If your company relies on computers to conduct any aspect of your business, you should be aware of how to protect your assets from cybercrime, including cyber attacks, cyber theft and other computer security incidents. Results from a 2014 survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon University found that 77 percent of respondents had detected a cyber security intrusion in the past 12 months. Many of the businesses surveyed found it difficult to estimate the financial loss, but those that could found the average loss to be approximately $415,000. Considering that 65 percent of these crimes happen via an outside party over the internet and cost companies huge amounts of money each year, you cannot be too careful in protecting yourself.
Why Employees’ Web Searches Could Affect You
As an employer, you should educate your employees about searching certain topics on the internet because of the risk of coming across websites encrypted with viruses or malware that could be detrimental to your operating systems. Stress that the potential for cybercrime could affect employees personally or it could affect the entire company. More than 90 percent of companies surveyed by Carnegie Mellon University incurred either monetary loss, system downtime loss or both because of cybercrime, so take it upon yourself to put search engine guidelines in place.
The Web’s Most Dangerous Search Terms
A study by McAfee, Inc., an internet security company, exposed the riskiest searches one can perform on common search engines such as Google. McAfee searched 2,658 popular keywords and phrases across 413,368 URLs to analyze the risk percentage of certain terms. Note that McAfee defines risk percentage as the maximum percentage of “risky” sites a user could encounter on a single page of results, where “risky” means red-flagged for viruses, malware and other damaging items. Here are some notable findings:
- The study deemed the search term “screensavers” as the most dangerous keyword to use in search engines, it returned a maximum risk of 59 percent.
- Entering the word “lyrics” in any phrase in a public search engine returns one risky site for every two search results.
- Any employee who clicks on a search engine result that contains the word “free” has nearly a 22 percent chance of infecting your company’s computers with threatening material like spyware, spam, adware, viruses or other malware.
The least risky search terms are health-related topics and searches about the recent economic downturn, these items have only a 0.4 percent maximum risk.
It is essential to remember that the list of dangerous search terms is ever-changing. Hackers want to impact the highest amount of people with the least amount of effort, so they aim for the key search terms used most. Ill-intentioned hackers also adapt quickly to the fast-paced nature of the internet and the public circle, so oftentimes social or celebrity events popular at a given moment climb quickly to the top of the internet’s most dangerous search terms list and are a high risk for infecting your company’s computers.
According to the DOJ, industries considered a part of critical infrastructure businesses account for a disproportionate amount of computer security incidents. If your company is in any of these industries, be especially careful about internet searches to ensure computer safety and protect against potentially devastating loss, both monetary and in down time. These industries include:
- Chemical and drug manufacturing
- Computer system design
- Health care
- Internet service providers
- Petroleum mining and manufacturing
- Real estate
- Transportation and pipelines
There are examples of companies and organizations around the globe that had to shut down operations to address a large-scale virus or other malware issue. These problems can affect both large and small businesses and can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. Avoid putting yourself at risk by:
- Enacting a stricter internet use policy
- Putting stricter website blockers or filters in place
- Educating employees about the hazards that risky search engine exploration can present
Some of these solutions may cost you in the short run, but lowering your risk will ultimately save your company dollars in potential identity fraud, monetary cyber theft or informational cyber theft if you look long-term.