Safeguarding Your Computers and Network
Oftentimes a network of computers is central to a small business's operations, but these networks can be compromised. Don't fall victim to a security breach.
Instead follow these tips for safe computing:
- Protect computers physically. For example, never leave laptops unattended. That goes for public places but also for hotel rooms and the like.
- Keep software up to date. It's not enough to update anti-virus software. Other programs are vulnerable too. Rely on auto-update features where you can.
- Update the operating system too. Like software, the operating system (i.e., Windows or Mac OS) has vulnerabilities that updates can fix.
- Turn computers off when not in use. If a hacker did manage to make a connection to a computer, they can't take advantage of that connection if the computer is off.
- Use protective software. Anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software can do a great deal to protect your business. Once you install this software, keep it running and update it regularly.
- Password-protect all computers. Your computers should be set so that they lock when left unattended or shut down and a password is required to gain access. Change the related password (and all passwords for that matter) frequently.
- Back up often. If a computer is compromised, you'll be grateful to have backup files. You can use a cloud storage provider or an offsite management vendor, or store your data on a separate backup server. You can even use discs or zip drives, but be sure to store them separately.
- If you're not using the webcam, cover it. Cameras can be turned on without the user's knowledge allowing a hacker to watch them. The easiest way to protect against this is to grab a post-it note and cover the camera.
- Use a data encryption tool on all data that is stored or transmitted on any type of mobile device or computer. Encrypting highly proprietary, confidential or critical data stored on your network servers or computers also protects your most sensitive data.
- Dispose of old computers properly. Getting rid of computers can be dangerous because just deleting files is not enough. You have to erase the hard drive altogether to make your business's information unable to be recovered.
If your computers are networked via a server, similar precautions should be taken for your server. These include using a firewall, keeping server software and operating system up to date, using passwords, and keeping your server physically safe (e.g. in a locked room).
A wireless network comes with unique risks as well. Here are some tips for safe wireless networking:
- Change the name of your network to something other than the default.
- Turn off network name broadcasting unless you're offering wireless access to guests. Having this option turned off will limit the use of your network to your business associates.
- Use the MAC address filter. Every device that connects to your wireless network has a unique ID. You can limit wireless connections to known IDs through your router.
- If your router has a firewall, be sure it's turned on.
- Use encryption. WPA2 encryption is recommended and is often available in your router's settings.
While there is no foolproof way to protect your computers or network, taking these steps can reduce your chances of falling victim to an attack.