Networking

Tips for small businesses who don't want to skip security

The majority of small businesses don't have the resources for a dedicated technology specialist, so barring a close friend or family member who happens to be a geek, there are a lot of businesses that don't know what to do to make their operations secure.

The majority of small businesses don't have the resources for a dedicated technology specialist, so barring a close friend or family member who happens to be a geek, there are a lot of businesses that don't know what to do to make their operations secure.  Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to make sure that your business is as secure as possible.  I will cover a number of topics in this post including security relating to routers, wireless, anti virus, and malware.

Routers

The term router may sound intimidating, but in reality routers are fairly easy and simple to deal with, particularly for a small business.  The biggest thing that a router will do is abstract, or separate, your internal network from the rest of the internet.  This helps to keep attackers from getting to the computers that are on your internal network as the routers you would use for a small business also act as firewalls.  There are a lot of different routers available including offerings from Linksys (owned by Cisco), D-Link, and NetGear, with Linksys being the market leader.

Routers come in a lot of different configurations, but the easiest situation is if you can buy a router with enough hardwired ports (Ethernet ports) to cover all of the computers on your internal network.  You connect all of your computers to the router, replacing the hub that your computers were connected to previously.  Then, you connect the router to your internet connection (cable modem and DSL are the most common these days), and follow the instructions for your particular hardware.  It is likely that you could have the router installed and working in a half hour or less, particularly if you have any technical savvy whatsoever.

Keep in mind that if you have DSL or cable modem, your modem may act as a firewall already.  Call your provider to find out if this is the case.

Wireless

Wireless security is one of the most common areas of security issues in small businesses.  It is so easy to get a wireless access point up and running that many businesses have them and don't even know it.  There are lots of workers who will just bring an access point in to work in order to give them the ability to use their laptops throughout the office.  The unfortunate part is that there are a lot of security issues to consider before deploying wireless in your network.

The a few things you want to make sure and do with your wireless access point.  The first is to make sure that the access point is not broadcasting its SSID, the name the access point advertises for people to connect.  Change the SSID to something other than the default (Linksys on their access points) and turn off SSID broadcasting.  This will force any would be attackers to guess what the SSID is when they try to connect.  Also, make sure to enable some form of encryption while realizing that WAP security is nearly trivial to break.  The manual for your access point should be able to lead you through those procedures.

Anti-virus

The single biggest threat to your small business network is viruses.  All of your computers should have some kind of anti-virus software installed.  I personally prefer Norton and McAfee, but have also used the free version of AVG Antivirus and have been satisified with it in situations where clients could not afford or did not want to spend the money on anti-virus software.  The key is to have something in place to protect your computers from virus infections.

Malware

Another major threat is malware, a generic term for software that does something to your computer that is malicious in some way.  Spyware is software that collects and sends personal information to a third party.  It could collect web history information that is used to target advertisements or it could be keylogger software that reports all of your keystrokes to send to someone, which can be particularly dangerous as this is an easy way to get a password or account number.  Adware is software that delivers advertisements to your computer, especially with pop-ups.

Whatever the threat it is important to have something in place to combat the problem.  There are two products that I like for combating malware, and they are Spybot and Ad-Aware.  I personally run both programs one at a time every so often in order to assure that my computers have not been infected.

What do you do for security in your small business' network?

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