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Why March Madness Is Bad for Business

Every spring the NCAA college basketball tournament — known as March Madness — turns workplaces into play spaces. Betting on brackets and watching games seem more suited to sports bars, but since many of the games are played during the workday, it’s not unusual for otherwise dedicated employees to schedule in some pleasure along with business. However, March Madness can cost workers and small business owners much more than productivity as cybercriminals target unsuspecting fans with malware.

Cybercriminals Are a Step Ahead

Knowing that March Madness fever will run high, many small businesses block websites that play the games. This preemptive move, however, could actually lead to more problems when workers look for alternative sites to stream video.

Cybercriminals are a step ahead, using search engine optimization (SEO) poisoning tactics to drive their malware-laden sites higher in search rankings. Scammers create websites that use popular March Madness-related terms — and that could infect computers with drive-by downloads containing malicious code or other types of spyware.

Why Streaming Videos Is Bad for Business

According to Satnam Narang, Senior Security Response Manager for Symantec, video streaming is the greatest March Madness risk to small businesses — a group that is increasingly targeted by hackers, according to the Symantec Internet Security Threats Report 2015. If standard sites are blocked, workers use search engines whose results could land them on these malicious websites. Or, they could end up on sites that ask users to install a program in order to view a video or live feed. Instead of installing a video player program, victims end up installing a virus or grayware.

People don’t even have to actively search for these video-streaming sites anymore. More likely, all they have to do is look at their social media sites. But beware: links on social networking sites that promise live streams of games could send users to similarly infected sites.

How to Stop the Madness: For Employers and Employees

It may seem impossible for a small business to make all the right moves when it comes to March Madness, but education could be the best defense. Here are some tips that both employees and employers should know to protect themselves from getting caught up in any March Madness badness that could negatively impact their company.

Employers

  • Clearly communicate to employees your policies around March Madness. This could be an email reminding employees to exercise caution when online, whether they’re reading email (be careful about clicking on links) or searching for live video streams. Consider March a good time to have employees brush up on cybersecurity basics.
  • Think about making a TV available to employees in a common area so they can use their breaks to catch some of the games. Doing so will cut down on the temptation of streaming games at their desks on company PCs or mobile devices. If several workers are streaming video, that could be a drain on network bandwidth, creating productivity loss for the entire company.
  • Choose a strong computer- and mobile-compatible security suite, like Norton Small Business, that offers Internet protection for all the devices your employees use: PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets.

Employees

  • Before clicking on a link to a March Madness-related site, make sure it’s safe by using a tool like Norton Safe Web, which ranks the safety of a site based on the provided URL for free.
  • Be cautious of posts on social media sites with links to live video streams, a tactic cybercriminals use to drive people to malicious sites or to gather personal data.
  • Make sure you understand your company’s policies about Internet safety and use of company equipment, like computers and mobile devices. Most companies have guidelines designed to protect their employees.

The desire to stay current on March Madness wins and losses may be too tempting to ignore, but keep these tips in mind if you decide to catch a game or two while at work.