at all times, but especially during prime shopping season, Roger Thompson, Chief of Research, AVG Technologies, told me.


The first is that the public-facing Web site might get hacked, and the business brand will be damaged as a result.


The second is the same one that all companies face: Their own computers might get infected from visiting someone else's hacked Web site. Thompson said an infected computer can result in a painful internal worm, such as Conficker, or even worse, a subtle hack, such as the sorts of things that have affected the credit card companies over the last couple of years. Subtle hacks can be even be worse than fast-spreading worms, he added, because you can lose a lot of information before you notice:


"He might be there, siphoning off data, for six months before he's discovered. If he's there long enough, and is skilled enough, you might not be able to keep him out in the future, because he'll have learned so much about your system. Scary."


The best way to protect your business from within and for your customers is to remain vigilant and to keep security patches up to date. Microsoft gets criticized a lot about security, but at least it has a monthly patch cycle, Thompson said. Many UNIX-based solutions don't have a systematic way of rolling out updates and patches, so admins have to be proactive on keeping systems updated.