The time is almost upon us — that time when people head out into the danger-filled wasteland to hunt for the things they need to survive the coming winter. Embellishment aside, I am really referring to the shopping madness that takes place right after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

X-Force Keeping Watch This Thanksgiving

Before Thanksgiving day even draws to a close, many retailers open their doors for the phenomenon known as Black Friday, which is followed shortly thereafter by a newer event known as Cyber Monday. The stakes are high for retailers over this time period, with billions of dollars in online and in-store sales expected yet again, according to Practical Ecommerce. And while many shoppers see great deals and sales, we in the cybersecurity field see an internet emergency just waiting to happen.

Over the past few years, the IBM X-Force Threat Research team has been keeping watch on things during the shopping weekend. Historically, we haven’t seen a sharp uptick in attacks, but that’s no reason to let our guard down.

Not only will we be monitoring for potential attacks targeting the retail industry, but as with any time of increased vigilance, we will also keep a close eye on internet traffic. Additionally, we will be watching for potential activity from distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) tools, suspicious chatter on social media and other sources of threat intelligence.

A Two-Pronged Threat

While the retail industry seems to be a hot target ripe for the picking, it is by no means the only target. Cybercriminals are just as eager to go after individual consumers.

Shoppers are going digital. Many do not want to deal with the overcrowded brick-and-mortar locations when they can get just as good a deal — or possibly a better one — shopping from the comfort of home. Be on the lookout for phishing attacks that try to trick you into clicking on malicious links. What might look like your favorite shopping site could be a fake, malware-laden copy set up by cybercriminals.

Retail Security Best Practices

Be sure to keep your security posture strong over this holiday shopping season. Keep your devices up to date. Be smart about what websites you visit and how you get there. Exercise strong password hygiene and always opt for two-factor authentication when available.

For more retail security best practices, download our report, “Security Trends in the Retail Industry.”

Read the IBM X-Force research report on security trends in the retail industry

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