Can the Olympics really threaten your IT security?

Just like the hundreds of Canadian athletes heading to Beijing, IT managers may have to plan for the Olympics too. Making sure you have a clearly defined acceptable use policy on video streaming is the first step many companies will need to take in order to keep their employees happy and their systems running smoothly, according to security firm Fortinet Inc.

With thousands of hours of streaming coverage being broadcast online, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based security company warned that this year’s Olympics Games will be viewed by many of your enterprise employees and could pose performance and security threats if not properly managed.

“Broad interest events are when we see spikes in traffic, which is the perfect time for hackers and cybercriminals to do their bidding,” Chris Simmons, senior manager of product strategy at Fortinet, said. “The increasing number of compromised sites during these times presents a greater opportunity of host infection on the client side.”

To start, Simmons advised that companies re-communicate their video streaming policies by sending out company wide e-mails outlining acceptable use. Additionally, implementing a Web filtering solution that will offer limited – but not restricted – access for employees looking to view streaming Olympic sites is important to balancing network security and a positive working environment.

“You want to limit access to certain times, such as before working hours, during the lunch time or after five,” Simmons said. “Streaming video has the potential of overloading mission-critical bandwidth.

“If you don’t have a Web filtering solution, this is difficult to enforce.”

With the increased cybercriminal activity, he said, IT managers may also want to warn employees of Olympic-themed, unsolicited links that might get past the company’s firewall. Simmons said newer employees in particular should be briefed the sure-fire ways to avoid phishing sites and to never disclose personal or corporate information to a potentially untrustworthy online source.

“Making sure that your security solution is updated and enforcing your acceptable use policy with regards to prevention will help ensure that you’re safe,” he added.

While David Senf, director of security and software research at IDC Canada, didn’t disagree with the tips offered up by Simmons, he did say that companies aren’t any more susceptible to attacks during the Olympics than they would be at other times of the year. “I don’t think the online traffic for sporting events is high enough to matter that much to the average firm’s network performance,” he said.

Half of Canadian firms indicate that they have formal policies in place around employee security, he added, yet less than a third to go the extra of step of communicating these policies throughout their firm on any kind of regular schedule.

“Events such as the Olympics may provide a platform to talk about acceptable use policies with employees,” Senf said.

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