Many companies turn Thanksgiving and other winter holidays into a well-earned two-day break from the workweek, leading into the weekend and giving employees some extra time with their families. Unfortunately, a cyberattack aimed at the employer can disrupt this relaxing time. As comfortable as it is to assume that hackers will take a break over the holidays, that would be too optimistic.
There are a few particular risk factors that will likely prove especially relevant in the last month of 2017. Paying attention to these details can help companies stay safe this year, and allow the season to be as restful as it's intended to be - nothing is quite as disruptive to a positive holiday spirit as trying to clean up after a serious data breach.
Prioritize device security
When employees head home for the holidays they may travel by car, bus, train or plane. Do they have work devices with them? Having workers take laptops and smart devices home with them is a great way to keep teams in touch or allow people to contribute from far away on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Monday and Tuesday after. But IT leaders should be ready to deal with the threat created by workers crisscrossing the country with company-issued devices.
When an official laptop is stolen, hackers often gain access to valuable information, including files that can lead directly to data theft on a large scale. A laptop is lost every 53 seconds in the U.S., and recent trends in theft include criminals breaking into parked cars specifically to take tech items such as computers and phones. When these are corporate equipment or connected to vital databases through bring-your-own-device policies, the results can be problematic for the whole company. It's vital for organizations to ensure they know which technology can connect to their networks, and implement all feasible defenses for protection.
Watch out for high-volume shopping days
One threat to company data that takes place over Thanksgiving vacation doesn't stop on the Monday everyone returns to work - in fact, that's one of the most dangerous days of all. This risk factor is shopping. Research revealed that 64 percent of respondents shopped on work time and on work technology. Perhaps even more alarming - 16 percent spent over an hour of work time shopping during last year's Cyber Monday.
Organizations should have policies in place for work device use in general and safety, and additional rules for traveling purposes. Having practices established, and offering frequent and timely reminders of what is expected of employees, can help the shopping season stay safe. There is a very big difference between plopping a sale item into a digital cart and stumbling onto a phishing site that steals personal information.
Remember: Attacks happen year-round
Perhaps the most important step to take around security around the holidays is remembering that there is still danger, even when the office shuts down for the long weekend. Monitoring system status and potential risk year-round is an important task, whether it's carried out by an employee or a third-party consultant.
The International Business Times gave a data breach example that should be fresh in the minds of IT leaders: Last year, the whole computer network of San Francisco's public transportation department was compromised by a hacker group that encrypted files and held them for ransom. The damage even spread to point-of-sale ticket terminals, forcing the agency to offer free rides for the holiday weekend.
Full readiness for a data breach is a must today, and companies' vigilance can't slack, even during times of the year specifically set aside to relax with food and family. Before leaders turn out the lights and leave the office for four days, they should be certain their assets are protected.
Contact Identity Guard Business Solutions to learn more about all-purpose data protection.