Taking responsibility for your company's internet security


It takes no great leap of faith to believe that a culture so deeply integrated with technology requires heavy defense. Everything from personal communication to travel, commerce and medicine is deeply steeped in technology. The pace of the world and the advancement of knowledge, exploration and defense have all become subject to the development of technological science.

IT professionals have become an irreplaceable part of most modern businesses, with entire departments dedicated to IT becoming more common than not. As with humanity in general, one of the most important and pervasive concerns of any IT specialist is the defense and security of the networks and systems they work so diligently to build and maintain. Formidable methods are employed to protect these valuable networks. The lingo of the IT world is saturated with strong words like "firewall" and any number of "Anti-'s" (-virus,-spyware,-malware). The internet has simultaneously made the world both a much smaller and much larger place, and opened the doors to a brand-new set of dangers: computer viruses, Trojan horses, identity theft, hackers, and any number of unexpected virtual threats. With this litany of invisible enemies working constantly to break down a network's defenses, it can be easy to overlook one of the most vulnerable aspects of any network: the individuals using it every day.

Admittedly, it is seldom that an individual employee takes it upon themselves to maliciously undermine the security of their employer's carefully maintained systems, but it is more often those unintentional actions that can open the floodgates to technical calamity.

Social networking sites have skyrocketed in popularity in the past decade, and so has the opportunity for subterfuge. Individuals will very frequently list not only their place of employment, but their job titles and descriptions on such websites. While this may provide the opportunity for networking and establishing new contacts within an industry, it can also provide information that employers would prefer be kept private. Predators looking for weak or susceptible networks may use the readily available contact information to crack into a network or search through confidential files, to say nothing of the countless add-ons and applications that eat bandwidth and track every move a user makes within these websites. Many businesses restrict access to such websites, and while this may seem like an extreme precaution, in most cases it's a result of previous bad experiences.

It is no secret that it is becoming more difficult to separate one's personal and professional life; however there are some simple practices that can prevent catastrophe when used with security in mind. Individuals can be tempted to use their work email for personal business as a simple way to streamline their day. The danger lies in the fact that email is one of the most vulnerable and difficult-to-control aspects of any company's network. Should an employee use a business email address to sign up or register for some service or news feed, or simply to keep in touch with friends or family during the work day, the company's email network is opened up to any dangers that may travel along that email path (think communicable diseases, but for email).

Personal internet browsing can also expose a business to virtual dangers. Random browsing (whether at home or at work), should be done carefully and judiciously. Websites that appear harmless can harbor links and pop-up windows that lead to malicious sites. Tracking cookies and adware can sneak in under the radar of some firewalls, slowing down processing and wreaking havoc on applications. These malignant programs can compromise network security and be used to steal both employee and customer information. So, while it may be tempting to seek out some mindless entertainment during one's downtime, careful attention should be paid to where one travels on the internet, as well as the road that leads there.

For the average, non-IT-certified individual, network security may seem like someone else's problem. However, the networks that support modern business have become as integral a part of the workplace as the individuals that use them. It is everyone's responsibility to help keep the workplace safe, in both the virtual and physical worlds. Simply paying attention and being mindful of the vulnerability of the technology in use can prevent disaster, and make for a much more productive environment.


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