4 Essential Small Business Security Tips

By Paul Mah | Posted May 16, 2013

The constantly changing security landscape can make computer security an intimidating topic for people who own or manage a small business, especially if their IT department is small or if they rely on outsourced IT help that charges on a per-visit basis.

With this in mind, we put together a simple checklist of small business security tips to help you keep your PCs secured against hackers and malware. Though the list is hardly exhaustive, adhering to the tips below should go a long way towards keeping your computers in good security condition.

4 Basic Security Tips to Protect Small Business PCs

1. Install antivirus software

The very first security step for every business is to install antivirus software. This may range from free options such as Windows Defender and AVG Antivirus Free, to paid versions from the many reputable security vendors out there. While no single security tool can guarantee that a malware infection will never occur, it's an essential first step towards detecting (and eliminating) known malware.

2. Configure Windows Update to run automatically

Hackers exploit software vulnerabilities rapidly, which means you need to make sure that you always have the latest computer operating system security patches installed. Moreover, Microsoft releases security updates on the second Tuesday of every month – known as Patch Tuesday – making ignorance of a security issue and remedy inexcusable.

The easiest fix for this issue is to configure all of your PCs to run Windows Update automatically, as well as periodically check that all pertinent patches are installed successfully. The latter step is necessary because it's possible that some employees could disable Windows Update for their own convenience.

3. Keep Java fully patched

Although you need to regularly update all software applications to the latest version, Java deserves a special mention. This is due to its role in prominent intrusions and data breaches of late, and because of the sheer number of active Java exploits out there. Because Java is really a standalone platform with its own updating engine, employees may ignore prompts about new Java updates in the mistaken belief that it doesn’t matter.

A recent finding by Websense Security Labs found that almost 75 percent of people use a Java Runtime Environment (JRE) that is more than six months out of date, with another 50 percent a distant two years behind. As you can imagine, this makes the Java platform irresistible to hackers looking for systems they can compromise.

4. Set a system password

Finally, small business owners should make sure to set a password for both the user and the administrative accounts on their PCs. Left to their own devices, employees tend to disable such passwords for convenience, rendering technologies such as User Account Control (UAC) ineffective.

Though administrators can easily enforce this for PCs that belong to a domain, small businesses may not have deployed Active Directory or know how to configure the pertinent Group Policies. Ultimately, a proper password sets the foundation for additional security measures such as data encryption, which we'll highlight in a subsequent blog.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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