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Fri, Oct. 18

Hacking – make sure your small business stays safe

Question: My business is dependent on computer use. I am getting almost daily messages to upgrade to Windows 10, but I’ve heard there are some issues. Can SCORE give me an overview on computer safety in general and Windows 10 specifically?

Answer: The personal computer and the Internet have helped thousands of small businesses broaden their brand and customer base across state and even international borders. But, unfortunately, it has also attracted a far less-desirable clientele — hackers.

According to Symantic’s Internet Threat Report examining trends for 2013, 30 percent of targeted cyber-attacks (called “spear-phishing”) were aimed at businesses with 250 or fewer employees. And one in five small businesses received at least one spear-phishing email during the year.

Despite the ongoing threat of hacking and viruses, many small companies don’t devote the resources necessary to manage their security. Entrance via a single computer is often all that’s necessary to infest an entire network. And if you use a single computer for everything from email to website updates, your entire small business can become vulnerable in an instant.

Additionally, cyber-criminals often use lesser-protected small businesses as a means for attacking larger firms with which they have a relationship. And even if the hacker’s goal is to cause inconvenience rather than crime, the lost productivity and costs to clean up your system are no laughing matter.

Windows 10, Microsoft’s new operating system, contains many of the best features from Windows 7 and 8. However, there are some very real concerns. According to T. Bruning, writing for AnalyticComputers.com, there is reason for some concern. “Windows 10 also includes some new “features” that many users find to be objectionable if not highly intimidating,” says Bruning. “The first of these features is a feature Microsoft calls “WiFi Sense.” This feature allows your Windows 10 computer, with wireless capability, or phone, to share the wireless password for your wireless networks with other people you know. It will automatically share them with all of your friends on Facebook, contacts in Outlook, or your friends on Skype. This means that anyone who is on your Facebook friends list (including that one person you still hate from High School) can take their own Windows 10 laptop within range of your home or office and automatically be connected to your wireless network. No questions asked.”

Bruning explains that to disable this feature, “go to Settings -> Network & Internet -> Wi-Fi -> Manage Wi-Fi Settings -OR- click “Start” and type in “WiFi” and select “Manage Wifi Settings.” In here, you want to turn off the top two options, which disables Wi-Fi Sense (see Wi-Fi Sense Image).

One way you can fight back against the hackers is through the SBA’s Cybersecurity for Small Businesses training exercise, available for free at www.sba.gov. The exercise offers insights into online security principles, tips for protecting information and networks in case of a cyber-attack, contingency plans, setting up firewalls, creating backups, and much more.

Other easy-to-implement cybersecurity measures include:

Keep your computers up to date. Install, use and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on every computer used in your business.

Backup important business data and information weekly. Critical data includes word processing documents, spreadsheets, databases, financial files, human resources files, and accounts receivable/payable files.

Control access to computers and networks. Laptops can be particularly easy targets for theft, so make sure they are locked up when unattended.

Secure your Wi-Fi Network. This is particularly important for home-based businesses. Configure your wireless access point or router so that it doesn’t broadcast your network name (called the Service Set Identifier or SSID). Passwords should also be required for access.

Find the advice you need online today at SCORE.org. For a SCORE mentor, go to northernarizona.score.org. Follow us on Facebook at Northern Arizona SCORE for the latest small business news. Call 928-778-7438 or email: scoreoffice@scorenaz.org.

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