5 Things Every SMB Needs to Know About Virus Protection

As we come to the end of the 11th annual National Cyber Security Awareness month, we wanted to take a moment to refresh the 5 basic things every small business owner (and employee) needs to know about virus protection. While you probably already invest in Internet security (such as anti-virus software or firewalls), unfortunately, that entire budget can be wasted by one hapless mouse click. If you are not savvy about your technology use – including your Internet, email and general security settings – then you can unwittingly invite a virus or cyber criminal right into your business network. To help make sure that you are adding to – not subtracting from – the security of your business, take a moment to review these 5 important steps.

1. Don’t change your settings

One of the first things your Digity tech agent will do is install premier levels of anti-virus software and set up protective firewalls. The anti-virus software will continuously update itself to make sure that you are protected against the newest malware. The firewalls will block unauthorized users from accessing your computer (and all of your information) through your network connection. The levels set by your tech specialist are carefully chosen to protect your entire system (and business!). If you change the settings on your computer (such as reducing the frequency of updates or lowering the firewall), you can expose the entire network to cyber mischief. If you are concerned that your settings have been altered, inform your tech agent. He can check and make sure that everything is at the right level.

2. Be a password guru

You probably get tired of people telling you to create crazy passwords full of difficult-to-remember combinations of letters, numbers and special characters. However, easy-to-guess passwords are one of the quickest ways for cyber criminals to bypass your virus protection and infiltrate your network. The best passwords contain at least 8 characters, use both upper and lower case letters, and have at least one number and one special character (such as !, ? or $). Refrain from using real words, birthdays, names or any personal information that is easily accessible. It is also wise to change your password on a regular basis to reduce the risk of it being cracked. We suggest setting up your system to automatically request an updated password at specified intervals (such as every 60 or 90 days).

3. Never open an attachment or a link from an unknown sender

Cyber criminals are sneaky. One of the most common ways for them to infect your computer is to trick you into downloading the very file that is going to wreak havoc on your system. They’ll send you an email promising you a special deal or a funny video. They then add an attachment or a hyperlink for you to open. Once you click on that file or link, the malware is unleashed and transmitted directly into your files. Luckily, it’s very easy to protect yourself against this kind of attack. All you have to do is never – as in never, ever – open an attachment or click on a link in an email from an unknown sender. Bonus Tip: Of course, cyber criminals know that you are getting smart about this. So they try to trick you by hacking into the email of a friend or loved one and then sending you that contaminated email. If you get an email from somebody you know that seems "off" – it has a weird title, no real message (only a link) or says that they’ve been kidnapped overseas and need you to wire money into a special account – most likely his account has been hacked. When in doubt, don’t open the attachment or link. Simply reach out to the real owner and ask if the email is legitimate. Most likely your friend will have a new password by the end of the conversation.

4. Beware free stuff

Whether it is a catchy song, a funny video, a beautiful screensaver or an exciting new game, free files that you download from the Internet are usually riddled with viruses. The site owner lures you in with the promise of free stuff and then infects your download with some sort of malware. Just like with email, it is extremely easy to protect yourself from this kind of attack. All you have to do is make sure that any file that you download is from a company you know and trust. And never try to pirate copyrighted material. Those sites are some of the worst offenders.

5. Always back up your data

If a virus or a hacker does manage to break through your layers of protection, the loss of data can be catastrophic. Help alleviate the damage by complying with your company’s back-up policies. This way, if your computer is compromised, your files are deleted or your entire system crashes, your company will still have access to all of your important information.

In Conclusion

While you may not be able to stop cyber criminals from targeting any vulnerable person that walks (or surfs) by, you can do your part in ensuring that you are not the weak link in your company’s line of Internet security. By learning – and implementing – these 5 virus protection measures, you can rest assured that you are doing all you can to keep your data safe.