We've all heard the stories of people who come home after a hard night's partying just before Xmas to find that the local tea-leaves have been in and done a reverse-Santa, nicking all their presents from under the tree.

What's less well publicised is that these days, businesses face increased seasonal theft risks too. For a start, your office may be only lightly staffed - and with all the lusers away scoffing mince pies, you might think it's a time of less risk and more opportunity to get on with the "housekeeping".

Not a bit of it, reckon our chums in the network business. Data theft, cracking the office wireless LAN, stealing hardware - or simply using the office phones to run up big international call bills - all are more likely next week, they say.

"Each new year we see a flurry of calls from network managers who have experienced problems over the holiday season," adds Helen Wadsworth, sales manager at iTracs.

"Typically this time of year sees offices left with skeleton staff, who may not even be permanent employees, for prolonged periods. For a criminal, this provides an unparalleled opportunity to steal information or hardware from a network. This can be particularly hard to trace once the holiday season is over and things get back to normal."

Her warning is backed up by a report from business insurance provider Zurich. It surveyed 1000 small British firms, finding that 28 percent expect to suffer some sort of crime over the winter - and over Christmas in particular.

The important thing is it's not just the risk of a cleaner or temp nicking the stationery. It's also the time when, with network admins off enjoying a well earned break, criminals may target your network and your data too.

So be pure, be vigilant - and make sure the IPS and the network monitoring systems are working properly before you hit the turkey and plum pudding.