I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the security landscape has gotten complicated. Viruses, bots, Trojan horses, adware, bloatware, ransomware, hacking, and malware all are a threat to your network and all have made headlines recently. When companies as large as Sony, Target, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live network can be compromised, what can a small business owner do to protect their data and network integrity?
I recommend to our clients here at IMC the following four best practices for defending their networks.
1. Install and Maintain a Subscription to Enterprise Level Antivirus Software
Every small business owner loathes recurring expenses, but you should look elsewhere to cut costs. Whether you choose Symantec, Kaspersky, or Trend Micro, the important thing is to make sure that you have enterprise level antivirus software installed and that the subscription is up to date. What does “enterprise level” mean? It means that your antivirus software and virus definitions are managed from a central server or desktop with client copies on the rest of your network. Having your software centralized provides one place to confirm that your definitions are current and to track the virus history of your individual computers.
2. Protect Yourself from Malware
Malware doesn’t get as much attention as Tier 1 virus threats, but it can still create a plethora of nasty bugs that will clog your network, besmirch your online reputation, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Since malware isn’t designed to crash your system and destroy your data, it often doesn’t get the caught by antivirus software. Good anti-malware software such as Malwarebytes will find the programs running quietly in the background and dispatch them.
Although malware is designed to be clandestine, don’t assume it can’t have very recognizable consequences. For example, bots are written to surreptitiously use your IP address to send out spam. Not only can this lock up vital network resources, but it will eventually lead to a blacklist of your IP address. Getting blacklisted can have a number of undesirable affects not the least of which is bringing your on-premises mail service to a grinding halt.
3. Maintain and Upgrade Your Operating System
Everyone has probably been guilty of ignoring those Windows update notices at one time or another, but you do so at your own risk. Hackers are constantly searching for loopholes in Windows’ security. Once they find one, they will exploit it at the expense of you and your client’s personal security information.
There is good news. While the “black hats” are trying to break in, the “white hats” at Microsoft are diligently closing the loopholes. When do these security updates fail? When you don’t click on the button to install them.
4. Backup, Backup, Backup
As I frequently advise our clients here at IMC, the best antivirus is a good backup. Malware, viruses, hackers, and ransomware can all play havoc with your network in a myriad of ways. However, none of them can cause irreversible damage if you maintain a strict and comprehensive backup policy. Your policy should include both a real-time and snapshot backup program. It should also maintain this data both on- and off-site.
Real-time differential backups constantly run in the background saving files as you change them. This is an effective strategy to allow for the restoration of recent changes to your files. However, it will back up the changes made by a virus as well. Most real-time backup software will save more than one iteration of your files, but piecing your database back together can be time-consuming and expensive. If you also maintain daily and monthly snapshots, you can always revert backward and lose at most a day of transactions. Keeping an off-site copy is also crucial. The restoration time can be greatly improved with a quality cloud backup service as well.
Posted by Craig Becker, Managing Partner at IMC