December 18, 2023

Safeguarding Your Business’ Data Throughout the Holiday Season

As we move into the holiday season, businesses experience a unique blend of challenges. With employees taking time off, reduced staff managing operations, and seasonal workers joining the workforce, the atmosphere is charged with anticipation. In addition to these factors, there is an increased risk of data breaches during this period.

During the holidays, employees could be distracted by the upcoming festivities, creating a potential risk for security lapses. It's essential not to lower your guard. Businesses, especially those whose data protection measures are not as comprehensive, can become susceptible to breaches. Recognizing and addressing potential vulnerabilities becomes paramount to help ensure a secure environment and safeguard sensitive information during what is supposed to be a joyful time.

Proactive Strategies for Data Protection and Security During the Holidays

Here are some workplace strategies that may help protect confidential information during this time of year:

  • Prioritize Data Loss Protection: Implement policies to safeguard against digital and physical data breaches. Maintain a robust internet security policy, as cyberattacks tend to escalate during the Holiday season. According to a Darktrace report, there is a 70% average increase in attempted ransomware attacks in November and December, in contrast to January and February. Additionally, introduce a document retention policy.
  • Implement a Fraud Hotline: Implementing a fraud hotline is a proactive measure that can significantly enhance fraud detection and minimize losses, as noted in the 2022 Report to the Nations. This reporting mechanism increases the likelihood of early detection, allowing for swift action and reduced financial impact. Additionally, the Shred-it® 2023 Data Protection Report (DPR) reveals that 38% of data breaches in small businesses are attributed to malicious insiders, underscoring the importance of a fraud hotline in identifying and addressing such risks promptly.
  • Enforce Access Restrictions: Limit employee access to certain physical spaces and confidential data, both electronically and in paper form, to those directly related to their responsibilities. For remote work, establish a policy outlining the removal and management of confidential information.
  • Prioritize Online Training and Education: According to Shred-it's® DPR, 50% of the data breaches reported were a result of employee error. Therefore, it is important to combine online training sessions to educate staff about internet scams, including phishing. Remind employees not to use public Wi-Fi for out-of-office work and encourage the use of VPNs. Given the surge in holiday-related emails and text messages, which may contain disguised phishing links, companies should train their staff to exercise caution and verify sender information before clicking links.
  • Implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy: Enforce a strict BYOD security policy that covers data loss prevention and the physical protection of all devices. Encourage employees to take extra precautions when bringing their electronic devices along for the holidays.
  • Utilize Physical Safeguards: Implement a Shred-it-all policy to help prevent physical documents and confidential information from falling into the wrong hands. This policy ensures that all documents, regardless of content, are securely shredded. Additionally, enforce a clean desk policy, requiring employees to stow away sensitive materials by locking files in cabinets. This practice guarantees that desks are cleared of confidential information before employees depart for the holidays, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access or data exposure.
  • Have an Incident Response Plan: An incident response plan is a documented, written plan for staff detailing procedures to detect, respond to, and limit the consequences of a malicious attack. These plans are designed to save time and reduce staff stress should a data breach occur, as it keeps all personnel aware of their assigned duties. Without intentional plans and clearly designated tasks, businesses can risk worsening a data breach incident, potentially damaging their reputations and budgets.
  • Work with Trusted Partners: According to the DPR, about half of the SBLs surveyed are using a third-party vendor or contractor to help manage their business’ sensitive data and information (53% digital and 46% physical). It is beneficial to have a trusted document destruction provider that offers regularly scheduled secure document shredding, allowing for information to be safeguarded throughout the year and the holidays.
  • Appoint a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO): Smaller organizations might face challenges in hiring a dedicated CISO. In such cases, seeking a reputable third-party data security partner is also advisable. This partner can be crucial in establishing comprehensive digital and physical data protection policies tailored to the organization's specific needs. Additionally, the security partner can assist small businesses in navigating complex regulations and provide valuable support in training employees on security protocols.

Learn more about Shred-it®'s secure document and hard drive destruction services and how Shred-it® can help safeguard your business from potential data breaches—not only during the holiday season but throughout the year.