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Device security for the holidays

Holidays are a wonderful time of the year. Visiting with family and friends, watching movies and shopping are among the many activities we love to engage in. However, the holidays are also an inopportune time to have your device stolen, compromised or lost.

Holidays are a time when millions of young adults are home from school or university with time on their hands. Thousands of organizations have skeleton crews working in their IT-related departments.

It’s also a time when criminals are lying in wait, looking to steal devices from people out shopping or away from home traveling. 

Here are some tips and tricks to consider during the holiday season to help keep your data and devices secure both at home and at work.

Physical security

  • If you must stop by a store or supermarket on your way home from work and you have your company lanalsptop or other devices in your vehicle, simply lock them in the trunk/boot of your vehicle instead of leaving them where they can be spotted through the windows.
  • At home, hide your laptop/devices away or lock them up when not in use. Criminals are usually in a hurry to not get caught. If they break into your home or apartment, they’ll quickly grab what they can see. The same applies to keys.
  • At the airport, treat your laptop like it’s cash and always keep your eyes on it as it goes through the security scanning process. Airport security these days is often very busy and can be hectic and confusing. It’s unfortunate and ironically common for theft to happen here.
  • In public, try to keep your laptop off the floor. If your laptop bag must sit on the floor at a coffee shop or somewhere public, place the strap around your foot, or keep the bag touching your leg or between your feet so that you’ll notice if it moves.
  • If you’re staying in a hotel, try not to leave your laptop or devices out in your room when you’re away. Utilize the room safe if there is one, or use a locking cable to secure your laptop or hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the room.
  • DO NOT write down your passcodes or passwords and leave them in a bag with your laptop or other devices. This is like taping your house key to the outside of your front door.
  • Be wary of leaving your phone on a table, even if you can see it. It’s not advisable to leave it where others could easily distract you and grab it.

Data security at home and work

  • Beware of seasonal scams. Phishing emails increase exponentially during the holiday season as family members and office employees are more likely to be visiting non-standard shopping sites both on home and work networks. Remain vigilant and exercise the same caution with emails you receive that you exercise throughout the year. Never click on a link in an email without verifying it. Nothing is free, no one will legitimately ask for a password or credit card number over email and no one is going to give you a pile of money for loaning them your bank account information.
  • The holiday season is a great time to change your home Wi-Fi password if you don’t regularly change it. Use good password hygiene and rules when selecting your new password(s). Also, ensure you’ve changed your home network name (SSID) from the default to something generic and not associated with you or your home. Limit who has administrative access on your home network.
  • Before shopping online, ensure your device, browser, apps, antivirus and security are patched and up to date. This is easy and usually free, and it’s generally automated, so it doesn’t take a lot of time to do. If you shop online, use a credit card instead of a debit card as most credit cards offer fraud protections that limit your liability; debit cards typically do not. Better safe than sorry.
  • Never give out your personal or financial information over the phone unless you have verified who you are actually speaking with and they have a legitimate reason to ask for it.
  • At work, adjust your firewall rules to account for any lack of data transfer requirements during the holidays. Double-check your email filtering to ensure you’ve accounted for an uptick in scams during this season. Update your detection rules to account for a drop in personnel numbers during the holiday break. Ask your security team or leadership to send out a company email reminding employees about security and their obligations surrounding it and include common-sense security tips for employees to learn and use.
  • Ensure your organization has an Incident Response Plan (IRP) and knows how to execute it. During the holiday season, many key employees may be away on vacation or traveling, so it’s a good idea to have an Incident Response Retainer service as part of your IRP so that you can quickly fill that skills and availability gap if an incident does occur.

By following these common-sense tips, you’ll be in a far better position to enjoy the holidays, rather than stressing out and trying to track down what happened to your data, device or money.