How Black Friday puts your network at risk

Online holiday shopping poses threats to bandwidth, productivity, security and liability


Black Friday and similar “shopping holidays” have become global phenomena that can bottleneck workplace bandwidth, stifle productivity and ultimately put your network – and your organization – at risk.

Over the holidays, your employees are subjected to sophisticated phishing scams that leverage convincing counterfeit websites that act as launch pads for malicious zombie and botnet attacks.

Nearly half of all holiday shopping done online

Events such as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday offer consumers an opportunity to shop for a great deal. Increasingly, the researching and purchasing of items during the holiday season is done online. People enjoy shopping online for many reasons: it’s convenient, there are no crowds, you can often get better deals, and it’s easier to compare items. No wonder it’s become a popular activity, both at home and at the office.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), both holiday retail sales and non-store sales increased again last year. Results from a 2015 NRF survey also found that 46 percent of holiday shopping (browsing and buying) would be done online. This was an increase over 2014 and a trend that is likely to continue in 2016.

What that means to your network – and your organization

On the surface, these activities may appear relatively harmless. However, employee shopping on Black Friday can significantly and negatively impact your company’s bandwidth, productivity, security and liability.

Bandwidth consumption does not just affect web browsing by other employees. Today’s organizations are dependent on bandwidth for a broad range of processes, including data backup and synchronization, cloud-based applications and services, as well as IP telephony and videoconferencing. Depending on telecommunications contracts, increasing available bandwidth to meet Black Friday demands can be costly.

Online holiday shopping can also put a big hit on workforce productivity. It’s like taking an extended lunch break on your computer. While many salaried employees are measured by results over time spent, depending upon the nature of your organization, half or more of your employees may be engaged in by-the-hour or time-sensitive processes, where time equates directly to productivity. In these cases, time spent on shopping sites while on the clock can add up. Plus, slower aggregate bandwidth stifles the productivity of those actually at work and adds administrative overhead for IT requests to resolve those slowdowns.

Of even greater concern is the security impact of online holiday shopping. Who knows whether the sites employees visit to make purchases are legitimate and aren’t sources for malware distribution. Often, employees are allowed broad access to the Internet, including unsafe sites that expose organizational endpoints to malware, via drive-by downloads, watering-hole attacks and other related exploits. Over the holidays, for example, your employees are subjected to sophisticated phishing scams that leverage convincing counterfeit websites that act as launch pads for malicious zombie and botnet attacks. Once endpoints are compromised, the malware can then communicate back to command and control centers and exfiltrate sensitive data.

These threats also put your organization in greater risk of liability. For example, your company may be held responsible for not having reasonable controls in place to prevent the exfiltration of credit card data or other sensitive information.


Online holiday shopping on Black Friday and other dates is increasing year over year, presenting potential risks to your network security. To learn more about ways you can protect your organization during holiday shopping season, read our solution brief, Protecting your network on Black Friday .