Maintaining Network Security During the Holiday Shopping Season

December 2, 2019

No matter how many employees you have, it’s likely that some of them will be shopping during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday. As sales start to creep up earlier every year, some of this shopping will probably be done on company time and on company computers. Every company needs to set limits on how much personal usage their employees are permitted. While some corporations allow employees to use the Internet at work while they’re not in the middle of anything pressing, others ban personal use of company property altogether. Unfortunately, employees tend to make their own rules in this arena, so it’s best to prepare. 

Website Blocking

The shopping holidays can expose your office network to non-secure websites that your employees wouldn’t usually visit. Since these corners of the internet are often infected with malware, the easiest way to reduce malware attacks is simply to restrict access to these sites altogether. For the heavy shopping week or two at the end of November, it may be beneficial to speak to your local IT staff about blocking access to all non-work websites and manually whitelisting those that are useful during the workday. It’s straightforward to unblock these sites from the administrator level when required, but the damage one can do if unchecked isn’t worth leaving them available.

Security Settings

Whether your office is sticking with Microsoft Edge or you’ve moved to Chrome or Firefox, security settings within the browser can be configured at the administrator level. Talk to your IT staff about what settings they’d recommend setting for this time period. The browser-specific settings can often be configured to allow access to websites while blocking any attempt to run malicious code. Additionally, phishing attempts tend to increase around the holidays, so it may be best to schedule a time to talk to your employees about potential risks⁠—ensure that they triple-check any emails or websites that require entering their password.

Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is only good if it’s up to date. Thousands of new viruses are being created every day, and if you’re not running regular updates it’s possible to miss them. Installing reputable virus software will keep your company computers on guard against new threats. Some software even updates multiple times a day to stay on top of new exploits. If you have antivirus software installed and properly registered, you’ll be kept protected even if employees are being careless online. Windows Defender firewall is standard on all modern Windows PCs and is a good start but if you have potentially valuable information to protect, then you’ll want to go beyond and purchase third-party software. If you’ve moved to MacOS or Linux computers in-office then you’re ahead of the curve when it comes to defeating malware.

Communication

Like every other time of year, the best defense against your employees accidentally infecting the network or giving up passwords is communication. Schedule a meeting with your staff and explain the threats they’re likely to be facing over the next couple of months. Get them comfortable with suspicion and encourage them to report anything suspicious. This will keep them on their guard during their daily routines and make them more comfortable coming to a manager if they do spot something suspicious. Also, if they accidentally do click something that could cause harm to the network then it’s critical they feel that they can report it without being judged. Speak with your employees about what’s expected of them during the holiday season and review your personal Internet use guidelines⁠—but keep in mind that employees will probably be breaking them. It’s best to keep them informed of their options if something unforeseen does happen.

Next Post