Walking through our local shopping center the other day, mingling with the bustling crowds, it dawned on me that it’s almost that time of year again (only nine weeks to go).

It almost seems like yesterday that I was packing away the tinsel and the fairy lights, but alas as you get older the days, weeks and months seem to ever decrease - or it only me that feels this way?

So what has Christmas got to do with computer security issues and why bring it up now? Well, it's simple really: Every year we rush through the crowds jostling to get a seat on the subway, or we struggle in and out of the packed shops doing what we can to grab a coffee or whatever on our lunch break. This is when we become easy pickings for the street thieves who prey on the 'Christmas Rush brigade.' This is the time when pick-pocketing is relatively easy for them as it provides the ideal opportunity to blend in with the crowds unnoticed and to melt away as soon as they've struck.

Awareness is something we all need, but strangely enough when you're squeezing past other pedestrians in the run up to the "season of good will," we tend to forget the principles of good manners, as others perform the ritual pushing and jostling, getting us hot under the collar and, before you know it, part of the pack. This is when the thief will strike, stealing goodies to sell on the cheap: mobile phones, PDAs and, if you're very unlucky, you may also lose your laptop in the hubbub.

Locking your portable equipment in a draw prior to lunch may be the answer. You wouldn't hear it if it rang anyway and how could you use a PDA with people bumping into you every step of the way? So if you can't use it, why carry it, naked as you may feel? Leave it behind, it's safer. Now it's only your wallet or purse that you have to worry about and there are plenty of places to hide them securely around your person.

Over the top as it may seem, these are the scenarios where our guard comes down and when we are at our most vulnerable. However, it's not just street life that you can fall foul of at this time of year. Back in the office, spirits are high, many colleagues and friends are exchanging cards and the contacts that you've made along the way will be sending you email messages of greetings and cheer. Jokes abound and the atmosphere is lighter and less formal. But, once again, it's exactly this form of social spontaneity that can bring down your network and cripple your workstation. Electronic cards are fun and free, but they pose too great a risk if you allow them through your gateway, so be warned.

Other things also spring to mind, such as office parties when things can be broken or easily purloined, doors can be left unlocked and computers may not be shut down properly, leaving information open to anyone that may have a different agenda. It's amazing what a little euphoria can do to an intelligent workforce and how easy it is to forget the very basis of computer security. For me it'll be a breeze, I don't own a PDA, my mobile phone is almost an antique, we party off site and I don't accept electronic cards - humbug! But hey who cares, it's nearly Christmas.

Jayne Parkhouse is reviews editor for SC Magazine (www.scmagazine.com).