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With the recent past focussed on COVID-19, and lockdowns now starting to end around the world (certainly in the UK, Australia and the US), for many it’s time to turn their attention to one of the biggest retail events on the calendar. This year, in fact, it may even determine whether you get that Christmas gift for someone special or end up emailing an apology because it’s still clearing customs!
Traditionally, “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are the focus of as much retail activity as shops can generate and shoppers can bear. In 2020 for example, despite COVID-19, there were an estimated 100 million on-line shoppers searching for bargains. In only a few short years it has become a pre-Christmas phenomenon, globally. Friday and Monday span the US Thanksgiving weekend, and with it being close to the last pay period before Christmas, they are now as important to traditional stores as they are to online retailers.
Despite the disruption (and frustration) from the pandemic, this year Black Friday could become the touch paper that sets consumer driven economies back up and running up. The only possible cloud on the horizon is the ongoing and significant supply chain issue which is creating shortages in just about everything, everywhere.
Hopes are certainly high that Black Friday and Cyber Monday will meet expectations. There’s already a buzz. People want to be able to shop for deals, and they want bargains. After two years of disruptions, you can’t blame them for wanting to get their Christmas shopping done early – like shopping for gifts and even starting to get hold of the other things they plan to celebrate with – alcohol, food, treats, Christmas jumpers etc.
What we’ve also seen this year, however, is an increase in high profile ransomware attacks. Colonial Pipeline was forced to shut-down its pipeline systems which resulted in petrol shortages on the US east coast. JBS Foods suffered processing disruptions that led to food deliveries being delayed.
Ransomware has shown its ability to seriously disrupt businesses and the services they provide; increasingly vulnerable organisations are now being targeted for maximum impact. We have seen DDoS attacks used to impact companies at critical times, such as major sporting events and peak shopping periods. A cyber disruption to the finance sector in two weeks’ time would not be helpful – impacting retail momentum and re-enforcing the anxiety that has emerged during an unprecedented year of ransomware attacks.
For this reason, all parts of the supply chain need to maintain a level of diligence during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday season. Many retailers have already hedged against fulfilment concerns but with hopes of a bumper sales season, all supply chain participants should assess their risks and make a contingency plan where necessary.
Ahead of any peak trading period or highly critical time window, organisations take steps to ensure everything goes well: DDoS protection, the ability to scale bandwidth, extra delivery slots, warehouse space, additional inventory for sale products and staff overtime rosters.
Ransomware is a business risk – it can affect your business at any time, but especially at times when a disruption to activities would be most damaging. So, if the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales are important to you or your business, it’s important from a cyber perspective to assess any potential risks ahead of time, and put safeguards in place as part of your risk management plan. The time is now!
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