Your computers are worth far more than the sum of their parts. Those hard drives contain personal information belonging to your employees, they contain the email addresses and phone numbers of your customer base, they might even contain credit card or social security numbers, and so much more. This information is extremely valuable – especially in the eyes of a hacker or virus programmer.
Even email address lists go for big bucks on the digital black market. You can never underestimate the effort an infiltrator will go through just to have a peek at your sensitive data. Accidental contamination is an even bigger threat; your business network could become infected through a virus-laden web browser game, for example.
What can a small business owner do to combat these threats? Hiring an IT team is often far too expensive, but you don’t need an IT team to make effective progress. This quick guide will outline a few tips you can use to boost the security of your computer network.
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Know Your Network
Before you can secure your network, you have to know what’s on it! How many workstations (computers) do you have? Number and catalogue each one of them. List the software programs installed on your computers – start with a basic list of software that every computer has, and then note which computers have specialized software installed.
Remember to make note of outside devices that connect to your network, like employee-owned mp3 players, laptops, tablets, or even smartphones. Any of these devices could host a virus or backdoor that could infiltrate your system. Most security suites and solutions will have options for protecting your network from cross-device contamination.
Clean Those Computers
Are you having trouble building that list of software programs hosted on your computers? This is a great reason to simplify. Every single piece of software operates as a potential risk, every piece of software from web browsers to word processors. Even the operating system itself has potential backdoors that hackers and viruses can use to infiltrate your system.
Get rid of software programs that you do not need. Extra games and apps just cause more hassle. There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of software (even games) on your work computers, as long as you have time to keep them all updated.
Keep Systems Updated
Software updates not only fix bugs, they fix security flaws too. Those potential backdoors that crop up in software are the reason that software manufacturers release scheduled updates. Staying on top of these updates is the best and most reliable way to keep your computer network safe and secure.
You can cut down on the time it takes to update each workstation by investing in a patch management solution. Just tell the patch software which programs and computers you want to update, and let the computer do the rest. Look for patch software that works remotely so you don’t have to install it on each workstation individually.
Your employees are your first line of defense! Simply clicking on a link in a spam email or connecting an infected cellphone to the computer is enough to infect the network with a potentially harmful virus or backdoor. By keeping your employees in the loop about security concerns and policies, you’ll be cutting out the vast majority of risk that your business faces.
First, educate your employees about the types of online activities that can threaten network security. Let them know how viruses and malware programs actually spread. Let them know what to do if they notice any odd behavior from their computers. Introduce repercussions for knowingly bypassing security software using proxies or other methods.
Ask for feedback. Make sure that good computer security is easy for employees. Consider changing any policies that tempt them to break the rules (banning the USB charging of smart phones, for instance, could negatively affect employee morale) and instead look for ways to protect your network in a way that preserves productivity.
Network security is always worth the investment of time and effort. Small businesses face the same risks as big businesses, and that means that you have to think like the big dogs. You can’t be too cautious – the information you send through your network is extremely valuable, and there are lots of scam artists and hackers that would love to get their hands on it.
By Roft Mark