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Security

Netguides show you how to minimise the risk to your business when operating on the internet through a series of simple steps designed to protect your interface with the internet: your computer. Detailed information on the latest viruses is also available here.

Protecting your business on the internet

Rule 1: install a virus scanner

A virus is a computer program that enters your system through emails the web or removable media such as CDs. It can exploit weaknesses in applications and the computer operating system to cause damage and to propagate itself to other computers your system is aware of. Computer viruses attract a lot of media attention but still people do not take adequate steps to protect themselves until a virus has already infected their system. By the time this occurs the damage has already been done to the owners system and most probably passed on to all the people that the user has contacted since the virus appeared. A very common and unfortunate way of finding out that your system possesses a virus is to have a friend or customer phone up and ask you why you are sending them infected messages or files. A virus scanner application will monitor all files entering your system and scan them for known viruses. You can obtain virus protection software from many High Street and online retail outlets. Some of the common virus protection companies are listed below.

Free non-commercial virus protection:

AVG www.avg.com
Avast www.avast.com

Commercial and enterprise solutions:

McAffee www.mcafee.com
Symantec   www.symantec.com

Rule 2: keep the virus scanner up to date

Installing a virus scanner is just the beginning; in order to be effective the scanner must have access to the latest information on virus threats. These are usually held in data files (DAT files) that are downloaded from the supplier's web site. Virus scanners can usually be configured to automatically download these files at regular intervals. Not keeping your virus scanner up to date is just as bad as not having a virus scanner installed.

Rule 3: use the "Windows Update" service.

Computer viruses try and exploit the weaknesses of applications and the underlying operating system. When a software manufacturer detects a security problem they usually post a security fix or application update on their support web site. Microsoft manufactures the most widespread software applications and operating systems in the world so the reminder of this section will deal with this company's products. You may have noticed the Windows Update in the bottom right corner of your screen. This service is provided by Microsoft free of charge to licensed owners of Window.  It scans your machine and informs you of Critical Updates that are available.  Many machines are set to download and install these automatically and close the security breaches in your system as fast as possible.

The Windows Update service also informs you of other software updates and features that can be downloaded such as new versions of Internet Explorer. It is very important to use this service to stop viruses exploiting your systems weaknesses. Rule 4: install a "firewall"

When you are online your computer becomes part of the internet and can be accessed by any other connected computer.  Obviously this is what makes the web the powerful business and information tool it is today. Unfortunately it does allow malicious users to attempt to access your computer illegally.

A Firewall is a computer application that acts as a gateway between your computer and the Internet only allowing through Internet traffic to the applications you select. Firewalls usually place your computer into a "stealth" mode so it becomes invisible to potential attackers. It also protects your system from being taken over by a type of virus called a "Trojan". If a Trojan virus has managed to get onto your machine it will listen for commands every time you go online. This allows damage to be caused to your computer as well as your files to be read by others. The following is a list of common Firewall applications.

Tool Publisher Web Site
Zone Alarm Zone Lab www.zonelabs.com
Norton Personal Firewall Symantec www.symantec.com/sabu/nis/npf/

Obviously new products are released regularly, so specialist review sites like this can be very useful: http://www.firewallguide.com/software.htm

Many wireless routers now include an integral firewall, so check the specifications when you're considering new hardware.

Rule 5: back up your files

Make sure that in case of emergency your important files have been backed-up to removable media. Losing your customer list, order or product details will no doubt be disastrous to your business. Files can be backed up to removable media such as DVD, USB sticks, or USB drives etc. It is also possible to use online companies that allow you to store your files securely on their servers.

Rule 6: protect against power "surges" and failure

Power surges, spikes and failures can damage your computer and the files held on it, affecting your capacity to do business on the internet. In order to protect against the effects of power "surges" it is necessary to purchase surge protector extension lead that are available at many electrical or DIY high outlets.  It is also possible to buy surge-protected wall sockets. The ultimate power disruption device is a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) this not only protects your computer from power surges but continues to supply power to your computer and monitor should the power fail completely.

This gives you a chance to save your work and shutdown the computer safely. Depending upon your computer system a UPS can power your computer for 30 minutes before needing to shut it down.

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