Taking advantage of the Internet to make your small business' information more accessible to employees and outsiders can offer business benefits. If the Internet is a part of your business then you should be equipped to deal with the security issues that have been introduced. If your business is connected to the Internet, then all of the information you keep on your computers and servers is potentially at risk. The more complex the computing environment gets, the greater (and diverse) the risk. At the same time your reliance on the Internet is growing, the Internet threat landscape is continuously evolving and becoming more severe.
In today's small business computing environment, antivirus alone does not provide adequate security. However, with the right combination of security measures, you can keep your valuable business data and information safe and sound and where it belongs—inside your network—and away from malicious code or intruders.
The first step to a comprehensive security program to identify the electronic information you keep that is of the most value to your business, also taking into consideration where that information resides. Generally, small businesses will find their most sensitive information relates to private customer information, strategic plans, financial data, and business operations. Imagine what would happen if this information was damaged or lost. It could mean a financial hit—decreased sales resulting in a decreased profit. It could also cause a severe blow to your business' reputation in the eyes of your customers and business partners. Knowing what you need to protect will help you take proactive security measures that focus on the right areas. Identify your risk factors:
Internet access. Today, most small businesses are connected to the Internet. Small businesses open themselves up to a variety of Internet threats by simply being online. Without the proper security in place, network intruders could see, and/or cause damage to sensitive files, and your system would also be subject to today's complex threats that do not require user interaction, as any computer that is online and unprotected is a prime target for attack.
Remote access. Having the ability to access important work-related files while traveling, or at home can improve a small business' productivity. It is imperative that this kind of remote connection to internal IT resources is established using a virtual private network (VPN) by remote computers that are equipped with antivirus and firewalls.
Wireless networks. Wireless networks are proving to be a cost-effective Internet option for many small businesses because it is a flexible and relatively inexpensive way to keep up with business demands. The problem is that as the popularity of wireless continues to grow, so too will the number of people looking to exploit it. Wireless networks are easier to exploit than wired networks because intruders don't need physical access to your hardware; if they are close enough to the access point, they can pick up the signal, even from outside the building. And it does not take a technology expert to pick up someone else's signal.
Key security technologies that should be integrated into a small business network include not only antivirus, but also: firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, content filtering, and VPNs.
Antivirus — Having antivirus software is just as important as ever. Antivirus should be installed on all desktops and laptops—including those devices being used out of the office to make remote connections to your network. A good antivirus solution should also be able to detect spyware and adware. Remember, just having the antivirus installed is not enough—for maximum protection from the latest viruses, you should check for new virus definitions daily, and perform weekly system scans.
Firewalls — Keeps intruders out of your network by blocking unauthorized access attempts. Some of today's complex Internet threats can elude the basic firewalls on the market, so look for an advanced firewall that offers intrusion prevention technology, so you will have an intelligent system proactively stopping intrusion threats. In addition to antivirus, make sure that all machines making remote connections are equipped with a personal firewall.
Content Filtering — Prevents unwanted content from entering, and confidential information from leaving the network.
Intrusion Detection — Monitors the events or traffic on a computer or network to detect attacks and malicious behavior so you can stop attacks before they have a chance to happen.
Virtual Private Network — As described above, VPNs are essential for secure remote connections. The VPN acts as a secure "tunnel" into the network, and maintains the privacy and integrity of your confidential data as it travels across the Internet by authorizing the user and encrypting the data that flows in and out of your internal IT system.
Although having the right combination of security software is a big part of the security picture, here are some smart security practices you and your employees should follow in order to achieve your best security potential:
- Download applicable security patches for your operating system and software whenever one is made available. In many cases, you can enable automatic searches for updates.
- Do not leave computers logged on and connected to the Internet when not in use.
- Create security policies that not only outline what needs secured, but how you are going to secure those areas. This policy should also outline safe computing practices for employees to follow.
- Perform regular backups both on servers and on users' hard disks.
- Use strong passwords and change them often. A strong password is at least eight characters comprised of a combination of lower-case and upper-case letters, digits, and symbols.
Although it is still possible to fall victim to a computer virus by using an infected disk or opening an infected email attachment, the more destructive and complex viruses and worms of today do not rely on user action, and can elude antivirus software in some cases. And even so, viruses are only one piece of the Internet threat puzzle. Internet intruders are constantly improving their methods and becoming more successful. Leaving your small business' information unprotected is too big a risk in today's threat environment. The ever-increasing sophistication of Internet threats calls for multiple security measures on all vulnerable points on your system, including your servers and desktops.
All of the separate security technologies listed above can be a burden to install, not to mention difficult and expensive to manage and update. A patchwork system of security technology from various vendors can make security management a nightmare. Integrated security is ideal for small businesses because it offers comprehensive protection while reducing complexity and cost. Symantec Gateway Security offers integrated security that is tailored for small businesses. Easy to implement and manage, Symantec Gateway Security offers six important security features: firewalls, intrusion detection, intrusion prevention, content filtering, VPNs, wireless LAN security, and also provides antivirus policy enforcement for Symantec connected clients.