When Internet safety matters at local businesses, Internet Technology teams are the first stop: they can work diligently to maintain server-wide protections like firewalls and virus detection programs.
Those technologies can go a long way. They block spyware and intercept emails with links that, when clicked, unleash malicious code meant to corrupt or co-opt individual computers.
With appropriate firewalls and virus-catching programs, “the percentage of legitimate email verses the amount that gets stopped at the server is mind-blowing,” said Sean Openshaw, website manager at Northern Arizona Healthcare. “You can’t keep employees safe 100 percent of the time, but a good mail server defense will sure help guide them along the desired path by intercepting … a lot of the bad stuff before employees even have a chance to click.”
But at the level of each individual computer on your system, and each individual employee, there remains plenty of room for error. For example, Openshaw points out that virus protection software should be kept current “on each and every computer. It only takes one to infect the rest. Allowing personal computers on the network is also not ideal, as network administrators have less control over keeping virus definitions up to date.”
And individual staffers need to be as educated and as cautious as they would be with their computers at home.
Dave Herbold, a freelance web designer in Flagstaff, said most hacks occur as spam-driven attempts to use personal computers on the web as spam drones.
“Spam will often look like a legitimate correspondence, say from a bank, but within the email it will ask the recipient to click a link to resolve an issue or take some kind of action,” he said. “A savvy end-user might hover over the link and realize the address is of an unknown origin and delete the email.”
But whether they’re checking email at home or at work, people will sometimes click on suspicious links. Once they do, harmful code is deployed and the computer is corrupt. Herbold explained, “Now the computer is hostage and may become a spam drone – sending out spam, or otherwise.”
As for employees who unwind on a break by surfing Facebook? Beware: Herbold added that Facebook is an “excellent platform” hackers can use to infiltrate a user’s computer via the same “click this link” strategies. “It usually takes an end-user action, like clicking a corrupt link, to make a virus happen. Thus, don’t click what you don’t know,” he said.
Herbold added that it is a myth that Mac computers are immune to hacker schemes. “Plenty of malicious code is out there for Apple products as well,” he said.
Openshaw said caution is also indicated in a business where employees are regularly using Internet search engines like Google, on or off the clock.
“Be careful what links you follow and don’t just randomly click search results,” Openshaw said. “Websites containing viruses and malware come up in search results all the time and by the time you realize it’s a bad click, it could be too late.”
Companies wishing to train employees on bulletproof Internet techniques have several options, said Joe Bodin, president and web designer at flagstaffcentral.com. One company is called Skillpath, at www.skillpath.com.
“I get flyers and brochures from them almost every day in the mail,” Bodin said. “They mostly have courses in the region, like Vegas and Phoenix, but every once in a while do them locally too at places like the Radisson. Their courses range from employee training to software instruction. I’ve taken a few of them over the years and have thought that they are pretty good.”
Bodin said he’s not participated himself in online courses offered at www.lynda.com, but they also come highly recommended. Computer courses at College America or Coconino Community College might be helpful as well, he said.
Openshaw said training can be key, but with or without it, vigilance is the bottom line.
“The biggest thing is to always be alert, always question what information you enter on the Internet, stay on the beaten path to trusted websites, watch and educate your children,” he said, “and if possible, work with managers to get employees trained about being smart with their computers.” FBN
Web safety tips:
• Make sure you have security software on your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone – and take advantage of the frequent updates to keep it current.
• When in public wi-fi hotspots, avoid using passwords linked to your website, bank account, PayPal accounts and the like. If you have a firewall running, be sure to indicate you are in a public place so it can protect your data.
• Avoid using the password-saving options in the standard web browsers and the “remember me” check boxes on many sites. Better to memorize your passwords or use specialty software like Roboform.
• Avoid using the same password for multiple sensitive sites; doing so gives one website the password to all of the other sites you use.
• Log out of sensitive websites when you’re finished using them, rather than simply closing the browser window.
• Never open an email that isn’t from someone you really know; just delete it without opening it. And those links that show up on the walls of multiple Facebook friends? Avoid them like the plagues they probably are.
• Delete emails that say they’re from Paypal, no matter how much it may look like them. Just log into paypal.com directly to check for legitimate notices.
• Avoid opening unexpected .zip files from anyone. The only time you should click on a .zip file is if you are expecting the compressed file from someone and have had a conversation with the person beforehand about what they are sending.
Sources: Joe Bodin, president and web designer at flagstaffcentral.com and Sean Openshaw, website manager at Northern Arizona Healthcare.
Ongoing technology topics are presented monthly Joe Bodin of Flagstaff Central.com, Inc. and Bret Carpenter of Orig’native, LLC
Go to www.FlagTechTalk.com for more information about the Flag Tech Talk lecture series that is held on the third Tuesday of each month.
Educational Lectures Designed to Break the Technical Barriers! No techno-babble allowed!