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March Madness Network and Security Considerations

Greg Mooney| March 13 2017

| monitoring

march-madness-network-and-security-considerations.jpgIt’s that time of the year again when employees flock to their favorite sports streaming sites to watch college basketball. Depending on the business work culture, IT may be tasked with anything from keeping the network stable to outright blocking employees from sports streaming sites. I hope it isn’t the latter, because that opens a whole other can of worms.

Of course, IT teams are well seasoned in the network issues that arise from all that bandwidth consumption, but the security risks that March Madness brings are often overlooked. Here are the 8 things to consider regarding your business network during March Madness.

1 - IT Shouldn’t Be Doing Management and HR’s Job

I’m a personal believer that IT has no business making decisions in regards to what employees can and cannot do during work hours. IT should only be directed to implement policies around technology--within reason--that are created and enforced by HR and management.

2 - Blocking Websites Inadvertently Causes Security Issues

You only have to scroll through the /r/sysadmin subreddit a short while to find a case in which IT took matters into their own hands. To my first point, it’s not that IT should care if employees are streaming sports on the company’s watch, but the bandwidth issues forces many IT pros to take a stand. However, too many times IT outright blocks websites without considering the security implications.

Related Article: Amazon Outage and Your Business Recovery Strategy

Hopefully, employees may just start using their mobile devices to stream, which is fine but not many will enjoy chewing through their data plans. Potentially, your users could start streaming from nefarious websites that you didn’t think to block, which opens up a whole plethora of issues regarding malware and network security.

3 - Fake Sites Are Hacker Treasure Troves

As with anything that is highly popular, cyber criminals will always find ways to cash in on the careless. Spoofing websites, such as ESPN and betting sites, has become a common practice each year to infect visitors’ machines with malware. Your anti-virus probably will pick it up, but another option to avoid malware altogether is to train employees on warning signs that a website is a fake. wikiHow has a list of things to look for to ensure a website is legitimate.

4 - Set Up TVs to Show the Games

If you can set up a couple TVs to show the more popular basketball games, it allows more employees to watch from one device rather than clogging the network from their computers or mobile devices. Heck, you minus well make a lunch event out of it. It allows employees to get their March Madness fix, and who can pass up a free lunch?

5 – Users Should Be Aware Comment Section Scams

We already touched upon website spoofing, but there is also legitimate sites that can be a malware issue. The comment sections can contain links to sites that are infected with malware. It is also a great place for cyber criminals to phish visitors to their site where they can grab information or persuade visitors use fake video players to watch the game that are actually malware. These are easier to spot, but users should stay vigilant and reminded of the threats.

6 - Spear Phishing Emails

Not that phishing wasn’t already an issue, but popular events like March Madness are prime time for cyber criminals blasting millions of people with phishing emails that can attempt to get access to a victim’s computer. Hackers can spoof the name and email address so that emails can seem like they are coming from a trusted source.  Training employees on what to look for and to notify IT when they accidentally click on a suspicious email is the best option here.

7 - BYOD Can Cause Network Problems

Mobile devices are now just as good at streaming video content as PCs, but as noted above, users are reluctant to use their data. Many users will opt to use the company’s Wi-Fi still when on their mobile device.

A more common fix for this is to set up a Wi-Fi network specifically for BYOD, so that you can isolate that network from your main network. This allows you to also throttle traffic on specified networks, while leaving the main network untouched. It’s also great for perimeter defense.

8 - Setup Alerts in a Network Monitoring Tool

At the very least, you should be monitoring your network for signs of suspicious activity and setting up alerts. Bandwidth consumption can get out of control quickly, especially when there is a popular game on. The last thing IT needs is for the network to go down, since that sends fingers pointing their way. Setting up alerts can allow IT to react to issues before downtime occurs. 



Topics: monitoring

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Greg is a technologist and data geek with over 10 years in tech. He has worked in a variety of industries as an IT manager and software tester. Greg is an avid writer on everything IT related, from cyber security to troubleshooting.

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