Every spring the March Madness NCAA college basketball tournament turns offices into temporary sports bars. Because many of the games are played during the workday, it’s not unusual for otherwise dedicated employees to schedule time to bet on brackets and watch the games. This may seem like harmless fun, but March Madness can cost workers and small business owners much more than productivity as cybercriminals target unsuspecting fans with malware.
Cybercriminals are a step ahead
Knowing that March Madness fever will run high, many small businesses block websites that play the games. This preemptive move, however, could actually lead to more problems when workers look for alternative sites to stream video.
Cybercriminals are a step ahead, using search engine optimization (SEO) poisoning tactics to drive their malware-laden sites higher in search rankings. Scammers create websites that use popular March Madness-related terms — and that could infect computers with drive-by downloads containing malicious code or other types of spyware.
Why streaming videos is bad for business
Small businesses — an increasingly attractive target for hackers — are likely to be more at risk than larger corporations when it comes to workers finding video-streaming workarounds. Aside from using up network bandwidth, the sites workers visit could put the company in danger. In addition to malware-laden websites, employees could end up on websites that ask users to install a program in order to view a video or live feed. Instead of installing video player software, victims end up installing a virus or grayware.
People don’t even have to actively search for these video-streaming sites anymore. More likely, all they have to do is look at their social media feeds. But beware: links on social networking sites that promise live streams of games could send users to similarly infected sites.
How to stop the madness: for employers and employees
It may seem impossible for a small business to make all the right moves when it comes to March Madness, but education could be the best defense. Here are some tips that both employees and employers should know to protect themselves from getting caught up in any March Madness badness that could negatively impact their company.
- Before clicking on a link to a March Madness-related site, make sure it’s safe by using a tool like Norton Safe Web, which ranks the safety of a site based on the provided URL for free.
- Be cautious of posts on social media sites with links to live video streams, a tactic cybercriminals use to drive people to malicious sites or to gather personal data.
- Make sure you understand your company’s policies about Internet safety and use of company equipment, like computers and mobile devices. Most companies have guidelines designed to protect their employees.
- Clearly communicate to employees your policies around March Madness. This could be an email reminding employees to exercise caution when online, whether they’re reading email (be careful about clicking on links) or searching for live video streams. Consider March a good time to have employees brush up on cybersecurity basics.
- Think about making a TV available to employees in a common area so they can use their breaks to catch some of the games. Doing so will cut down on the temptation of streaming games at their desks on company PCs or mobile devices. If several workers are streaming video, that could be a drain on network bandwidth, creating productivity loss for the entire company.
- Choose a strong computer- and mobile-compatible security suite, like Norton Small Business, that offers Internet protection for all the devices your employees use: PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets.
Keeping up with March Madness games and stats may be too tempting for many sports enthusiasts to ignore during the workday, but keep these tips in mind if you decide to catch a game or two while in the office.