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Is Peak Geek a Challenge to Corporate IT?

By Ciri Haugh | May 17, 2019

Many organizations have embraced the ever-evolving digital workforce by empowering their employees to work from anywhere at any time. But a consequence of this evolution is that the line between work and personal life can often become blurred. Just as employees tackle work assignments at night and on the weekend, it is not surprising that many people conduct personal business on a work-assigned device or while on your organization’s network. In some cases, policies are clear about what is approved behavior and technical controls are put in place to mitigate serious issues, especially when it could mean inciting a potential security risk. But it raises a larger philosophical question: How can you best find a balance between enabling your workforce and protecting your organization and your technology ecosystem?

Right now, we’re facing a timely example of this quandary with the final season of Game of Thrones and the long-anticipated release of Avengers: Endgame. We’ve truly reached “peak geek” with the culmination of two incredible sci-fi franchises. We are big fans at Snow, so we understand why this is so exciting, and also such a challenge for IT professionals.

Snow’s latest survey discovered that many professionals will throw caution to the wind — even on their work computers — to keep pace with the latest pop culture or entertainment crazes. The survey of 3,000 professionals around the globe found that 52% of respondents have downloaded a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu on their work device. Of those who plan on watching Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame, a majority are willing to watch them on a work device. One in five will illegally download them.

To minimize the negative impact of these actions, IT organizations need to combine education and a balanced perspective with better visibility into technology landscape and the behaviors of their workforce.

Playing with fire to watch Game of Thrones

Worldwide, 60% of fans are willing to watch Game of Thrones on their work device. As they consider how to watch the show, respondents indicated:

  • 53% will watch through an official streaming service like HBO Go 
  • 37% will watch through their cable subscription 
  • 18% will use Slingbox or another mirroring service

Meanwhile, 12% of American fans will join 21% in Europe and 27% in Asia-Pacific in torrenting the episodes after they air. While it’s easy to condemn, attempting to keep up with the trials of Westeros on work devices is obviously not all that uncommon.

Doing “whatever it takes” to see Avengers: Endgame

Almost two-thirds (66%) of professionals plan to watch Avengers: Endgame. Of those professionals who plan to watch Avengers, almost 20% will torrent the movie. Fans who don’t plan to illegally download the movie will:

  • See it in the theaters after opening weekend — 47%
  • Watch it at home through a rental service — 24% 
  • Watch it using Slingbox or another mirroring service — 16%

Spoiler alert: super fans are the ultimate anti-heroes

When it comes to those willing to risk it all for their passion, super fans pose the biggest threat. The true “peak geek,” those that are planning to watch both, these super fans pose the biggest risk. According to the survey, two thirds of these fans will watch on their work device, with 22% willing to torrent their entertainment.

Developing your own battle plan

This type of behavior doesn’t just open up businesses to risk, it could also be an indicator that a larger issue is at hand. If employees are willing to download torrented versions of popular movies or shows, they may also be downloading unauthorized software or applications.

To manage employee behavior and encourage proper device usage you have to rely on a combination of approaches.

  1. The first step is security awareness training to communicate risks such as browser hijacking, ransomware and malicious software downloads. This helps ensure people have been educated about what is appropriate and what crosses the line.
  2. The second step is monitoring your estate and tracking activity. I recommend tools such as the Snow Software Platform to spot both web usage and software installed on your end user devices.
  3. Implement active controls at your network perimeter or with your anti-virus vendor to try and prevent malicious downloads or employees visiting known piracy sites.

There is no single solution to tackle this issue, rather you need to build several capabilities. Unfortunately, trying to ride a dragon or successfully take down a mad tyrant may seem easier than anticipating all of your employees’ unknown behaviors and how they could impact your IT ecosystem. While preventing or blocking all personal activities on work devices is unworkable, a multi-faceted approach that includes visibility across your IT landscape is the first step in winning this war.

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