Content Security Solutions

While most of us know better than to surf “questionable” websites while at the office, the content isn’t the only reason those sites are Not Safe For Work.  That content may also be a cover for something worse.

At home, you might download a video and find that, along with the video, you must have downloaded something rather nasty, because now your computer is acting very strange.  Hackers can use videos or photos as bait and hide destructive code in something that looks completely benign.  Many of us run anti-virus software so that there’s a gatekeeper that can keep track of that for us, and if we try to download a video and the anti-anti-virus software says no, then the answer is no and we’re thankful we dodged a bullet.

That’s at home.  At work, try hiding your off-task activities once they trace the company-crashing virus back to your workstation.  That hasn’t happened to most of us, mostly because the company knew better and took steps to protect us from ourselves.  Home anti-anti-virus just isn’t enough to protect a whole company, and if it’s your company, content security can be a big concern.

Here are some things we can put in place to help you:

Firewall—this is a piece of hardware that plugs directly into your network, right at the point your where the network connects to the Internet.  The wire brings the Internet into the Firewall, the Firewall only lets helpful things get through, and the Firewall brings the now-safe Internet to the users.  Think of this as a physical gatekeeper—the Bouncer at the door.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)—a private network is just that—it isn’t accessible from online at all, it is a closed system that can only be accessed from inside.  There are many reasons to have something like that, but most of us don’t need it.  Therefore, a Virtual Private Network is created that encrypts your content so that only those on the VPN have access.  This allows the content to be accessed from another place through the Internet, be it another branch office or an editor working from home, while still being safe from the general public.  Any time you need privacy but also can’t be stuck in one room, a VPN is a good call.

Encryption—perhaps you have some things that are even too sensitive for the majority of your staff, and projects or files have to be locked for specific eyes only.  No problem.  They can be encrypted and require a password to open.  Even if the wrong person got their hands on the file, they wouldn’t be able to do anything with it.

When we receive an email from a friend or someone we trust, but it’s mostly empty with one long weblink in the body, we know better than to click on it.  That wasn’t from our friend, our friend got hacked, and if we click the link, the person who really sent that email will have access to our email account and our friends will soon receive the same link from us.  It’s happened to most of us at least once, and hopefully since we’re aware of it, the greasy underbelly of society will stop using it soon.  But that’s how it works—something new comes out and it fools a lot of people, we get wise and stop letting them fool us, so they make something new and the story continues.

Since there is absolutely no way to predict or prevent attempts to breach your security, and new things are being developed in dark basements as we speak, you just have to assume that you are always under attack and be prepared.  At home, that means running a simple anti-virus program.  When your livelihood is on the line, to protect your creative content, you want to be a lot safer than that.


Some types of viruses:

“Trojan Horse”—any virus hidden in something else, like a picture or video.  You think you’re getting one thing and you end up with a terrible stowaway, just like the historic “Trojan Horse.”

Symptoms: shortly after downloading something, things start to go haywire.  Most often people will restart their computer to try to fix it, and this usually executes any portion of the virus that hadn’t taken effect yet. This type of virus can also be used in a more targeted manner.  You may not notice it at all if the “Trojan Horse” carries a keystroke logger—a program that records every key you strike and generates a report for the person who sent the virus.  Not only do they already have your content if any of it was written, they have all your passwords—they have anything you typed on that system.

Worms—these are programs that delete pieces of code, like they are being eaten.  The worms generally aren’t programmed to start by completely disabling the system, they like to randomly delete things for a while before they manage to delete something that turns the computer into a snazzy paper weight.

Symptoms: Because it doesn’t start with the main functions, you will likely lose a lot before you notice.  At first, it just seems glitchy, because very little has been changed.  The more the worms “eat,” the worse it gets.  If it gets to the directory, it only has to delete a single line to prevent the computer from turning on altogether.

Replicators—these are small pieces of code that have within them the instruction to duplicate themselves.  Therefore, every time the code runs, it doubles in file size, and it isn’t something you can see to delete because it doesn’t appear in the list of files.  It doesn’t delete anything, but it can really negatively impact your system.

Symptoms: Things get really slow and your hard drive is mysteriously too full.  The fuller the system, the more you run into glitches, too.  Things just don’t want to load right when the system is too burdened.

What viruses can do:

Stealing content—your creative content is yours only until someone else puts their name on it unless you have evidence that you made it first.  If they can take your entire email contacts list because you clicked on a link, they can steal a file, and with a keystroke logger they wouldn’t even have to steal the file to have all of your text.

Losing/Destroying content—perhaps they don’t even need to see your content as long as they can eliminate it.  If two companies are vying for the same client, for example, the decision would be easier if one of the companies simply lost all of their material.

Disabling the system—Why bother attacking specific content when you can break the whole world?  The content may or may not be effected, but if you are staring at a blinking cursor and your entire operating system won’t load, it doesn’t matter that your content may still be safe and sound, because you can’t get to it.

But I’m not important enough.  No one is coming after little ‘ol me.

Probably not, not because you’re you.  They will come after you because you are there.  Most viruses aren’t for a purpose, they just break things, and that is their purpose—vandalism for the sake of vandalism.  Sure, it’s possible that a competitor would do something shady, or that something you made is fabulous enough that people would want to steal it, but outside of some rather intense corporate war, that’s generally not why people get viruses.

It’s wrong, it’s ugly, and it’s not something we can stop, which is why you need a Firewall and VPN.