Summer is the time when most countries have the longest vacation periods. Regardless of whether the holiday is spent indoors or outdoors, at home or overseas, most people carry their laptop with them. However, that laptop often belongs to the company they work for, and thus the employer may be interested in where it is heading and how well it is secured. It is also good to define who is in charge of the machine and the confidential material stored in it.
Now is the perfect time to go through the company’s security policies and check what is said about employees using their work equipment during their free time. Furthermore, all companies need to make sure that people leaving for vacation are familiar with these policies. If the company does not have a valid security policy, there’s no better time to fix the situation than now.
Many companies nowadays do not restrict the use of company laptops during employees’ free time. However, it is more important to make sure that the computers have been properly secured. Even though the employees are responsible for their machines during vacation, in the end the company pays the consequences in case of misuse or theft.
It is important to note that regardless of how well the company has secured its own network, the connection from the holiday resort may be less secure. Therefore it is once again important to check that all programs – especially security related ones – are up-to-date. Should the computer get stolen, it is important that its contents are properly protected (hard drive encrypted) at all times. In that case, even if a thief was to get hold of the machine, he will not have access to the company data. It is also crucial to use strong passwords. A weak password can be easily decrypted and after that the whole encryption is useless.
Companies should instruct their employees to store confidential data on network drives instead of saving it on their laptops. Precaution takes you far when it comes to data security, and in practice you can never be too cautious. For example, when traveling by car the laptop should always be stored in the trunk where it is out of sight. Too many laptops get stolen annually from the passengers’ seat through an open window when the car stops at traffic lights.
People take care, repair and service their boat, barbecue grill and other summer equipment at the end of the season. They should maintain their computer when the holiday is over in the same way. Companies should constantly monitor their internal networks to make sure they are secure, but in addition it would be good to let the IT department check the laptops before connecting them to internal networks when returning to the office. This will ensure that all possible bugs are stopped before they have a chance to spread to the network.
- Instruct employees of the company’s security policy and usage of work equipment during free time
- Ensure that all laptops have been properly secured: program updates are in place, computer specific antivirus software and firewalls are installed and hard drives are strongly encrypted
- Ensure the use of strong passwords
- If possible, have the IT department check the computers before connecting them back to the company network when the employee returns to the office.
- Follow instructions: if the company’s security policy restricts the use of the work laptop during free time, leave it in the office. Should something happen, at least you will not be held accountable.
- Double check that all program updates are in place and if in doubt, check with the company’s IT manager.
- Do not install games or personal software to the work laptop or surf on scrappy web sites using unprotected networks
- If you do not necessarily need the computer on your free time, leave it at home and enjoy your holiday!