Risk of Unintentional Exposure

Almost half of IT managers believe that opening an unknown attachment is the most serious security offense their users can commit, according to a recent survey of IT administrators and security consultants conducted by WatchGuard Technologies. Nearly 80 percent respondents also indicated that a virus has successfully penetrated their network defenses at least once in the past year.

These are frightening statistics for any business. It’s important to note that one of the most popular ways small businesses try to keep employees from unleashing a virus is to train them not to open e-mail attachments sent by strangers. Unfortunately, results from a related survey conducted by WatchGuard, indicated that only seven percent of employees obey security policies to the letter while 46 percent don’t even try to work securely.

Mark Stevens, WatchGuard chief strategy officer at said recent high-profile virus attacks have led many small businesses to take more stringent measures to educate users, these findings suggest that trying to enforce security policies only through behavior modification is a risky proposition.

“The safest option is to deploy a security solution such as a WatchGuard Firebox appliance that can identify threats within the application layer and remove potentially dangerous attachments altogether,” Stevens said. “With application layer security that protects against entire classes of attacks built into the security appliance, you don’t need to have a specific virus signature on file and you don’t need to rely on user discretion.”

This is particularly important for small- and mid-sized businesses. They are just as vulnerable to attacks as large enterprises, but are challenged to stay on top of the security landscape with limited resources.

WatchGuard also asked IT managers to share their strategies for preventing users from opening unknown attachments. The most common response was to filter unauthorized attachments at the firewall before they reach the user.

When asked to identify the user errors or habits representing the most severe breaches of security, 40 percent of respondents said that opening an unknown attachment is more damaging than failing to implement mandatory virus updates, installing an unauthorized wireless network or making a password easily accessible to others — each option selected by 14 percent of respondents.

The results indicate that administrators perceive infected attachments to be the greatest security threat to businesses, despite the fact that most organizations have anti-virus software in place.

WatchGuard’s survey conducted in February at the RSA Conference and includes responses from more than 200 participants. The majority of poll respondents — 63 percent — were from businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees.

WatchGuard is a provider of network security solutions for small- to mid-sized businesses worldwide. The security provider delivers integrated products and services that are easy for small businesses to deploy and manage. The company’s Firebox X line of expandable integrated security appliances is designed to be fully upgradeable as an organization grows and to deliver a combination of security, performance, intuitive interface and value to small- and mid-sized businesses.

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Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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