When you are new in the small business world, your computers are more vulnerable to viruses, hackers and other threats for two reasons: first, you have valuable information; and second, you don’t normally have state-of-the-art security systems that larger companies can easily afford. Nevertheless, it pays to invest in the best security you can get.
It is important to understand that security measures are preemptive. Computer Recovery is different, and specifically refers to repairing any damage caused, and the reversal of any lost data – which sounds difficult because it is. It is much easier to be prepared and over-protected than to worry about recovery. Yet it certainly pays to know a bit about both, so you can protect your data and avoid recovery measures.
Basic Networking Information
You may have many individual computers. On their own, they are likely extremely secure, but they cannot communicate to each other. But link them together and what you get is a network, specifically a Local Area Network (LAN).
If you put a few LANs together you get a Wide Area Network (WAN). If you link many different networks together, you get an internet – basically a network of little networks. The Internet, however, is a worldwide network, aka The World Wide Web. Until you connect your network to the outside world through the Internet, you are reasonably safe – but as soon as you do connect to the Internet, the rules change.
Packets are groupings of information encoded in the binary 0s and 1s. Every single piece of information transferred between computers is sent as a packet, or more likely, multiple packets.
Every computer has a unique IP address, which defines that computer and the network that it is on – each program has a port to define where that packet needs to go once it gets to the computer, which application will get the packet.
Typical Security Threats
- Spam mail: Unsolicited mail that can hold viruses, and just take up precious time and bandwidth.
- Spoofing: Disguises packets to look like they have come from a different IP address, and can gain access to various systems.
- Phishing: Tricking the receiver into giving up very personal information, like credit cards, social security numbers and the like, by appearing as an official looking email from a credible source.
- Viruses: Various codes and programs designed to replicate themselves to spread like a virus, and to cause huge damage to computers, and are spread through emails. Worms are just like viruses, except that they send the emails themselves, rather than infecting other programs.
- Trojan Horses: Malicious programs, often carrying viruses or worms, which pretend to be benign, just like the fabled Trojan horse from the Iliad.
- Spyware: Tiny programs hidden within the computer which can do everything from track online use to allowing the access of your computer by others. Downloading anything very often is a great method to infect your computer or network with spyware, and if you do so, you should take special precautions.
There are four main areas to protect from all these various threats: the Internet, the servers, the network, and finally the data. Think of each like a single entity, and for each offer protection from the inherent dangers.
Using the Internet Safely
There are many vicious websites out there, forcing your computer into all sorts of compromising situations. Policies on company internet use are a must, and regular screening of employee’s computers for internet history is also suggested. Also, you can set up various blocks or filters to restrict employee access of certain sites. Businesses can be easily compromised by employees who use the Internet for accessing undesirable websites on company time or using company-owned computers.
Set up a policy for internet use, and discuss exactly what employees should be allowed to use the Internet for, when they can use it for personal use, how the company monitors use and what level of privacy they get.
Also, simple recommendations on how to surf the Web can be put in place:
- going only to trusted sites,
- don’t sit idle on the Internet,
- never access the Internet from a server,
- do not install programs from the Internet,
- use firewalls or routers to filter the web addresses allowed to contact your computers, and
- filter outgoing Internet access using specialized software.
Protecting Your Servers
Your server acts as a command center, and must be kept safe from attacks. If harmed, server damage quickly spreads to the entire network. Your network relies on servers for everything. Make these outlined suggestions a priority to protect your servers.
- Keep the computers secure from physical damage – locked, climate controlled rooms with no windows.
- Never use them as workstations.
- Only give employees permissions to access the servers, or even certain features of their workstation computers, if they need such access to do their job.
- Most outside sources of infection will occur from outside of the servers, and can be easily protect by using proper protection, such as safe Internet use, firewalls, and other protective services.
Protecting Your Network
This is the most important part of security: the network. If a single computer gets infected with something, proper network security can keep it from harming the rest of the computers on the network.
Install antivirus software: use a trusted source. Antivirus software does not have to be complicated – just installed properly.
Get proper firewalls: firewalls act like filters for what comes in or goes out of your computers, protecting your information from leaving, and preventing harmful codes and programs from getting in. There are various types of firewalls, and each has its own benefits for various types of business applications.
Basic protection of your business is easy, and definitely beats trying to relocate and recover sensitive information. Protect your networks and your servers, and you are on your way to protecting your computer-based information.