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Protect your business while maintaining employee productivity during the holiday shopping season

December 18, 2013 No Comments

Featured Article by Daniel Ayoub, product marketing manager, SonicWALL

The holiday online shopping season is in full swing and you are likely being inundated with emails, ads and videos offering the latest and greatest deals from your favorite retail vendors. The unofficial worldwide start to what’s been dubbed the “holiday buying season” began on Black Friday, continued with the biggest day of selling – Cyber Monday – and will extend through the rest of the year.

For most people, this is a time to look up new products online and decide on gifts for the upcoming holidays. However, if you’re an IT administrator, your co-workers’ online shopping habits pose a problem. Make no mistake; employees are using their IT-issued devices as well as their own smartphones and tablets to shop online while at work. According to CareerBuilder’s annual Cyber Monday study, 54 percent of workers expect to spend some time in the office this holiday season shopping online. Shocking? No. Problematic? Yes.

Should your organization be concerned? If you consider the security of your network, the productivity of your employees and the use of network bandwidth important, then yes, your organization should be concerned. Employees who shop online at work inadvertently create opportunities for malicious attacks directed at your network. For example, phishing emails attempt to get you to go to a fake web page where the attacker can steal personal information, such as credit card number or the user name and password to an account. In addition, clever cyber crooks have also started using malicious advertisements to spread malware – more commonly known as malvertising. Both of these examples put your organization at risk.

Network security isn’t the only issue threatening your organization. Employees frequently use personal devices and laptops for a variety of online activities, including shopping during work hours. By doing so, two important issues are raised. First, employees are shopping on company time, which means they are not working and their productivity is decreasing. Second, these same employees are likely connecting to the company network, which introduces a security risk on its own, as well as a misuse of bandwidth.

As an IT administrator, what can you do about this? To protect your organization against modern day threats associated with out of network activities, there are basic steps you can take, such as educating employees on the dangers of malvertising, how to recognize phishing attempts, and the importance of applying system and application updates to fix patches promptly an reliably.

In addition to educating your employees, as an IT administrator, there are steps you too can take to reduce the risks associated with holiday shopping. By deploying firewalls, you can prevent intrusion and stop exploits and other cyber attacks. Malware prevention also helps stop malvertising and other nefarious codes, and content filtering helps block malicious and inappropriate websites. To help ensure maximum user and network productivity, have application control and bandwidth management in place.

Stopping employees from shopping online during business ours is next to impossible. By combining employee education and deploying firewalls, you can ensure that your organization remains safe during the busy holiday online shopping season and maybe do a little shopping yourself.



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