Ofcom delivered a ‘startling’ statistic a few days ago in the UK– 47% of internet users have difficulty identifying whether content they download or stream is legal, while 1 in 6 thought that they had downloaded or accessed illegal content over a 90 day period this year. With an almost exact split of the population of internet users admittedly not knowing whether they can identify what looks legitimate and what looks fraudulent, the world wide web will continue to attract the denizens that inhabit the dark corners of the web looking for a ‘vic'(victim).
Now, before moving forward, I think it’s of paramount importance to state the painfully-obvious here –an overwhelming majority of internet users are well aware that they are either downloading or accessing illegal content on their computers. The music industry wouldn’t be going through the evolutionary changes it has been if not for the sheer amount of piracy that has rampantly increased as of recently. Whereas it was normal for many artists to break 500k copies sold of their music on their opening week, some artists top Billboard Charts in one week selling 70k records. Whole albums leak early and individual musicians are forced into nonstop touring in order to pay for studio time and make a profit. Software companies seek out new and evolving ways to deter pirates by offering cloud solutions that include upgrades for a flat monthly fee(think Office 365 or Adobe Creative Cloud). So to say that consumers don’t necessarily know the difference between legitimate and illegitimate I find hard to swallow. If your son or daughter offers to find that long lost album that reminded you of your youth on the computer, it’s safe to say that they aren’t about to go to the iTunes store to pick it up. The familiar players in the game are established as far as online marketplaces, making your web surfing trips to get content(which never required you at any time to actually spend money) more like a field trip to the black market. Which brings me to my point: If you’re familiar in any way with the dealings of your friendly neighborhood black market, then you have an understanding that you might fall victim to a scam. The ‘product’ may be a knockoff , or defective. Sometimes the product is merely there for aesthetic purposes, just to swindle you out of cash. That’s exactly the sort of shady happenings that occur on the web, but with a caveat as well– digital scams can go so far as to provide an opportunity to steal Bank account numbers and sensitive private information, reduce your computer to a paperweight or to use your computer to send mass Emails around the world — on top of the possibility of being sued by the RIAA. A myriad of file types can be injected with code that references other hidden sleeper files within the same file share to make even the most harmless activity like looking browsing Google images the equivalent of flirting with danger.
Once you understand the depth of what can be done, then it becomes easier to empower those using the internet with those facts so that they can avoid those types of activities on their workstations, for example. While these activities will surely continue, you can still be proactive and take steps to separate personal devices from the work network. Another frequent blunder is the habit of employees bringing content onto their workstations via a USB thumb drive, a wonderful conduit to send information and infect networks. As Trustwave pointed out recently, 35% of users have experienced a virus infection through a USB drive. Smaller businesses should really take heed, as networking is usually implemented haphazardly, with little regard to the ramifications of their actions. Downtime is not an option, and it can all be prevented through just separating the good from the bad. For more information about safeguarding your business and the best safety practices you can implement without shaking the foundation of your businesss, contact us.