Business Laptops: Malware Magnet, Part 2

Oh the joys of wireless. Armed with a company laptop, you can conduct business from nearly anywhere: the corner coffee shop, a hotel lobby, the airport, and even restaurants and airplanes. The freedom and flexibility of wireless computing means that even when you’re out of the office and on the road, you can be productive and contributing to the company’s fortunes. Unfortunately, you can also unknowingly download malware that could spell disaster for your company’s IT network and create liabilities for the business at large.

How does it happen? Any public location with wireless Internet access is prime hunting grounds for hackers who want to infiltrate corporate IT systems via malware. While you’re online catching up on work, hackers can surreptitiously capture any email, Excel sheet or Word document you pull up. Once the hacker gains access, he or she can easily and invisibly access and drain bank accounts, steal proprietary information, and compromise customer contact information—all while you sip your grande mocha double shot. It’s not like you can protect yourself by sitting in an inconspicuous spot. Savvy hackers two blocks away can still pick up your wireless activities.

Reducing Your lT Risk on the Road

Just because there’s a hacker at the table across the cafe or in the next airline terminal doesn’t mean you can’t safely conduct business on your laptop. Every company with mobile users should practice these basic protection tactics:

• Keep antivirus/anti-spyware software up to date, recognizing that threats are constantly changing.

• Make sure personal firewalls are in place with inbound and outbound permission-based monitoring.

• Update patches on a regular basis. Microsoft releases new patches the second Tuesday of every month.
Visit http://update.microsoft.com/ for updates. Other software vendors also issue patches, though not as regularly.

Business Vitals can provide all of the above safeguards and many others to your organization as part of our managed IT services.

There are other steps companies can take to reduce the risk of cyber threats to mobile users. At the top of the list is adopting and enforcing an aggressive acceptable use policy that includes rules and software to safeguard the laptop, its contents and the user’s activities. Business Vitals’ clients have access to a dedicated policy server tailored to the company’s preferences and Business Vitals’ recommendations.

Other safeguards include disabling the laptop’s ability to indiscriminately connect to any available network, rather than a preferred network. When a laptop connects to any available network—like those in coffee shops, airports and hotels—there’s likely no encryption or controls to ensure data isn’t being sent and received in plain text that is openly readable by anyone nearby who has the proper tools.

If you have concerns that your company’s IT security may already have been compromised by unsuspecting mobile users on your team—unaccounted for withdrawals from business accounts for example—the only way to detect malware is to conduct an IT forensics study, a service provided by Business Vitals. This will identify illicit traffic patterns associated with malware so that the malware can be disabled. It’s also wise to engage an ongoing IT system monitoring service to stop potential cyber attacks before they do serious damage.

If you would like to discuss the information contained in this article or have questions about how Business Vitals can secure your business IT, contact Jeff Brewer or Phil Canders at 803.753.5200 or 888.287.8483.

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