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COMPUTER SECURITY VITAL TO SMALL BUSINESSES, EXPERTS SAY

Source: Redding.com

Posted on August 15, 2011

Local computer experts say small-business owners need to know how their company's data can be at risk and need to regularly safeguard against them and keep security systems up to date.

Viruses, spyware, hackers and data loss plague small businesses as much as larger corporations. But while big companies can recoup from the problems caused by cyber attacks, small businesses experience unrecoverable financial setbacks.

"A lot of people trust their computer implicitly, so if it tells them to do something, they do it, and that's when they get into trouble," said both Ryan Eldridge, and his wife, Andrea, owners of Nerds On Call, a Redding computer service company.

"Virus removal is one of the biggest things we do, as well as set up security measures," said Andrea Eldridge.

The main threats to computer security stability are viruses, spyware or malware, short for malicious software. Malwares attack, degrade or disrupt computers, servers or networks from functioning properly, and create loss of data.

"The No. 1 malware going around everywhere right now is a pop-up that looks like a security warning and says that 'You're infected' or 'You may have an infection' on your screen," said Ryan Eldridge. "Then it says 'Click here to remove the virus.' Then you click and you're taken to a website that's a fake scan and it doesn't actually do anything. You are then asked to pay $19.95 or $29.95 to remove and once you hand over your credit card information, they can get you for all kinds of stuff."

Robert Bonini, lead technician at Advanced Concepts in Redding, says this kind of scam is also called "fakeware, and it primarily uses scare tactics to coerce you into purchasing their products," he said. "They're just basically scaring you into thinking there's a problem." Most viruses or malware are launched for financial gain, scamming businesses or home users.

"They are viruses that will actually break pieces of your computer's software, whether it be your operating system or your browser. And the process of breaking up your software ultimately will cause it to not run at all," said Andrea Eldridge.

Another way to secure computers is to backup computers and systems regularly, according to Jim Scott, CEO of Advanced Concepts in Redding.

"It's a main problem we encounter with local businesses," said Scott. "What happens is data backups don't take place as they should, so when disaster strikes from let's say a virus, business owners go to their data backups, but realize they don't exist as they think they do."

Typically business owners know backups need to take place, but usually they set it up just once and forget about it. However, Scott advises that data backups need to be monitored on a routine basis.

"It should typically be done daily or on a weekly basis at the very worst case scenario," said Scott. "Data is changing all the time in ways that business owners are not aware of."

Another scam business owners should be aware of is data mining, in which viruses collect private information such as credit card numbers, bank account details or email logins, said Ryan Eldridge.

"Once your email list has been compromised, then all of your friends' and your contacts' email addresses are compromised as well," said Andrea Eldridge, "because you're more likely to open up an email from a friend than a random email from John Smith. These types of viruses usually try to steer you to one of their advertisers."

Local experts say they find that many local small businesses don't show a lot of concern about computer security. They don't seem to realize they have something of value that potential hackers want. "They have a very false sense of security," Scott said.

The best defense for virus and malware attacks is an up-to-date, antivirus program along with antispyware. A broadband router or hardware firewall equipped for small business use, not home use, is also essential.

"Many times, business owners buy a lower-end consumer grade router that has some firewall capabilities, but these routers' purpose is never intended to protect a network that actually has some interest to somebody. They're very basic and don't provide the protection a business requires," said Scott.

Ryan Eldridge agreed. "For businesses, there are routers that have stronger, beefier solutions as you add additional computers onto your network. If you have an office with six or more computers, a home based wireless router won't be expected to protect a network that sizable."




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