The moment a computer is connected to the Internet it is able to share electronic information with the outside world. Connecting your business to the Internet has many benefits. Emails, research, ordering supplies and selling products all make running a business easier. However, open Internet communication is a very risky business. Fortunately, though IT security threats are becoming more complex, they fall into just a few categories and as a result, businesses need only introduce a few types of protection.

Viruses and spyware are small computer programmes, transmitted by email or picked up by visiting infected websites. Unprotected computers exposed to these risks will run slowly, lose data or, in some cases, stop working altogether. There is also a risk that confidential information will be transmitted out of your organisation without your knowledge. IT security companies produce anti-virus and anti-spyware products that scan computer systems and inspect everything entering the business network through the Internet. When a virus or piece of spyware is found, it is removed to a safe area and deleted.

Many business owners suppose hackers, people gaining unauthorised access to computers through the Internet, will not be interested in attacking them. This is simply not the case. Businesses with an open Internet connection are likely to experience invasion by a hacker at some point. Firewalls are designed to question anyone, or anything, that tries to access a company’s business network. Employees legitimately trying to access company information from home using a handheld or laptop computer will be authorised by the firewall, however, a hacker trying to gain access to the company database will be denied. Firewalls only permit access to legitimate users, blocking all other access attempts.

Recent statistics show that up to 80% of emails contain unsolicited commercial content, that is to say, spam. Although most spam is not intended to damage the computer infrastructure, productivity is lost as employees scan through and delete spam. There is also a chance that employees may fall for disguised scam emails, a technique known as phishing, and voluntarily release vital business information or visit websites infected with viruses. Anti-spam products read the content of incoming emails before they are delivered to employees, typically blocking 97% of spam, saving businesses huge amounts of time and protecting them from further risks.

A lot of businesses overlook putting appropriate counter-measures to IT security risks in place due to cost, complacency or a perceived inability to manage IT security technology. Market leading suppliers such as Check Point and Internet Security Systems, recognising this, have combined all the key security functions into one suite so that businesses only have to manage one product. A security suite not only dramatically reduces complexity but also keeps costs manageable too.

Article contributed by David Ellis, director of e-security at COMPUTERLINKS. COMPUTERLINKS is exhibiting at Infosecurity Europe 2007, www.infosec.co.uk
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