Avoid These IT Security Mistakes – Or You Could End up in the Unemployment Line

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If you ask anyone who works in IT, they will probably tell you that landing their job was the easy part. Sure, competition can be intense, and amazing opportunities don’t appear every day, but when you compare the process of getting a job to the pressures of keeping that job, it’s easy to look back and think that the job hunting process was a walk in the park.

The problem is that in the field of IT, there are so many potential pitfalls that can derail or even end your career. When you are responsible for keeping a corporate network secure and running efficiently, even a seemingly small mistake can lead to lost money and productivity — and a lost job. There is almost no margin for error, so it’s surprising that so many knowledgeable, well-qualified professionals make mistakes that land them in the unemployment line. To help take precautions, check out some of ITProTV’s security courses to keep you up to date.

While there are any number of mistakes that can put your job in jeopardy, here are some of the biggest errors that have actually gotten people fired.

Cover Ups and Lies

For evidence of the consequences of a cover-up, one needs to look no further than the massive security breach of Target in 2013. After the breach came to light, investigations determined that Target’s IT security team actually had evidence that the Trojan that led to the breach had been installed — but they ignored it as a false positive, even as it became increasingly clear that the system had been infiltrated. The team tried to fix the problem without informing senior management, but the damage was already done. In the end, the breach cost millions of dollars, lead to many firings (including the company CEO), and eroded consumer confidence in the brand.

Sometimes, the mistake isn’t quite so public, but can still cost the company time and money. The major issues start when you attempt to cover up your mistakes by blaming others, not disclosing what you know, or outright lying about what you did or did not do. Such behavior is often cause for dismissal in any field, but in IT, it can be even more devastating. Even if you think that something isn’t a big deal — or that it’s a false positive — it’s your responsibility to respond appropriately.

Poor Password Management

Studies show that poor or inadequate password management is at the center of almost every major security breach, yet so many IT departments still make mistakes in this area. People have been fired for such actions as:

  • Using default passwords on critical systems and applications
  • Using the same password on multiple application
  • Never changing passwords, even when employees leave the company
  • Using corporate passwords for personal or business use outside of the company

Managing passwords effectively has become easier than ever, thanks to password management software, so there is no excuse for not regularly updating login credentials.

Not Managing Backups Properly

In the event of a disaster, backups can be a key part of getting a business back up and running. A server failure is not the time to discover that the last backup took place days — or even weeks or months — ago, or worse, don’t exist at all. There are documented cases of IT pros losing their jobs because of inadequate or nonexistent backups, so make them a top priority if you want to keep your job. Watch this quick video to learn how to back up your backups.

Not Testing Correctly

Man frustratedWhen you develop new systems or applications, testing is a key part of the process. But where do you get the data to test these systems? Many IT teams simply copy and paste existing real data into test systems to save time. The problem is that this is often done without regard to the security of that data and the privacy rules that apply. Test systems generally don’t have the same security controls as the final versions, something that hackers know and love to exploit. Should data fall into the hands of hackers as a result of testing, you can probably kiss your job goodbye.

Invading Privacy

Many people often joke that if you want to know anything that’s going on in the company, you should just ask IT. After all, they see everything and have access to everything.

However, that access comes with a great deal of responsibility, and if you abuse your privileges, it will come back to bite you. Keep in mind that there is a difference between legitimate monitoring, such as when you need to determine whether there is an issue with an employee’s workstation or locate a particular email, and snooping. If you’re caught accessing confidential information without authorization or purpose, that’s generally grounds for termination.

These are just a few of the mistakes that can lead IT pros to lose their jobs and ruin their reputations. There are many others, but the best way to keep your IT job is to take your responsibilities seriously, stay up to date on the latest certifications and advances in the field, and adhere to your employer’s expectations and your job description. When you do, you’ll avoid becoming a cautionary tale. If you need to earn vital IT certifications, or expand your knowledge on a subject to keep your IT job, search our course library for online training, or sign up for a subscription plan to keep your career moving forward.