Internet & Technology

Are you small business computers an information security risk?

Hackers and information thieves know that small businesses don’t have the funds to hire a full-time IT team. They also know that those same small businesses handle credit card numbers, email addresses, maybe even social security numbers and addresses of customers, clients, and employees.

There is a strong black market for stolen information. The incentive is there. A small-fry hacker can make a bigger profit by going after low-hanging fruit as opposed to risking their operation by going after one of the big, well-secured businesses. The good news is that you don’t need a big business budget to secure your network.

Top 3 IT Security Risks and How to Address Them

So which threats pose a risk to your business? There are almost too many to name. This quick list will cover the top three concerns for small business owners. We’ll even give you tips to help prevent the most common methods of infiltration.

1. Casual Internet Usage

Without the proper utilities, the simple act of browsing the Internet is enough to infect a computer or even the entire network. This effect is not limited to shady websites either – even trustworthy websites can infect a computer if they just so happen to run a bad advertisement. Make sure that you have a strong web browsing policy in place to ensure that your employees are only using the net for work purposes.

Use an advertisement blocker and a virus scanner that automatically scans all downloads. Use a high quality firewall to prevent attacks before they have a chance to root into your system.

Some of the worst attacks aren’t quite as casual. Sometimes an information thief will take a personal interest in a business, and will actually contact that business through phone or email pretending to be a client or partner. Security experts call this type of infiltration a “social engineering attack”. These types of attacks are particularly dangerous because there is no way to avoid them besides hoping that the potential victim catches on before giving up important information.

2. Peripheral Storage Devices

Even the most secure computer networks are at risk for infiltration through the tech devices owned by your employees. Most offices allow employees to bring mp3 players, laptops, tablet PCs, and even more commonly, flash/thumb drives and smartphones.

All of those devices have the capability to spread viruses and malware. The most common scenario: an employee downloads a smartphone game at home and then charges the phone through a USB slot at work. The cellphone then transfers any adware or viruses that the phone may be carrying.

You do not have to outright ban outside storage devices, but you should definitely take care to inform employees about the potential threats. You can also configure your virus scanners and firewalls to detect potential infections on peripheral storage devices to reduce your risk.

3. Outdated Software

How do hackers gain access to protected computer networks in the first place? They usually go through flaws, or backdoors, in the most common software packages. This is usually your operating system or web browser but it could be any piece of software on your network. This is why software manufacturers release so many updates and patches – these updates close security holes.

Make a list of all software programs on your network. Delete any unnecessary programs to reduce risk. Install a patch manager to search for and install updates automatically.