How to protect your home during the holidays
Updated: Apr 4
Home alone or travelling during the holidays? Here's how to stay safe!
Deck the halls with boughs of holly, wrap your presents, and hang that mistletoe up high, but remember to keep these physical security awareness tips in mind! If you want to enjoy your holiday season festivities, rather than mourn the loss of your personal belongings, a stolen identity, or breached data, trust me you'll want to continue reading.
Holiday time is here, so whether you're embracing the holiday travel season and celebrating with your family and friends abroad, or if you're hosting the festivities in your own home; the following holiday disaster prevention tips should keep you protected and secure. (both physically and online during this time of year)
Install a home security system
"This is my house - I have to defend it!" - Kevin McCallister (Home Alone)
Today your home security system doesn't have to be nearly as dramatic or elaborate as the one that little Kevin McCallister, set up against intruders during Home Alone (if you have never seen the movie, I've inserted a short clip below).
DIY home security systems
Here are a couple of DIY easy-to-install home security systems that should keep you protected from potential burglars and other threats;
SimpliSafe: Simplisafe protects your entire home from intruders, fires, floods and more. Updated technology and interactive monitoring allow their live agents to capture evidence and verify if a threat in your home is real, which prompts a faster incident response.
Abode: Build your unique home security system with Abode. Their simple questionnaire helps to find the alarm systems, security cameras, and other sensors needed to keep your home safe.
Ring: Ring Alarm Pro is an affordable DIY home security system. Starter kits cost $249.99, making it an affordable wireless home security system and a budget-friendly alternative to SimpliSafe.
Make your home look occupied
If you happen to be lucky enough to travel during the holidays, you'll want to make sure that there is a trusted neighbour, friend, or family member around to keep a watchful eye on your place from time to time. If this isn't possible, it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll need a house sitter (but if you have pets that can't travel with you, by all means -- I recommend this rather than a kennel). Making your home look occupied while away can be as simple as;
Setting up an automatic light timer (this way you can give the illusion that someone is always at home)
Temporarily pausing your newspaper delivery
Setting your trash/recycling bins out
Asking a friendly neighbour to pave your driveway while you're on holiday (if it snows where you live)
Make sure that your smoke alarms are up-to-date, and in good condition, especially if you intend to set up holiday lights on your Christmas tree to disguise your vacancy.
Keep your parcel and mail deliveries secure
With the worry of stolen packages and mail deliveries during this time of year, many of us aren't able to rest easy until our share of the 3 billion packages delivered during the holidays has arrived at their final destination safely. There are several ways to keep your delivery anxiety at bay;
Don't leave instructions for delivery service providers on your door, window, mat or any other easily visible location.
Instead, opt for setting up your special delivery instructions digitally (when available), or ask your local post office about renting a package delivery mailbox during the holidays. This way, you'll be sure that your packages are kept secure for pickup at your convenience.
Keep your travel plans off of social media
I cannot stress this enough! Please leave your travel plans off of social media until you get home. While you should keep friends and family updated on your whereabouts during the holidays, your entire social network does not need to know that "20 minutes ago, you landed in stunning Maui, delicious cocktail in hand and ready to soak up the glorious sunshine."
This is a Christmas thief's dream scenario and an unfortunate nightmare for you. You've literally told them that your home is ready for the taking, and you're not there to do anything about it. Want to avoid this?
Don't share your holiday plans, travel dates on social media
Don't share your foreign locations on your SoMe accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube -- all off limits)
Wait until you are back home before sharing your stunning photos/videos of the beach or your skiing holiday in the alps.
I know that it can be difficult to hold off on posting your holiday until you're back home (especially since we live in a generation where we spend so much of our time online constantly updating our connections to "share in the moment" with us). It is better to be safe than sorry in these situations, and you won't regret it!
Avoid free public wifi
More temptations! During a long layover, or after an exhausting day of travel most of us are starving to get back online. I strongly urge you to avoid using free public wifi (as tempting as it may be). Sometimes you may find that there isn't really an ideal way to work around this while travelling, so if you absolutely cannot wait to get connected to a private network, please take extra precautions.
Do not take the opportunity to do any last-minute shopping online, avoid making purchases with your credit card, and forget checking your bank accounts altogether while using public free wifi (this is for your peace of mind, as attackers can intercept and steal your sensitive data via public free wifi)
Do not login to personal accounts (since public wifi is often free, to well, the public -- it is also less secure, meaning that your accounts could become compromised via stolen login credentials)
Password protect your devices
This one is probably redundant to most of us, but a reminder won't hurt. Make sure that before travelling, all of your devices are password protected, and if possible, also set up location tracking for your devices in case they should become lost or stolen during the trip. This one is a lifesaver!
Keep an eye on your belongings at the airport
I'm sure you've heard the typical airport announcement that reminds us to keep our belongings close and to report if we see any bags left alone. Well, I'm here to reiterate this statement and add a little to it.
A couple of years ago, while travelling from Athens, Greece to Sydney, Australia, my MacBook Pro got switched during the airport security control scan. How? Well, we can all appreciate how sleek and uniform Apple products are designed -- however, the universe decided to play a joke to play on both myself and the person next to me in the TSA line.
Our belongings went through the scanner and came out on the other side with no clear order. Now, don't misunderstand, I'm not blaming the airport security for this mishap, or even the man with whom I now share this experience. I should have been keeping an eye on my belongings, and in retrospect, I should have included something personally identifiable in the bin with my computer to avoid this situation.
Tragically, neither myself, nor the man realized our error until he had landed in London, and I'd landed in Singapore. Luckily, neither of us had malicious intentions regarding the swapped devices, and were able to meet in London to trade our laptops back about a month later. That being said, most cases of stolen, swapped, or lost items while travelling don't end this well -- so be sure to learn from my mistake. Keep your belongings close and keep a watchful eye, even during the TSA control check.
What to do before heading out of the office - Business Security
Regardless of whether your company has a professional security program (which they really should look into, especially if they don't already have one 😉), there are a few things you can do to be more secure before leaving the office for your holiday vacation. Ensure that your workplace devices are updated, backed up, password protected, and locked before heading out. Also, if you have the time, why not take the opportunity to reset your old passwords, and delete old documents and files that are no longer needed?
If you are a business owner, make sure that you'll remember to keep your organization secure all year long by educating your employees on security essentials through security awareness training -- this way you can begin to develop and establish a strong security culture within your organization.
Staying secure during the holidays
If physical security is new to you, I can empathize that this list may feel a little overwhelming. Breathe! Remember, that scene I showed you from Home Alone earlier? If all else fails, try unleashing your inner child, and get a little creative with your physical security.
All jokes aside though, just try to remember and practice what you can from this list, and use common sense (much like developing any other habit, this will also become second nature within no time).
Happy holidays, enjoy the season and stay safe! Feel free to check back here as often as needed to prepare for optimal security during the holidays.