Cybersecurity Checklist for School Holiday Closures


As the holiday season approaches, educational institutions and organisations often find themselves less staffed and consequently more vulnerable to cyberattacks. This period of reduced oversight provides an attractive opportunity for cybercriminals. To mitigate these risks and ensure your IT infrastructure remains secure, it is crucial to implement a comprehensive security strategy. Here are essential measures to help secure your IT environment during the holidays: 

1. Implement Strong Access Controls 

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) 

One of the most effective ways to secure access to critical systems and accounts is through Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). MFA requires users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access, adding an extra layer of security beyond just passwords. Ensure that MFA is enabled across all critical systems and accounts, especially those with administrative privileges. 

Review Access Permissions 

Conduct a thorough review of access permissions before the holiday season. Temporarily revoke access for users who do not require it during this period. This minimises the number of potential entry points for unauthorised access and reduces the risk of insider threats. 

2. Patch and Update Systems 

Regular Updates 

Keeping all systems, software, and devices up-to-date with the latest patches and updates is a fundamental security practice. Regular updates protect against known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals exploit. Establish a routine for applying updates to ensure nothing is overlooked. 

Automate Patches 

Utilise automated patch management tools to streamline the update process. Automation ensures that critical patches are applied promptly, reducing the window of opportunity for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities. These tools can also provide reports and alerts about the status of patches, helping IT staff stay informed. 

3. Backup Critical Data 

Regular Backups 

Ensure that all critical data is backed up regularly. Employ a multi-layered backup strategy that includes both onsite and offsite backups. Onsite backups allow for quick data recovery, while offsite backups provide protection against physical disasters like fires or floods. 

Test Restorations 

Periodically test backup restorations to ensure that data can be recovered quickly and accurately if needed. Testing helps identify any issues with the backup process and ensures that your organisation can rely on its backups in an emergency. 

4. Enhance Network Security 

Firewalls and IDS/IPS 

Ensure that firewalls and Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS) are configured correctly and updated. These tools are critical for monitoring and protecting your network from malicious activities. Regularly review and update their configurations to respond to evolving threats. 


Implement geofencing to restrict network access from specific geographic locations. Geofencing can significantly reduce the risk of external attacks by blocking access from regions where your organisation does not operate. This measure is particularly useful in preventing brute force and phishing attacks originating from overseas. 

5. Monitor and Respond to Threats 

24/7 Monitoring 

Implement continuous monitoring of your network to detect and respond to threats in real time. Utilise security management systems to aggregate and analyse security alerts from various sources. Having a dedicated team or service for 24/7 monitoring ensures that potential threats are addressed promptly. 

Incident Response Plan 

Develop and maintain a robust incident response plan. This plan should outline the steps to take in the event of a security breach and ensure that all staff members are familiar with it. Key personnel should be on call and ready to respond to incidents during the holidays. Conduct regular drills to ensure everyone knows their role and can execute the plan efficiently. 

6. Educate and Inform Staff 

Security Training 

Provide regular training sessions to inform staff about the latest phishing tactics and other cyber threats. Well-informed employees are less likely to fall victim to scams and more likely to report suspicious activities. Tailor the training to cover specific threats that are prevalent during the holiday season. 

Holiday Protocols 

Clearly communicate holiday protocols, including how to handle suspicious emails and what steps to take in case of a security incident. Ensure that everyone knows whom to contact if they encounter a potential security issue. Clear communication can prevent confusion and delays in response during a crisis. 

7. Secure Remote Access 


Ensure that Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) used for remote access are secure and updated. VPNs provide encrypted connections, protecting data transmitted over the internet from eavesdropping and interception. Regularly review and update VPN configurations to maintain their security. 

Access Logs 

Regularly review access logs to detect any unusual activity. Monitoring logs can help identify unauthorised access attempts and other suspicious behaviours. Set up alerts for specific anomalies to enable a swift response. 

8. Physical Security Measures 

Secure Facilities 

Ensure that physical locations, such as server rooms, are secure and access is restricted. Use locks, access cards, and surveillance cameras to protect these areas. Only authorised personnel should have access to critical physical infrastructure. 

Device Security 

Lock up any unused devices or ensure they are stored securely to prevent theft or tampering. Laptops, external hard drives, and other portable devices are particularly vulnerable to physical theft. Use cable locks and secure storage solutions to mitigate this risk. 

By following these measures, you can help protect your IT infrastructure during the holiday season when cyber threats may be heightened. Implementing strong access controls, keeping systems updated, backing up data, enhancing network security, monitoring threats, educating staff, securing remote access, and ensuring physical security are all crucial steps. For further assistance and detailed strategies, consider consulting with a cybersecurity professional or reaching out to your IT support provider. Stay vigilant and proactive to ensure a secure and peaceful holiday season.