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5 online behaviours that could put your company at risk

Chances are we've all been guilty at one time or another. Here's how to stay safe from outages and cyberattacks.

Unfortunately, one small mistake in online behaviour has the potential to take a business down, or at least drastically reduce its productivity. While most businesses can’t function properly without the Internet, the interconnectedness of global communications has created a hotbed of threats and risks. This has also opened up a new world of potential opportunities for user error.

To prevent a costly outage or cyberattack, here are five best practices that employees should always follow when using the Internet at work.

1. Using public Wi-Fi

5 online behaviours that put your company at risk

Though it may be difficult to avoid for frequent business travellers or those who only have a personal device to use at work, connecting to public Wi-Fi is among the most common ways hackers gain access to private networks.

If you think there can be no harm in connecting to the Wi-Fi at your local café for example, think again. Hackers commonly spread malware through public networks in hopes that someone is exposed in public before connecting the same device to their office’s private network.

If public Wi-Fi is unavoidable, ensure that you’ve got antivirus software on the device to help prevent malware and attacks.

2. Downloading or streaming free content

5 online behaviours that put your company at risk

Work devices crossing over into our personal lives is becoming the norm, especially with BYOD programs and our always-on-the-go lifestyles. It’s possible that some employees will use a work device to stream highlights from last night’s hockey game or download a new episode of their favourite show — potentially from untrustworthy sites. This kind of activity could be opening the door to viruses and malware as well.

By downloading or streaming free content, you’re effectively allowing any malicious software that may be attached to bypass antivirus software, because you’ve approved the download.

If you want to take the risk with your personal device, that’s up to you, but don’t let anything connect to your company’s network that has also approved free content from the Internet.

3. Loaning out your work devices

5 online behaviours that put your company at risk

Though friends and family aren’t likely attackers, they may not be aware of basic security best practices — and could unintentionally put your device at risk.

Even with the best of intentions, your nephew who just wants to play a game on your work laptop could accidentally click on an ad that brings them to a riskier website.

Avoid the risk by keeping your work devices strictly available for work purposes only.

4. Having a single password

5 online behaviours that put your company at risk

Perhaps the most important way you can protect your company from a cyberattack is by having multiple passwords that you change regularly.

When major hacks occur, hackers often test the stolen login credentials on multiple websites, knowing that many people will have the same password for their LinkedIn account, for example, as they do for their online bank account.

Keep yourself and your company safe by regularly changing your passwords, never using the same password twice and never using the same password for work and personal accounts.

5. Having a master key

5 online behaviours that put your company at risk

While managers and top-level employees should be able to access all of the company’s sensitive information, they shouldn’t necessarily be stored in a single location.

Having a single point of failure or a single vault that stores all of the company’s valuables can provide an easy target for hackers, which is why it’s important to spread access and valuable information across multiple networks and staffers.

While it may be an inconvenience, it prevents hackers from being able to access everything via a single point of entry if they, for example, hack the CEO’s email account.


Up Next: Smart devices in your office could be a backdoor for hackers.

Jared Lindzon

Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, covering a variety of topics, including technology, careers, entrepreneurship, politics and music. His work regularly appears in major publications in Canada, the United States and around the world, including the Globe and Mail, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone, Politico, the Guardian and more.

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