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Network Security is Important for Small Business
The National Small Business Association's 2013 Technology Survey confirmed that a small business owner's top technology related concern is network security, and nearly half of small businesses have already been affected by a cyber-attack. Network security, like most aspects of a business, is best addressed as an on-going, customized process. There are, however, a number of primary areas that all businesses must consider when putting together an IT security plan.
The firewall controls what traffic is entering and leaving your network. Simply installing a firewall does not mean you are protected, as they must be configured to meet your network's unique configuration. The firewall, like all network hardware, should be monitored routinely and optimized as needed.
Installing patches (updates) from software manufacturers in a timely fashion is critical for network security. The primary purpose of these patches is to fix newly discovered security vulnerabilities. Examples of applications in need of frequent patches include operating systems, web browsers, and productivity tools like Microsoft Office.
Network monitoring tools allow you to see who is on your network and what they are doing. Effective network monitoring tools are configured to know the norms of your users' behaviors and trigger alerts when events fall outside these norms. For example, an unexpected level of outbound e-mails would trigger an alert for you to make sure your e-mail system is not being exploited by spam bots.
IT Security - A Process, Not an Event
Machine Authentication is having measures in place for your network to verify that any users (on-site or remote) are supposed to be accessing your network. Considerations here include VPN access for remote users and network level authentication for onsite machines.
Cyber-threats are able to enter your network at many points, including individual desktops. It is important to protect every machine on your network, even if a particular machine is not critical to operations. Desktop security includes anti-virus/malware protection, but additional administrative controls are needed. These can include blocking users from installing applications, limiting access to certain websites, and requiring routine resetting of passwords. In some cases, two-factor authentication is desirable (ex: password and code sent to a phone).
In the event of a cyber-attack that destroys your data or attempts to hold it for ransom (crypto-locker), the only way to be truly protected is to have your data frequently backed-up and readily restorable. Backing-up files is important, but backing up functioning system images is even better. These allow you to restore a server's image or desktops settings and files seamlessly to a replacement machine.
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