With the rapid advance of computer science in the 21st century, network security has never been more important for small business. Because business owners rely on technology to store and process data, a breach or failure of small business network security can be costly. For a business owner, a robust network should minimize the risk of lost sales, service, or data without sacrificing an unreasonable amount of time and resources for security.
It’s important to understand why computer criminals attempt to breach networks. Stealing credit card, bank, or payment information is common, but what about incidents that don’t directly concern monetary loss? Customer data, trade secrets, proprietary information and processes are all valuable to the right buyer, and hackers can steal information more easily than they can steal bank deposits.
Every business has a responsibility to its customers, employees, and shareholders to operate efficiently and ethically. This includes information technology and network security. In this article, we will seek to understand how networks are breached and what we can do to prevent it from happening.
How DO They Do It?
Hackers will test each link in a network for weaknesses and exploit openings that can lead to the information they need. It’s important that every part of a computer network is secured, and that they are isolated enough from each other so that one compromised computer does not bring down the rest.
To target a computer on a network, a hacker may try to trick a user into downloading and running a program. The program or virus will usually embed itself deep into the file system, hiding traces of its activity while manipulating and sending data. Because computer users are becoming savvier, hackers will try different methods to get users to download corrupted files.
To protect your business, it is important not to download and open programs or documents from untrustworthy sources. Be wary of IT professionals or individuals who call you and ask you to perform tasks on your computer. Put in place a process to educate and inform employees. For questions or assistance, speak to a consultant.
What is Social Engineering?
A social engineer uses deceit and fraud to obtain information such as passwords, trade secrets, or proprietary information. They will often use uniforms, jargon, or interpersonal skills to establish rapport or authority. An example would be a phone call from a social engineer pretending to be a Microsoft customer service agent. They would attempt to convince you that you need their assistance and guide you into installing software that actually harms your computer and network.
Social engineering attempts to take advantage of personnel, so the best defense is education and established information handling procedures. Make sure users have access to only the information they need, and if someone or something seems peculiar don’t be afraid to ask for credentials and more time to make a decision.
Won’t My Firewall Protect Me?
Firewalls can help protect your data if your network is compromised and it guards your computers from attacks by hackers. A firewall is similar to a border, it allows entrance and exits only at certain points, at certain times, following certain rules. Having a properly configured firewall will stop outside computers from attempting to access yours and it will also prevent your computer from sending data to hackers if you download a virus. Unfortunately, as viruses become more advanced, many of them can disable or reconfigure the firewall. Most devices have a firewall provided by default, but if a user downloads a virus it will be of little use.
Should I Buy Anti-Virus Software?
Anti-virus software can be a great way to continually monitor your system for new threats and keep your network secure. Good anti-virus software will not be intrusive or slow down your computer by hogging resources. It should be kept up to date to scan for the latest viruses and scans should be performed regularly. Anti-virus software can also remove viruses, including harmful programs from your computer, and there are many to choose from. Not all anti-virus software costs money, but be wary of downloading any software that is not from a reputable source.
Although network security is a complex topic with industry experts, simple maintenance and common sense can protect you from most threats to your network. Keep your computer up-to-date with all security patches and updates from the manufacturer. This is extremely important because software providers such as Microsoft, Apple, Google, Mozilla, and others find vulnerabilities within software and fix them, expecting users to update their software to minimize risk.
Never download or open files from a suspicious origin. That includes applications, programs and especially office documents or PDFs. If someone sends you a file that you do not trust, you can often scan it with anti-virus software before you open it. Websites that ask you to download and run strange software can sometimes be untrustworthy. A quick search, using a search engine like Bing can help you find out if other users have had a negative experience.
How Strong is Your Small Business Network Security?
Network security is complex but the best practices are simple. Educate your employees and work with an expert to craft safety procedures. Make sure that your computer, anti-virus, and all software is up to date. Follow these simple tips and you might save your business from thousands of dollars in lost productivity, sales, and service. Additionally, you will worry less when you are backed by the right IT support.