A safer internet is important for businesses, too

Today is Safer Internet Day, an annual campaign to encourage positive online behaviors and raise awareness of safety issues on the web. SID began in Europe more than a decade ago and is now observed in more than 100 countries.

While the campaign focuses on consumers, some recent data suggest that businesses and organizations should also pay close attention. Employees who take unnecessary risks online can damage not only their own reputations and finances, but those of their employers as well.

To gain some understanding of consumer online habits, Microsoft launched an annual global survey three years ago.  The 2013 edition of the survey produced the lowest score to date of the Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI).

In short, many internet users seem to take for granted that tools like antimalware programs, automatic software updates, and firewalls will protect them from criminals or other online hazards. Fewer people said they were actively managing and deploying those tools – many of which are provided for free.

Meanwhile, the MCSI survey found some signs of increasingly risky online behavior. Fewer survey respondents say they only visit reputable sites (39 percent in 2013, vs. 60 percent in 2011), even though research shows that questionable sites are common sources of malicious software.

Similarly, attitudes toward protecting sensitive information may be shifting.  The number of U.S. respondents who limit the amount of personal information they share online fell to 40 percent this year from 48 percent in 2011.

Should businesses be concerned about these behaviors and attitudes?

Consider the growing use of hand-held personal devices – mobile phones, laptop PCs, and tablets – to access corporate networks. Employees connecting remotely could present a potential security risk.

In addition, many employees have personal social media accounts. Some employees may accidentally release sensitive information via blogs or social networks, even if they are not directly connected to their employers.

Poor choices by an employee are becoming an increasing risk for businesses and organizations.

Microsoft provides free resources, including our website, the Microsoft Safety & Security Center, and the Internet Security at Work Toolkit, which can help employees learn to safeguard a company’s financial and business assets and information.

For more information on Safer Internet Day and Microsoft’s involvement, take a look at our new website, www.microsoft.com/security/saferonline.

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