Summer holiday security checklist

SecureWorks outlines its top ten tips for IT and security managers to minimize risk during the holiday season.

1. Hackers don’t go on holiday – Many frontline staff members are on holiday and resources are stretched, so the chance of a security breach not being detected is even higher than normal. Make sure you don’t take your eye off the ball when your workers are on the beach! Also, as young people can be some of the most prolific hackers and will have more free time during the school holidays IT managers need to be extra vigilant.

2. Protect dormant accounts – One of the easiest ways to compromise a system is using account details (internal or online) of an absent team member as there will be a much lower chance that malicious activity will be observed by the end user. You can minimise risk by ensuring that user accounts have appropriate entitlements and you have considered your approach to consolidated log and security event monitoring.

3. Don’t advertise that your staff are on holiday – Discourage employees from broadcasting on social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn that they’re on holiday. “Out of office’ messages should only be sent to internal colleagues or to contacts that are in the user’s address book.

4. Don’t share login details – Restrict staff members from sharing their login details with colleagues or temporary workers who are helping over the holiday.

5. Set time limits on special access privileges – If someone is given temporary access rights due to staff absence you need to be careful with subsequent cleansing of such entitlements and entitlement creep. Make sure you remove excess privileges when they are no longer required.

6. Secure remote worker authentication – Ensure that all laptops are secured with two factor authentication and appropriate end-point security solutions. Smartphones, such as BlackBerrys, should have appropriate security controls such as password protection alongside management features, including remote wipe and lock. These measures should always be implemented especially during the summer season when staff can be less vigilant when working remotely.

7. Ensure robust end-point security for remote workers РLaptops not connected directly to the company network will miss out on critical patches from the system administrators, but will often be used in vulnerable environments Рfor example, being connected to open wi-fi in airports and caf̩s. This means they could bring back more than they bargained for when they re-connect to the work network, so end point security must be up to date and robust enough to ensure remote machines are not compromised.

8. Watch out for increased web use – Over the holiday season the workload of many staff (not working in IT!) is likely to reduce so staff remaining in the office may have more free time to surf the internet for non work-related sites – which are more likely to be compromised. As such, this is a good time to check that security managers have in place comprehensive networking monitoring systems and that all browsers and OSs are properly patched.

9. Be vigilant on payment processing – As with other departments, payment processing over the holiday period may not be as robust due to staff holidays, so potential fraudsters will try and use this loophole. Fraudsters often attempt to receive payment for fake invoices.

10. Switch off unused PCs and routers – Not only is this good from an energy saving perspective, but switching off unused resources will eliminate their potential to be used for malicious activity.