How Protected are You? Safeguard Your Small Business from Computer Viruses

Apr 18 21:00 2004 Steven Presar Print This Article

The fact is, every time you log onto the ... send an email message, open an ... or insert a floppy disk, you risk ... your computer system. Computer viruses are out there just wait

The fact is,Guest Posting every time you log onto the Internet, send an email message, open an attachment, or insert a floppy disk, you risk infecting your computer system. Computer viruses are out there just waiting to wreak havoc on your data, documents, programs, or whole computer system.

If you need proof, look no further than "Melissa" and "I love you," two email viruses that paralyzed computer systems around the world as recently as 1999 and 2000. Another virus named "Nimda" infected approximately 2.2 million computers in about a 24 hour period.

There are now estimates of over 58,000 different known computer viruses currently in circulation. The risk of damage to your small business computer system is increasing.

What different types of computer attacks do you need to be concerned about now?

~ Virus: A malicious code that alters the data on a computer and harasses the user by deleting data or altering operating system files, especially boot files.

~ Trojan Horse: A program that is not what it seems to be. A popular version pretends to be and anti-virus fix and instead delivers a virus.

~ Worm: A virus that is self-replicating, most often through email

~ Zombie: A dormant Trojan that is placed on a computer then waits for a command to do its damage.

So what to do?

1. Regularly backup everything that is of value that you have stored on your computer. A small business's biggest safeguard could simply be backing up your data. Some of today's viruses are so powerful, anti-virus software cannot clean infected files; the software can only delete the infected files.

2. Use anti-virus software. Check for updates regularly. Scan all the files on your computer periodically.

3. Your Internet connection needs a firewall (a protective software layer that sits between your computer and the outside world).

Approximately 10 % of the U.S. Internet users have fast cable modems or high-speed phone-based digital subscriber lines. The "always on" nature of these high-speed connections creates an open door for these computer attacks. Firewalls are essential for those connecting to the Internet with high-speed connections.

Even dial-up connections may be at risk, so install a firewall. Your firewall will act as your safe gatekeeper between your computer system and Internet hackers.

Note that anti-virus software won't detect hacker intrusions but your firewall will. Your firewall won't detect viruses but your anti-virus software will -- so install both anti-virus and firewall software on your system.

If you are using Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system, you already have a firewall built in. If you're running an older version of Windows, consider installing Zone Alarm, which is free for individual and nonprofit use.

More sophisticated firewall that are popular among small businesses are Norton Internet Security 2002 and Norton Personal Firewall 2002.

4. Shut down computers when not in use for the rest of the day. Or physically disconnect your computers from the Internet. If you use a high-speed broadband connection, turn off your high-speed modem when not in use.

5. All email attachments are to be regarded with particular suspicion, since most viruses today are transmitted as attachments via email. Use your anti-virus software to scan any attachment before opening it. It's also a good idea never to open an attachment unless you know the person who sent it to you.

6. Check your application software vendors' web sites regularly for security patches. Keep up with computer security issues in the news that might affect you.

7. Make sure you scan all floppy disks that you receive from an outside source or that have been inside another computer before using the disks. Likewise, scan all downloaded files before using them, and only download files from trusted sources.

8. Educate all your employees regarding computer virus. Most viruses today are transmitted through emails with attachments, engineered to appeal to the recipient by promising a free screen saver, party pictures, or photos of celebrities.

Email attachments are to be regarded with particular suspicion, since most real-world viruses today are transmitted as attachments via email. Use your virus software to scan any attachment before opening it. It's also a good idea never to open an attachment unless you know the person from whom it came.

9. Consider purchasing computer system insurance. Most standard commercial insurance policies exclude intangibles like data and software. But insurers are starting to fill that gap with technology risk insurance, which can be added as an endorsement or purchased as a specialty policy.

Such policies pay for replacing software and reinstalling data, as well as lost revenue for business interruption, if you are the victim of a hacker or virus attack.

10. If you do not feel your small business has technology expertise in house to handle your computer system backups and monitor security -- consider out-sourcing your security needs.

Your personal peace of mind will more than make-up your efforts and the small cost outlay.

Copyright Steven Presar

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About Article Author

Steven Presar
Steven Presar

Steven Presar is a recognized small business technology coach, Internet publisher, author, speaker, and trainer. He provides personal, home, and computer security solutions at www.ProtectionConnect.com. He provides business software reviews at www.OnlineSoftwareGuide.com. In addition, he publishes articles for starting and running a small business at www.Agora-Business-Center.com. Be sure to sign-up for the SOHO newsletter at the site.

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