Online shopping during coffee breaks, an extra buzz of excitement in the air, gift exchanges and parties in the break room – many companies are understanding and even relaxed about their employees’ holiday distractions. Nurturing that holiday atmosphere can be morale-boosting for everyone, but while you’re enjoying the holidays with staff and colleagues, you can’t afford to dial back on one critical area of business: identity protection.
Offices will be closed and employees will be traveling for the holidays, creating a prime environment for cyber criminals to target your business with data breaches and other attacks. We know cyber crooks already think of small businesses as their own personal stuffed stockings; in 2012, nearly a third of all targeted cyber attacks were aimed squarely at companies with fewer than 250 employees, Symantec research tells us. Imagine their collective delight when holiday distractions provide opportunities to attack small companies.
Holiday Travel: A High Risk Scenario
Of course, you have more control over what happens inside your office and over your own network, but what do you do when employees leave your building? While they’re traveling for the holidays to visit family and friends or enjoy a Christmas get-away, are your employees inadvertently increasing your exposure to data breaches and other cyber attacks?
You can’t influence everything they do, but you can encourage employees to keep identity protection – their own and your company’s – in mind while traveling for the holidays. Here are a few steps to take and reminders to share:
- As part of your company’s holiday preparations, ensure all your security software is up-to-date and active. Conduct security scans just before you close shop for the holiday break and immediately after returning to work in the New Year.
- Require employees to leave company laptops and tablets secured in the office. Do not allow business devices and the proprietary data they contain to travel with employees on personal excursions.
- Require everyone to turn off desktop PCs before leaving the office for their holiday break.
- Remind workers that while they’re on break, they don’t need to take proprietary documents with them – especially if they’ll be traveling.
- Encourage employees to avoid accessing company information and systems through unsecured Wi-Fi networks, such as those found at hotels or in airports.
- Remind workers to be cognizant of their own exposures. They should not use unsecured networks to access their own financial accounts.
As a small business operator, you surely enjoy sharing holiday cheer with your employees, customers and others in your community – anyone but the cyber criminals who target small businesses. With some identity protection precautions, it’s possible to keep travel safer for your staff and your own systems more secure this holiday season.