The possibility of a computer virus gobbling up data or wiping out company secrets is enough to keep a small business owner up at night. Attacks from viruses, malware or other online threats can mean anything from hampered productivity and corrupted equipment to, in the worst case, bankruptcy.
Sadly, the statistics do not lie. SonicWall’s 2019 Mid-Year Threat Report confirms there have been 4.8 billion malware attacks globally, by the halfway point of 2019. That’s billions, not thousands. Billions. Frightening, isn’t it?
As important as technology is for productivity in business, what can small business owners do to keep their computers and networks safe?
A recent series of case studies conducted by George Washington University on improving the security and stability of its own network determined some important parameters for small businesses.
Eric Davis, senior information systems coordinator for GW, outlined the essential duties of a small business intent on preventing computer corruption.
Best security practices
The best IT security practices include:
Preventing employees from downloading suspicious material, through training or strict browsing software.
Frequently monitoring and scanning hard drives, to ensure there have been no infections and that hardware is not susceptible to an attack.
Securing any company wireless networks.
Streamlining the company’s server structure. Doing so makes scanning for viruses faster.
Many small businesses are turning to security companies for software solutions, and these companies are increasingly targeting their products directly to small businesses.
Well known IT security experts agree that most small businesses will face some kind of cyber-attack sooner or later.
Business losses can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially if bank accounts are compromised. This can literally kill a small business in their tracks, no matter what your business strategy.
Many anti-virus products will allow small business owners to manage all security options from within one interface. For small businesses without the budget for a dedicated IT staff, a more streamlined interface makes it easier to take charge of security.
Security needs to also consider mobile
Mobile devices are not currently a major target of online viruses, but Dmitri Alperovitch, vice president of threat research for security software company McAfee, said the increased use of smart phones means they, too, will eventually draw the attention of criminals.
“Most people will start to do e-banking and online retailing over their phones because of the dramatic capability you can get on your iPhone or Android phone. So we absolutely believe the criminals will start targeting that platform. We don’t see the problem just yet.”
Alperovitch also said businesses need the ability to remotely wipe data. If an employee loses a phone, company secrets or other sensitive data could end up in the wrong hands. With remote wipe, someone from the business can take a couple of steps to kill the phone and remove the data.
The most popular threats to small businesses are still coming from the web and email. Criminals are now infecting websites with Trojan viruses that will attack your machine after you click on a particular advertisement.
Train your employees too
Along with antivirus software, effective employee training is essential toward security. Small business owners should be proactive in teaching employees how to avoid threats online.
Experts agree that 95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. This just shows how important it is to train your team on computer security basics. Things such as how to manage emails that look suspicious, and not to click on any links.
The most common email threats are messages designed to look as if they came from your financial institution, friend or other trusted source. The user is then tricked into giving out personal or company information.
A study undertaken at the University of Maryland shows the near-constant rate of hacker attacks of computers with Internet access, at a staggering every 39 seconds on average, affecting one in three Americans every year.
What to look for in antivirus software
There are a few things to look for, when it comes to choosing antivirus software, such as;
- Ability to scan emails as they arrive
- Scan files as they are downloaded
- Regular automatic updates
- Frequent spyware and virus checks
To help choose which antivirus software to buy, ask colleagues or search for software reviews online. There are many sites that list the pros and cons of the biggest selling antivirus software packages. Don’t forget there are also free versions of many tools as well.
Antivirus software will help eliminate computer security issues, however, employee training and vigilance is just as important.
Virus and malware attacks are growing in sophistication so that even tech-savvy workers and seasoned Internet veterans can fall prey. Be vigilant and ensure you keep your antivirus software up to date.
About the Author
James Styles writes for a number of blogs, on topics as far ranging as Australian software products through to long stories about the woodworkers of Tibet.