Keep IT Safe: 5 Ways to Guard Against Olympic-Sized Streaming Threats

Friday, August 12, 2016

Peter Tsai

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Big sporting events like the Olympic Games capture the hearts and attention of billions around the world. And with any wildly-popular live broadcast during work hours, IT departments need to be careful.

Some fans (dare we call them fanatics?) will go to great lengths to get their sports fix online, through legitimate means or otherwise. And you can rest assured hackers will take advantage of the situation by setting up ad-laden, malware-infected, or phishing sites that prey upon unsuspecting victims looking to watch the Games “at all costs.”  

In the coming weeks, these Olympic-sized risks will be on the minds of IT departments around the world. According to a recent security poll in Spiceworks, nearly 40 percent of IT pros said Olympic streaming poses a threat to IT security, as employees look to get around web filters or watch the games for free on potentially dangerous, unofficial sites.

Apart from security risks, excessive video streaming can bring corporate network performance to a crawl faster than a record-breaking 100 meter dash run. And it’s a sure bet slow network performance will usher in a wave of complaints and helpdesk tickets from anyone trying to get real work done.

How can companies avoid streaming agony and get high marks for network performance during live events? Here are tips straight from IT professionals on how to emerge victorious in the face of an online streaming challenge.

1. Educate employees on malware dangers

You know what they say, “knowledge is power.” But less computer-savvy users might not be aware of the potential dangers that lurk on the internet. Because one single person installing malware from a shady site could compromise your entire network, everyone needs to know that Googling 'Olympics streaming torrent' and clicking on random links could lead straight into a trap.

User training throughout the year about the dangers of haphazard web surfing, along with friendly safety reminders before an event can go a long way towards keeping corporate networks safe. Additionally, the risks from malware can be mitigated by additional security measures such as domain blocking and anti-virus technologies.

2. Make live events easy to watch legitimately

To keep employees from landing on shady sites or hogging bandwidth, many IT departments set up a dedicated room for showing sporting events in a break room or a company meeting area. There’s less incentive for employees to watch the game from a cramped desk when there’s a big flat screen TV and a free show to enjoy in the company of fellow coworkers.

Giving sports fans what they want comes with an added productivity bonus because overly-enthusiastic workers won’t bother other employees who have important work to do. A designated viewing room ensures employees have a safe and legal stream to watch while keeping valuable bandwidth available for business purposes.

3. Keep an eye on and restrict bandwidth usage

Video streaming can drag down network performance, so you might want to actively monitor bandwidth usage and restrict certain employees if they pose a threat to productivity. Network bandwidth monitoring tools can help you pinpoint problem users and devices that slow down the network for everyone else.

Other networking solutions allow you to reserve bandwidth for critical business applications such as VoIP or certain cloud services. There are also ways to put bandwidth caps on specific users or traffic from specific domains. But if you do that, be prepared for complaints from users exclaiming, "I can't watch water polo at my desk!”

4. Block unofficial streaming sites

Big sports events can make people emotional, often causing them to be more careless than usual, which makes them vulnerable to online exploits. By proactively blocking known, dangerous streaming sites you can reduce the risk to your network. Some organizations take it a step further to protect company data by blocking all streaming on the corporate network. Other organizations set up a separate Wi-Fi network for streaming from personal devices to better isolate sensitive data.

5. Set clear security expectations

Some IT departments proactively send an email before a big event to remind employees of established IT usage guidelines along with corresponding penalties for non-compliance. For example, an IT department can help users remember that there’s no streaming on corporate devices outside of the designated watching room. If there is an infraction without business justification, having clear expectations means a company will have already outlined consequences, such as throttling of bandwidth or notes to an employee’s manager. If streaming is allowed, your communications to users could provide a list of officially supported streaming sites so users aren’t tempted to click on random, potentially dangerous links.

Online streaming is an ongoing challenge

Whether it’s the Olympics, the NCAA basketball tournament, the World Cup, or any other big sporting event, you can be sure that people will want to stream it at work. By following the five tips above, organizations can help give fans what they want while keeping networks more secure and making sure bandwidth is available for everyone that needs to get work done.

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