Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Computer Security Advice for Small Businesses

Companies in today’s business environment continuously are confronted with online threats to their networks. These threats put personal and confidential information at risk and come in many forms, including viruses, worms and spyware.

While small business owners work hard to prevent these external threats from invading the company’s network, surprisingly, many common business security threats are caused by employees unknowingly opening their network to viruses by downloading or clicking on items that mimic or appear to be standard programs. Others unwittingly infect the corporate network by sharing a memory stick between work and an infected home computer.

While large businesses typically have the resources to combat virus outbreaks, small and midsized companies need additional guidance in taking on internal security issues. Educating people and businesses on how new security threats can cripple company networks through user actions can be a critical first step to protecting ourselves from the latest security threats.

USB devices

A large number of security threats to companies result from undocumented or unsecured USB drives. When these devices are placed on several different PCs – from an employee’s work computer to his home laptop – viruses can be carried from one computer to the other. An employee may take a USB drive home to load family pictures and bring it back to the office, only to share a virus from the home computer with a work PC.

Employers should talk to their employees about getting in the habit of basic computer hygiene with all the PCs they use. If workers keep their home computers safe and up to date, companies are likely to benefit from the greater awareness instilled in the employee, as well as the reduction in viruses spreading through USB drives.


Firewalls are now every day practice within a small business. Companies understand the importance of securing the network and employees’ computers from the inside.

What happens when employees start traveling and working remotely? Once outside the company firewall, employees start to access different wireless providers and automatically open themselves up for attacks. When an employee is traveling, they are less likely to run normal updates, preventing their computer from updating its current security protection.

Network Access Protection, a security feature from Microsoft’s latest operating system, ensures that when an employee is back in the office their computer must be fully updated before it will allow the machine to reconnect to the server. The employee must run the appropriate security updates, helping the company catch any threats that may infiltrate the employee’s PC. Planning and budgeting to support remote working solutions should be part of any IT plan, but one step that is sometimes overlooked is the review of the company’s existing technology licenses. Businesses sometimes discover discounts or unused rights to software that could easily support NAP.

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