NCAA Tournament Creates Madness for Corporate IT

NCAA Tournament Creates Madness for Corporate IT

The madness is set to begin, the brackets are all filled out and college basketball teams are preparing for round one of the NCAA Tournament, an event that usually causes quite a bit of disruption in the workplace. Employees are constantly minimizing their work screens to check on the latest scores, stats and brackets, or maybe even checking online betting sites or streaming the game straight from their work device on the company internet that connects the computer to a corporate network.

These actions can create vulnerabilities in a company’s network that drive IT departments crazy. TEKsystems, a provider of IT staffing solutions, IT talent management expertise and IT services, recently published a survey that “explores the anticipated impact of the games on corporate networks.” TEKsystems spoke with more than 400 IT professionals, including help desk support analysts, developers, system administrators and others.

The survey was able to show that 24 percent of IT professionals strongly agree that their company’s network will be at a greater risk “due to the websites employees may visit during the NCAA tournament” while only 3 percent strongly disagreed with the idea.

TEKsystems research manager, Jason Hayman, believes that the majority of IT professionals are right in thinking that their networks could be at risks by the inundation of atypical websites visited during the NCAA tournament.

“Information security is becoming a major priority for IT for reasons as obvious as whatever security breach made the front pages this week,” Hayman said. “Instead of looking at the NCAA Tournament and other large-scale sport events as an obstacle, organizations should be realistic about and their impact on company IT.”

Hayman believes the two biggest impacts to an organization during the NCAA Tournament are bandwidth and security. The increased traffic and types of content being viewed could potentially slow down a company’s network, granted the size and scope of the impact.

“The increased vulnerability and security concerns stem from the types of websites employees may visit during the tournament,” Hayman said. “Most sports websites may be free from malware and other potentially harmful content. However, gambling or other gaming sites could be a different story.”

The survey found that 59 percent of IT professionals had a policy regarding the amount of Internet usage for events unrelated to work, but Hayman believes that the companies need to be realistic about their employees.

“Avid sports fans will find a way to interact with the tournament no matter what security measures are put in place,” Hayman said. “Employees, depending on how well they’ve been trained around security best practices, are either a liability or an asset in this regard. Instead of only focusing on prevention, organizations could use the tournament as an opportunity to refresh those best practices when it comes to network security and bandwidth.”

Hayman also warns against companies trying to be too strict with their policies, as it could lead to employees accessing third-party sites in order to see the content they desire. These sites could lead to even more unnecessary security risks.

“Just about any site that offers workarounds or backdoors through an organization’s firewalls and security measures potentially makes the company’s network more vulnerable,” Hayman said. “Most if not all legitimate websites transfer data over Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), which encrypts data communicated between the server and the browser. Sites dedicated to getting around security protocols may not have this level of encryption and security in place.”

The survey seems to tell an interesting story about the modern day workplace. While the news headlines have been flashing “Cybersecurity Attack!” and “Security Breach!” it is almost as if the employees haven’t seen a word of it. They are not as concerned about their company’s bandwidth or network health as long as they have access to the sites, games, scores or online shopping ventures they want.

“Some employees may have a certain degree of naïveté or unfounded confidence in the organization’s security practices, others may simply not grasp the impact their online habits can have on the company,” Hayman said. “Organizations will have a hard time changing the online habits of their workforce. If a worker wants access to internet content they’re accustomed to, they’re likely going to figure out a way to get it.”

The thing about this kind of problem is that it will likely never go away and instead, IT departments will have to work harder to keeping up the health of their networks in the event of sporting tournaments like March Madness, the World Cup and even the Olympics.

“Two things will never go away: big sporting events that occur during working hours and individuals bent on doing harm,” Hayman said. “The continued pervasiveness of technology will only increase the volume of workers accessing these events online making any organization vulnerable. Education and training about the impacts of online activity at work are the best methods for a company to protect themselves.”

Posted by Sydny Shepard on Mar 15, 2016

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