Small businesses can face daunting challenges on the technology front, especially organizations with very small IT departments, or companies that rely on external vendors for tech support. As evidenced in the recent hack of The Onion’s Twitter account however, most security breaches happen due to small, but preventable mistakes.
With this in mind, you can stay on top of the IT security game by following simple tips I discussed in 4 Essential Small Business Security Tips, and the four additional tips listed below.
4 More Basic Security Tips for small Business PCs
1. Check Windows firewall
There was a time when a software firewall was not necessary, though that era has long passed by. Today, the integrated Windows firewall protects laptops when they’re used at locations outside of the corporate firewalls—such as at Wi-Fi hotspots, at a hotel, or even at home. While the Windows firewall is enabled by default, it makes sense to occasionally check it and make sure that you or your employees have not disabled it accidentally.
2. Enable disk encryption
Probably the only thing that’s more distressing about a stolen or misplaced laptop is losing one that contains confidential company data. Fortunately, the full disk encryption (FDE) technology required to guard against such data leaks is within the reach of small business owners.
Disk encryption on a PC is usually a simple matter of turning on Microsoft’s BitLocker technology, which is found on versions of the Windows operating system such as Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise. Alternatively, third-party encryption tools such as TrueCrypt offer similar capabilities.
3. Restart computers occasionally
The improved sleep capabilities of laptops and desktops mean it’s increasingly common that people don’t shut them down. Indeed, you can set both Windows and Mac laptops to enter sleep mode when you close their lids, and they resume within seconds when you lift up the lid.
For the sake of security though, it’s a good idea to restart your computers periodically. This simple step ensures that newly downloaded operating system patches and the latest versions of application software are properly installed and loaded.
4. Avoid free Wi-Fi networks when possible
Finally, the proliferation of Wi-Fi and laptops means employees often find themselves catching up on work at the local café, or when waiting for a late dinner date. Despite the inherent risks of rogue access points (APs), most people don’t think twice about connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks for free Internet access.
Like it or not, small business owners and their employees must understand that the only reasonably secure way to use a public Wi-Fi AP is by using a VPN connection with properly configured encryption and digital certificate. The former offers protection against sniffers, while the latter negates the damage that can result from a rogue AP.
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.
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