Just about every day we read about a new computer security breach in the news. The big events draw a lot of attention and generate the headlines, but small business owners need to stay vigilant too!
It can be overwhelming to try to digest all the available information on computer security. We like to think about it in three easy steps.
Step 1: Secure your perimeter. Think of this as having a wall around your business, a fence, or locked windows and doors. Your firewall protects you from the Internet by creating a cyber barrier between you and the outside world. If you picked up an inexpensive router at Staples a few years ago, you should strongly consider upgrading to a business class router. We highly recommend Sonicwall products, but there are many great choices. We're also recommending gateway security software to manage the traffic in and out of the network, above and beyond basic firewall protection. Also, remember that your firewall needs regular firmware upgrades to stay up to date with respect to new threats.
Step 2: Protect allsystems on your network with Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware software. The important point is that EVERY system needs active protection (up to date license, dynamic updates multiple times a day). Do you know that EVERY system is up to date? Do you have a policy about bringing in systems from home (BYOD - Bring Your Own Device)? What about guests? If guests on your network are a factor for you, we strongly recommend installing a separate "sub-net" so that these guests can get Internet access (using your same Internet connection with no extra cost), but they won't be on your main network. How do you know your guest has up-to-date virus protection?
Step 3: Keep your applications and operating systems up to date with security patches. Microsoft routinely releases free updates on "Patch Tuesday", the second Tuesday of the month. Many people are aware of these updates because they're in the news, and your Windows system will prompt you when updates are available. What people often overlook is that Macs need updates too, and other applications such as Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Flash and Java are also vulnerable to security loopholes and also need to be regularly updated. (And don't forget your smart phone, but this is a whole new topic).
There is no such thing as 100% security. Even if you do everything "right" there is still a chance that you could have a problem, such as a virus, but with focus on active protection, you greatly reduce your risk and potential for damage.
Remember that security is effectively a "cat and mouse" game. Vulnerabilities are detected, hackers try to exploit the vulnerabilities, and the security firms try to stay a step ahead. To protect your small business, remember your "123s": 1. Perimeter, 2. System, 3. Applications.