IT Security: Beware of the ‘Pumpkin Spice Effect’

Pumpkin spice lattes aren’t the only item on the coffee shop menu this season. Owners of cloud-based businesses might see a Venti-sized spike in IT security threats due to their employees’ use of their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones for work.

With small to mid-sized businesses seeing a proliferation of “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) cultures in the workplace, those with limited IT in-house services may have an increased vulnerability to cyber threats. This is especially possible when employees access company data in insecure environments like coffee shops — what could be called the “Pumpkin Spice Effect” — after the popular seasonal coffee beverage, which annually attracts more people to coffee shops that offer wifi.

“Computers that leave the company property and connect to other WiFi locations like coffee shops, hotels, and other public places can create a breach point for attackers,” says Art Katch, founder of San Jose-based managed IT services company Alternis IT. “With today’s computing power, attackers only need minutes to damage your company files or ransom your data.

Seasonal IT Security Issues

Users often the most vulnerable points of a systems security. 95 percent of cyber-attacks are the result of human error — clicking a suspicious link in an email, a Google search or even your site’s own pages. Moreover, 93 percent of cyberattacks begin with phishing (sending communications that falsely purport to come from an organization like a bank or workplace in an effort to gain secure information).

Invest in monitoring and security services now rather than paying a fortune later to restore years of lost data”, says Katch, who recommends keeping a network firewall in place to protect all devices across the company network with an emphasis on user endpoint security.

“‘Intelligent behavior monitoring’ can stop any suspicious malware activities before they send out sensitive data to any destination on the Internet,” says Katch, who recommends business owners to maintain a regimen of 24-7 monitoring and data and system encryption. Katch also suggests backing up and monitoring mobile devices and having the ability to wipe the device if lost.

“Security cannot be underestimated. Every day attackers from within our country and other countries are creating tens of thousands of opportunities to get into the US businesses,” says Katch, who reminds business owners to contact their IT consultant immediately if they suspect a breach.

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