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IT security in the workplace: Why we can’t do without it

A small oversight, just one click too many - and it’s already too late. Anyone allowing a trojan or virus to slip on to their computer system can be certain that the consequences will be grave. That is if the ‘infection’ is even recognised, as malicious software is becoming increasingly intelligent and refined. Therefore, prevention is the first priority in maintaining security at workstations, which the IT department strictly monitor. Sometimes so strictly, that their image suffers as a result. Unfairly: without experts in IT security, we would all still be limited in our abilities to work.

In-house IT is, in the best case, an invisible power that observes everything from the background and immediately jumps in whenever there's a problem. The colleagues in IT usually only become unpopular when they show themselves, and insist that their colleagues strictly observe the tedious rules of conduct. Don't use any foreign USB sticks, don’t just click on links in emails, always save a backup - the usual list of IT security regulations is rather long these days. But does it really have to be this way?

The answer is a resounding ‘yes, it does!’, as numerous cases continue to show - for example the trojan ‘Petya’, which can paralyse entire companies and is spread via a harmless-looking email about a job application. Ultimately, the biggest danger for workstation security is always the users themselves - and the IT department never tire of reminding them of this. “There is no point in talking about secutity if passwords are taped on to the monitor”, writes Helmut Martin-Jung in his newspaper feature on IT security , and encourages: “Just learn some digital self-defence!”

There are many guides for this. Primarily, experts and officials are to be trusted on the matter, such as the Bavarian Police, who in light of the trojan ‘Petya’, once again formulated a clear set of rules:

  • Never open unchecked attachments, regardless of whether they appear to be harmless data formats, such as images or documents. When in doubt, ask the person who sent the attachment. As a rule, banks don’t send electronic messages unless it has been discussed with the customer beforehand.
  • Never click on links in unsolicited emails. They can take you to an infected website which can lead to malware being downloaded without your knowledge.
  • Regularly install the security updates for your operating system that are provided by the manufacturer, and the updates for installed programmes (e.g. browser, flash player, Adobe Reader), ideally using the ‘automatic update’ function.
  • Install an anti-virus programme and update it regularly.
  • Make sure that you don't access the internet if you have admin rights activated. Create a user profile with standard user rights for accessing the internet.
  • Be critical about what you click on when using social networks, especially with apparently sensational videos or other posts - even if they have been recommended to you by friends.
  • Regularly back up your data onto external media to reduce data loss as much as possible.

The North Rhine-Westphalia Police also offer comprehensive tips and advice on the subject of ‘cyber crime’ in all of its forms. However, we should first (preferably always) contact our in-house friends and helpers within the company if we have questions about IT security: our colleagues in the IT department.