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How To Effectively Protect Your Computer And Data From Malicious Software

by bob.g (follow)
If you run a business with a server-based computer network, it is extremely important to shield it from malicious software and attacks by hackers. Although most business owners don't realise the devastating impact of a successful malware attack until it happens, it is far cheaper to invest in appropriate antivirus software, firewalls, and a competent system administrator where necessary. Here are some vital facts that can help you to understand what malicious software is and how to protect your business computers and data.

Image courtesy of Flickr.com


What is Malicious Software?
Malware and malicious software are terms used to describe computer programs that either damage data or perform undesirable actions on a computer system or network. Common examples of these malicious software include: viruses, worms, spyware, trojan horses, and rogue security applications. A virus is a tiny computer program that replicates itself and spreads from one computer system to another to corrupt or delete data. Typically, a virus attaches itself to other files in order to propagate itself.

Similarly, worms are small programs that can spread but they do this without any human interaction. Most worms do not delete data but they can replicate themselves rapidly in the system memory or on the network and make the computer or network slow, unusable or congested. A trojan horse is a malicious program that hides within other programs. Most hackers hide trojans inside downloadable software and then use them to gain illegal access to the computer. A good example is a key logger that is used to record all keystrokes made on a computer and send them to a hacker over the internet.

Spyware is commonly used by online advertising agencies to acquire information about the browsing and search habits of users so they can be used to send targeted ads to them. Research has shown that most malicious software can come into your computers and data through e-mail attachments and unauthorised access to your network.

How to Protect Your Business Network and Data

Install a Firewall Between Your Network and Web Server
Firewalls control access to your network and help you to block various network ports that hackers can use to gain unauthorised access to your computers. There are software and hardware firewalls. For a small business with a few computers, a software firewall may be sufficient. But if your network is large or has several nodes, you should add a hardware firewall to protect your server.

Install the Latest Software Updates and Operating Systems
Most of the older operating systems, particularly Windows, have several security loop holes that have been exploited by hackers. So to secure your business network, it is essential that you install the latest version of the operating system you are using and permit it to install all security updates automatically. If you keep using an outdated version of your server operating system, your entire network will be vulnerable to attack.

Ensure that Your Antivirus is Up-to-date
In addition to firewalls and operating updates, you must also install and maintain updated antivirus software on all the computers and mobile devices that connect to your network. A reliable antivirus package will have many modules working together including, on-demand scanners, e-mail scanners, antispyware, web browser plug-ins, quarantine, and various threat detectors. Also, a reputable antivirus developer will offer daily updates and allow you to submit threat reports for immediate action. Even after using a firewall, one of your employees may connect an infected USB drive unconsciously. But an effective antivirus will detect the infected files and either clean or delete them. Most effective antivirus packages require an annual license and they are worth the investment.

Enforce Strong Security Measures
Work with a professional system administrator or IT consultant to develop and implement security measures that must be obeyed by every member of staff. For instance, only one or two people should have unrestricted server permissions and all unused ports on the server should be closed with software. Everyone should use strong and confidential passwords. In addition, the network server should be kept in a physically secured room. It is vital to protect the server from criminals and other people who may stray in and tamper with server settings.

Conclusion
Implementing adequate computer and data security measures will help to protect your precious business data from malware or hacking. Ensure that you get every employee involved in implementing security measures because everyone's actions or inactions can contribute to making your network more or less secure.

Photo Credit: Flickr
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