Cyber Security Tips for Small Business Owners

Cyber Security Tips for Small Business Owners

Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion about cyber security. Even as you read this, the Black Hat “hacking” Conference is in full force, McAfee just released a notice about a huge cyber espionage attack (codenamed “Operation ShadyRAT,” and of course we can’t forget Murdoch’s phone hacking scandal. Here are a just a few easy things you can do to better protect yourself from cyber attacks to your business computer(s):

Use a Safe Web Browser

Google Chrome remains the only browser that has not been cracked in the popular Pwn2Own hacking competition (even after a $20,000 added bonus Google offered). Of course, it’s also my favorite browser, and I can’t write a blog post without mentioning at least one Google tool :). Perhaps even more important than which particular browser you use, is that you keep it updated to the latest and greatest release.

Use an Anti-virus Software

First let’s clear the air: it is definitely worth paying a little money to have a high quality anti-virus software on your computer. Most of the newest versions have not only virus detection capabilities, but also install preventative measures (e.g. they will tell you when you click on a dangerous link and proactively block access to spam websites until you confirm your action). Here are some anti-virus programs you can checkout- you’ll need to decide which level of security is right for you, and how much you’re willing to pay. Free options include AVG Anti-Virus, Avast!, and one of my personal favorites- Lavasoft Ad-Aware (which includes anti-spyware bundled); paid options: TrendMicro, Panda Security, F-Secure, McAfee , Symantec, and ESET NOD32.

Install & Use Spybot Search & Destroy

I cannot praise this program enough. It has helped me find and remove lots and lots of errors, spyware, adware, and malicious code from my personal and business computers. You can download Spybot S&D here– if you like it, please also make a donation to their group. There are a whole bunch of advanced options within Spybot that you can also activate to increase your computers’ security- like lock your host file in IE and protect your registry via Tea Timer.

Save Important Documents & Passwords in a Cloud, or a Secure Place on your Hard Drive

If your computer ever does become compromised, there are really only two ways to protect your data from being hijacked- a) don’t store important information on your hard drive; or b) encrypt or store your data in a such a way to make it very difficult for a hacker to find, open or copy it. Let’s address both of these options in turn.

Your first option is to put all of your personal passwords and important docs into a secure cloud-based storage solution. My personal favorite for this task is a product called PassPack. The very nice added bonus of going this route is that your passwords, important account numbers, etc, are accessible to you any place where you can connect to the internet and log into your PassPack account.

If you decide to store sensitive information on your hard drive, make sure you encrypt and password protect important data. For Microsoft office documents, you can protect documents this way. For password management, I prefer to use a handy program called KeyPass Password Safe. Finally, for the truly paranoid, here is an application that can help you create a hidden, password protected, encrypted, new partition on your Hard Disk Drive; basically only accessible to you- TrueCrypt.

Rob Williams is a Business Analyst for the University of Northern Iowa

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