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Sun, Jan. 26

Don't let Internet threats undermine your small business

Question: What advice can you give so I can protect my business from computer viruses and other internet threats?Answer: Many people often overlook internet security until word of a new virus or e-mail "worm" hits the headlines. Even then, it's easy to assume that existing firewalls and virus software are enough to safeguard computers and precious data.The fact is that as the internet has grown in sophistication, so too have the threats to the security of the people who use it. One technology firm that screens e-mails for spam and viruses on behalf of small business customers estimates that 3.6 percent of messages contain a virus. Even if you strive to be alert, a distraction or familiar-sounding sender is all it takes for a virus to slip through. As a business owner, you must be prepared to protect your IT hardware, software, and data resources. The first step is to educate everyone at your business about the dangers involved and set policies for using the internet and opening e-mail attachments. For example, don't let employees use file-sharing websites and prohibit downloading applications from unknown sites.All your computers, networks and e-mail servers should have antivirus software and other security features. Use a firewall to block incoming traffic that is not needed for your business. You should also update all operating systems, software and security measures on a regular basis. Older versions are more vulnerable to attack. If you discover a PC is infected, take it off your network immediately so that fixes can be installed.Symantec.com offers a full range of anti-virus, anti-spam and computer problem-solving solutions for small business. The Small Business Center portion of the firm's website has dozens of articles on computer security and maintenance, such as downloadable publications on protecting Windows operating environments, managing risk, and other timely security topics. Another helpful information source for computer security is www.smallbusinesscomputing.com, which provides news, discussion forums, tips for evaluating system security needs, and a buyer's guide for various security products. The Security section of Microsoft's Small Business Center at www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness also provides information to help you familiarize yourself with various Internet threats and how to ensure your small business IT resources are fully protected.The next session of SCORE's new, six-part Business Plan workshop series will begin Wednesday, Sept. 16. Cost of the series is $90 for two participants from a single business. For more information or to pre-register, go to www.scorenaz.org or call the SCORE office at 928-778-7438.
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