Small Business Advice: 7 Steps to Online Security

Small business advice regarding a few key steps you can take to ensure that your startup's technology and online presence remain safe and secure.

Startup businesses that make heavy use of email and the internet are
facing a growing problem with computer viruses. Many are receiving
false “Returned Mail” messages for e-mails they never sent from their
business. Most haven’t had trouble with computer viruses or the like
before. But the problem keeps getting worse.

The
popularity of wireless, instant messaging and other applications has
increased the risk. Each one of these technologies represents a new
entry point into your computer system for potential trouble. Excedent
Technologies, which screens e-mails for spam and viruses on behalf of
small business customers, says that 35 percent of messages are spam,
and 3.6 percent contain a virus. Even scarier, there are about 87,000
known computer viruses.

Every business owner, from
solo entrepreneurs on up, must be prepared to fend off virus attacks. A
single security breach can damage data, disrupt business or bring
operations to a halt. We've got some small business advice in the form
of seven steps to online security.

Here are seven steps that can help you protect your startup business

Security Step #1:

Educate
yourself and your employees about the dangers that lurk online.
Establish policies for using the internet in your business that
acknowledge some of the inherent problems, and then hold everyone to
them.

Security Step #2:

Take a
“layered” approach to protection by installing antivirus software and
other security features on your computers, networks and e-mail.
Layering is crucial because viruses use multiple methods to discover
and exploit weaknesses in your computers, and then replicate themselves.

Security Step #3:

Don’t
let employees use peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing websites and
applications such as Kazaa or Napster. These programs are open doors
for things like adware and other harmful programs.

Security Step #4:

Warn
employees about the dangers of downloading applications from unknown
sites. You may even want to limit the ability of employees to download
applications unless they've been cleared.

Security Step #5:

Keep
all operating systems, software and security measures up to date.
Manufacturers are constantly updating these programs to tackle the
ever-changing realm of threats out there, and unless you're staying on
top of these updates, you could leave yourself vulnerable.

Security Step #6:

Install a “firewall” to block incoming traffic that is not needed for your business.

Security Step #7:

If you discover a PC is infected, take it off your network (if you have one) so that fixes can be installed.

One leading company helping defend small businesses from internet threats is Cupertino, CA-based Symantec. Their Norton
brand of antivirus and other computer security software for small
business and home use is outstanding. Symantec offers a full range of
antivirus, antispam and problem solving solutions. Even better, their Small Business Center section has dozens of plain-English articles on computer security and maintenance that you’ll find helpful.

To help startups and other small businesses better understand online
security, Symantec recently launched several free educational tools.
The firm’s “Security Essentials for Your Small Business” CD-ROM
features an interactive guide that helps entrepreneurs understand their
exposure to online threats, and can help you evaluate security options.
It also includes lists of security best practices for small business.

Our Bottom Line

As startups and small businesses grow and expand their implementation
of technology — from wireless networks to virtual private networks —
the need to secure PCs from today’s complex internet threats and
security risks becomes increasingly vital. Our advice to small business
is to take specific steps now to understand the risks and put solutions
in place could save your business from a technology disaster later on.

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