With the holidays in full swing, we're smack in the middle of company parties, shopping madness, and trips back home -- the fun stuff. (Well, maybe not the shopping.) But this season poses more security risks to your business and team than any other time of year. While you're going about the activities that make this season the most wonderful time of the year, grinches out there are waiting to pounce on any sign of weakness.
As you're catching flights and working remotely, you're more likely to let down your guard when it comes to staying safe and securing valuable company information. And nothing ruins the holiday spirit more than a stolen identity, data breach, or leaked trade secret. Here's where to take extra precautions this season.
Shopping up a storm
There's no use denying it: Employees will be tackling their holiday gift lists on their lunch breaks and during lulls at work. They probably started on Cyber Monday (if not earlier) and will continue as long as the good deals last. In addition to taking advantage of company time, this means that your employees are using company technology to access plenty of unsecured sites that could attract viruses and worse.
You probably can't stop employees from surfing the Web during downtime, but you can advise them to visit only trusted e-commerce sites and hand their personal information over only via sites secured by HTTPS. You should also make sure employees know that any deal that seems just too good to be true, well, probably is. These types of deals can lead your employees to scammer-run sites that may install malware that could end up infecting your entire network.
An estimated 44 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from their homes this holiday season, according to AAA, and that means major security threats for your business. Now that nearly every airport has a free Wi-Fi connection and mobile devices make working on the go easier than ever before, employees will likely be wrapping up loose ends as they make their way back home for the holidays. The problem? They'll work from unsecure Wi-Fi networks at airports, hotels, and coffee shops as they're waiting for their next flight, and confidential company information is being blasted out into the online stratosphere.
Travel is an essential component of the holidays and progressive CEOs are letting their employees work on the go. With that in mind, consider setting your remote workers up with a virtual private network that will secure all their Internet interactions, even if they're using a public network. My company, AnchorFree, offers a free consumer VPN called Hotspot Shield.
Apple software engineer Gray Powell can tell you a thing or two about what happens to valuable company information after you've had one too many drinks. The Apple employee was celebrating his birthday with friends at a bar in Redwood City, Calif., in March 2010 and accidentally left behind a model of the much-anticipated iPhone 4. The phone was found by two other patrons of the bar, and the prototype was eventually sold for $5,000 to Gizmodo, the site that broke the story. This is a worse-case scenario, but holiday parties and general revelry can lead to loose lips around topics that are usually reserved as confidential.
As your start-up team hits the bars and the bottles during the holidays, everyone should have a clear idea of what is off limits to the general public. And to minimize risk, encourage employees to take extra precautions and leave their company-issued devices at home as they're participating in holiday cheer.
And, if all else fails, just give your employees the week off between Christmas and New Year's to avoid these and other headaches. Happy Holidays!
The original "3 Ways the Holidays Put Your Company at Risk" article can be seen here.
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