Remember back when “they” said computers and the use of the internet would shorten the eight hour work day? I think we all realize it has done the opposite, and it clearly doesn’t simplify our lives: especially when you are the recipient of a screen message and an ugly image of a face making fun of you for catching a virus. No sneezing here… nope- just a moment of panic as you scramble to call your IT department… oh wait, you’re probably a small business without an IT department… Now what?!
I reached out to three Chamber Member businesses for their help and suggestions for you. Thank you to BusinessWare Solutions, Tech Bros., and Vivid Image. They have been gracious to offer some great advice to protect and prepare your business from cyber and malware attacks.
- Updates! “You see them and you ignore them, stop that!” says Simon Leung from Tech Bros. Schedule a time when you can run the updates, we tell our clients usually near the end of the day. You’ll see the update notifications near the bottom right corner of your screen near the clock, Microsoft Updates, Adobe, Java, etc. Most of the time the updates will self-install and you’ll just get a notice that states updates have been recently installed.
- Backups! Sometimes things happen. Sometimes someone clicks on something they shouldn’t right after they were warned. Sometimes other things happen, too (fire, theft, tornado, software corruption, deleted files, etc.). Backups aren’t just a good idea, they are critical. You should have at least one local backup (with as much history as you think is necessary and/or affordable) and one offsite backup. The offsite backup can be cloud based or it can be as simple as a USB thumb drive that gets taken home or to a local bank.
“Organizations often don’t think about backups when they are thinking about security, but if everything else fails, your backup is the last line of defense. Offsite backups are so easy and affordable now – everyone should be doing them!” Don DeMeyer, BusinessWare Solutions Service Manager
- Security! Antivirus may not protect you against everything, but it is a good start. Make sure that you are staying current with your antivirus, Windows operating system, Office, java, Acrobat, and other application updates. Make sure that you have a current commercial grade firewall (not just a simple router) with current updates as well, some offer added features for additional cost.
- Passwords! Passwords by themselves aren’t enough, but a good password is a good start. Some of the most common (and really bad) passwords include: 123456, password, password 1, letmein, admin, and admin1. A good password contains at least eight characters. Mix in song lyric abbreviations, passwords that rhyme, sports team acronyms, and/or airport codes with numbers and symbols to make a secure, yet memorable, password. Keep passwords to yourself.
- Education! End user education is the most overlooked form of protection. If you click on a link or open an attachment, your password, your anti-virus software, and your firewall may not be able to protect you (make sure that your email application doesn’t automatically download attachments).
- Watch out for invoices and shipping confirmation attachments that you aren’t expecting.
- Whether the link is on an official looking website or in an email that looks like it came from the right people, always make sure you trust the source of any link you click on.
- When in doubt, do a Google search for the company in question and go through their website to find what you’re looking for, rather than following a link.
- If you download a copy of popular free software like Skype or Dropbox for example, make sure you’re getting it from the software creator’s official Software downloaded from 3rd party sites can often be bundled with lots of additional spyware/malware.
- Be careful with ‘free downloads’ or anything else that looks too good to be true for the low price of a click. Also, it’s as easy to put someone else’s return address on an email as it is on an envelope.
- Toolbars seem like a great idea at first. Who doesn’t want to save money or speed up their Internet? These features often come at a price though. Toolbars often monitor and report on all your web browsing habits and could even compromise your security by tracking the keys you type thus revealing usernames and passwords for any website you may visit.
- It already happened? Justin McGuire of Vivid Image says “The damage is done. Time to hit the reset button. Sometimes even the best defense in the world falls a little short.”
What do you do once you are compromised?
- The first step is to alert your financial institutions, such as banks and credit card companies that you believe your username/passwords may have been compromised. Do this in person or over the phone. This will put them on alert to watch out for suspicious activity on your accounts.
- Next, change your passwords and get your computer/phone/mobile device system(s) clean. If you think you can do it yourself go for it, but in most cases we recommend contacting a professional service.
- Was data lost or damaged? Restore it from your backup…you are doing backups right? See Number 2.
These businesses have provided some great action items for you to use today, tomorrow, or next week, but do it soon. You have a wealth of information on your systems, protect it!