Felicia Savage is a content strategist and up-and-coming PR specialist living in Indianapolis. When she isn’t sharing online content, Felicia loves to draw and watch animated films in her spare time. Twitter: @canonicalkitteh
The next time your employees surf the web at work, they should do so with caution. Someone’s watching them. Most companies like yours maintain extensive Internet search logs on the company’s equipment. You and your IT department techs can see the sites your employees surf with minimal effort thanks to software designed for it. While some may think it’s micromanagement, spreading the word that the boss is looking can actually help protect company equipment by discouraging employees from visiting virus-ridden sites.
What are Viruses?
You’ve probably heard of computer viruses, malware and worms, but these words can be obscure. Basically, these are all malicious programs that harm your computer’s performance, damage the internal system or erase and steal data. You might notice slow performance, extra pop-ups, data loss or corrupted files after your computer is infected.
In other cases, malicious programs infect every computer connected to yours. Certain viruses attach to your email and spread whenever you send a message. They can also access your web addresses and send infected emails to your associates, clients and friends.
Educate your employees on the dangers of malicious programs. Viruses, malware and worms can negatively affect your company’s data, brand and future as well as the culprit’s job, depending on what site they were on when they picked up the malady.
Where are Viruses?
Obvious sites that most often include malicious programs include porn and gambling sites, lyric websites and any site that requires a file download before it opens. Coupon sites, screensavers and wallpaper sites, survey sites and any email attachments from unfamiliar people are also potentially dangerous.
Your employees might think that their personal email, favorite shopping sites and news sites are safe. Unfortunately, almost any site can be dangerous. The games they play as stress relief between projects, those stock market updates, even scheduling a doctor’s appointment for a sick child could result in malicious programs attaching themselves to company computers.
Before surfing, your employees need to be sure the sites they visit are safe. Distribute a list of the types of sites that are generally considered dangerous to visit, and ask that employees wait until they’re on their personal computers to go to them. Let them know that while IT isn’t breathing over their shoulders, they will know if they visit a site on the list.
Online activity is never really anonymous, especially on work-issued equipment. If they need to hide online activity from you, they shouldn’t be doing it at work.
Even with all of those precautions in place, dangerous sites sometimes hide behind a veneer of authenticity that an employee might not see through. Using antivirus software is the most reliable way to tell if a site is safe. It checks sites before opening them, which prevents your employees from accidentally compromising your company’s personal data.
What Happens if the Computers get a Virus?
Even with precautions, it’s still possible to get viruses on your equipment. Encourage your employees to call IT at the first sign of trouble and definitely before they try to fix the problem themselves. The IT department can try running a repair and recovery program that retrieves any lost information.
If important data is stolen, contact the proper authorities and the FCC. Tell your clients, associates and other affected companies about the security breach. These actions are the first steps to recovering after a malicious computer attack.
Next, you’ll want to focus on getting the company back on track. If you have reliable backups, have IT copy them over as soon as they’re certain the machines are virus-free again. If backups don’t exist or aren’t exhaustive, use programs specific to what you’ve lost to recover them. One example is email recovery software that will restore contacts, calendars, emails, archives and more. Recovery programs that are focused on finding certain elements frequently have a better shot at success.
Some employers allow limited Internet use, similar to how most companies allow limited personal calls. Other employers discourage all non-business Internet use. Create a policy that works for your business, and then enforce it. Remind your employees in the handbook and during staff meetings that you can access everything they view online. Following the policy and being smart about which sites your employees surf protects your company.
Want even more information about cyber liability? Check out an extensive list of questions that will help you determine if you and your small business are protected from hackers, worms and employee sabotage.