Avoiding the IT nightmare before Christmas

The cold weather has certainly set in, the Coca Cola advert has been aired, and the battle of the tear-jerking commercials has been won – it can only mean one thing – Christmas is upon us.

While this may be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, the Christmas season can be a huge headache for IT due to increased workloads, risks and exposure.

To avoid turning into the Grinch at the mere thought of the Christmas holidays, below are some examples of what can turn this time of the year into a ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ for IT, and some ways we can look to evade them:

Now Hiring - All Aboard

Seasonal employment, the time when you can earn a few extra pounds in your pocket by wrapping gifts, handling customer service calls or aiding the frantic shopper with which woolly jumper would make a better gift for Grandad.

According to The Cordant Group, it is estimated that an average 28,000 temporary workers will be hired per week in the run up to Christmas, meaning a daunting onboarding effort for IT. While not every worker will access a dedicated computer, something as simple as making sure employees have the checkout account login or building access across a national chain of stores can be a huge undertaking.

Automated onboarding can help reduce the workload for IT and get these employees up and running much faster. The right technology, can predict what access new hires will need and deliver it to them automatically without IT assistance. This can take your typical on-boarding time from days to minutes, increase accuracy of giving the right access levels to the right people, and ensure a proper record of access. Reducing time spent on getting employees up and running will allow IT to focus on important things like ensuring systems don’t buckle under pressure.

System Access – Free for All

So what happens to all of those workers when the shopping season is over? For most, their employment terminates, which means that IT has the job of revoking all of the access they spent so long working to provide. Those thousands of seasonal employees who have been provided with logins to checkout tills and access cards to storerooms. If any of those people aren’t properly restricted from all of their access in a timely manner, and it’s estimated that 35 per cent of employees have system access for at least one week after leaving employment, the business is at risk of theft or system tampering.

Imagine that Joe has been let go from his temporary contract at Company X’s warehouse but no one has informed IT. His key card still works, so he decides to pay the warehouse a visit after hours and take a few things home. Big Brother may be watching him, but why be reactive when you can stop the issue before it happens?

Automated offboarding reduces the risk of access being placed in the wrong hands. When someone’s employment status is changed in the HR system, it triggers the automated removal of the former employee’s access – quickly and securely and without the intervention of IT.

‘Tis the Season for Colds, Flu and Internet Viruses

It’s that time of year when cyber criminals offer everything from bogus money saving voucher deals, to fake product giveaways to lure unsuspecting shoppers into a virus trap — not to mention the number of false storefronts offering the latest high-end gift for less if you just “click here.” For IT, this poses a huge risk to corporate data security. Even though we know we shouldn’t open suspicious emails, or access questionable websites, the thought of saving a few pounds lures in unsuspecting people every year. According to the recent Insider Threat report, collaboration and communication apps like email are the most vulnerable to insider attacks at 45 per cent.

More sophisticated whitelisting technology can help reduce the risk of phishing attacks by only allowing access to the few approved websites the organisation believes to be risk-adverse. Any requests to access files or websites not whitelisted can be automatically denied.

All Seeing, All Doing – You’re not Santa

Christmas often brings with it an abundance of remote access requests, forgotten passwords and not a lot of patience to wait for IT. Add in an influx of seasonal employees, and service desks can easily hit overtime, meaning they increase hours to accommodate the additional requests, or only help those that time allows, which will likely result in unhappy, under-served, and unproductive staff.

Alternatively you could empower those employees to help themselves with a self-service store. From password resets, to requests for access, employees can log on to their devices and request the access they need. Again, with automation, employees should have what they are requesting delivered in no time.

Driving Home for Christmas…Hopefully

With automation, IT can focus on more of the major risks that affect businesses and focus less on the people-posed problems that can lead to internal threats – all without opening up to risks or negatively impacting customer service. It can be joyous season for everyone after all.

Bob Janssen, Founder and Chief Technology Officer, RES Software

Image source: Shutterstock/dotshock