Protection and Security

 
 
 

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Protection and Security

The data, information, knowledge and wisdom contained within a business big or small resides in two containers. First is the human container, also known as what is inside the head of the owner and key staff members. To ensure the business can continue to function and grow should any of these human containers suffer a loss or become unavailable, the business attempts to capture and organise what is inside the head of the owner and key staff members initially on to paper and increasingly into computer records.

 
     
 

The Data Explosion

As the business grows, the amount of information contained in computer records blooms. As the business becomes savvier and analyses its customers, competitors and markets, the amount of information blooms. As different layers of government introduce new legislation, then the amount of information blooms yet again.

Some thirty years ago at the dawn of the Information Age, it was estimated that the sum total of human knowledge doubled every two years. Today the estimate has been revised to every 12 months and business is no exception to this trend.

The sudden loss of business data from computer failure, intrusion, disgruntled employees or virus attack can be catastrophic. In 2003 the Pepperdine University (USA) published a research paper with the harsh cold finding that 70% of companies go out of business after a major data loss. While we may feel a twinge of sympathy for the unlucky shareholders of a large corporation going belly up, for a small business turning out the lights for the last time can just about destroy the owner and his or her family.

 
     
 
 
     
 

The Changing Threat Landscape

Computer security and protection is less about the equipment itself than it is about the data and the business’ ability to continue trading. Like securing the business premises, the prepared owner should take a layered approach to protecting digital assets.

Firewall


Firewalls guards the Internet entry points into the computer system. They are your first line of defence and come in software and hardware versions. A software firewall runs on your PC itself and is generally cheaper. A hardware firewall is a dedicated piece of equipment and is generally more expensive, but offers stronger protection.

Antivirus and Anti-Malware


Viruses are destructive pieces of computer code typically written by modern day geek vandals that get a distorted sense of achievement over the amount of damage they can cause. It is the murky computer room version of graffiti painting the local shop or busting up the community centre.

Malware is a little bit different these are annoying pieces of computer code that attempt to hijack your web browser or send you advertising for disturbing products or services that you would not normally tell your favourite aunt or grandmother. Viruses and malware can slow down computer systems, steal information or just destroy data in the same way a vandal wants to destroy someone’s car.

Antivirus software suites are designed to detect and block such attacks. Since viruses are changing every day, the bigger brands have more resources to quickly counter new viruses as soon as they are detected.

Most antivirus packages now also include the equivalent of an electronic safe for your online passwords, pre-emptive scan of email attachments and warnings that you may be about to enter an unsafe website. Some antivirus products can in themselves use more computer resources than others, and at times your computer seems to pause for a long think before resuming activity.

LoJack


A few years ago there was a much publicised case of a government intelligence agent leaving a laptop containing the names of undercover operatives in the back of a taxi. Fortunately, that laptop was stolen by a thief who upon discovering the national security breach was patriotic enough to return the laptop to the agency.

Your small business data may not have implications for national security, though the data or the laptop itself may still be valuable or contain commercial trade secrets that could be damaging in the wrong hands. LoJack software sits quietly in the background and makes an undetected visit to a global security operations centre every time the computer is connected to the Internet.

If the computer has been reported missing or stolen, LoJack can invisibly report the internet IP or WiFi location. If the computer has GPS functionality, then LoJack can also report the physical location. The global security operations centre then reports the theft and computer location to the appropriate police authority for that area.

LoJack can also be set to lock down the computer from unauthorised access upon detection of loss or theft. For high security users, LoJack can be set to delete sensitive data including identity passwords and logons.

Encryption

Stepping up security layers can be done through data encryption. Whilst encryption is not new, the increasing power and performance of inexpensive personal computers now places encryption security developed originally for military purposes in the hands of small business owners. Encryption can be applied to specific files, folders or even to the entire computer drive, and there is less noticeable wait time for files to load or save with the introduction of the Trusted Platform Module (TPM).

In lower cost Consumer-grade devices, the encryption work is typically shared on the same main processor or CPU that is running your business applications, therefore the computer seems to slow down. In selected Commercial-grade computers, a dedicated TPM processor in conjunction with Acer ProShield software suite takes over the encryption work, allowing the CPU to get on with helping you run the business.

Back-up and Cloud

When all else fails, then back-up is the last man standing. If a catastrophic and unavoidable data loss were to occur, then a regular back-up routine allows quick data recovery whether to the same or replacement computer, so the business can resume functioning with minimal delay.

Backing-up can be manual or automatic. Manual back-up relies on the human operator making copies of important data from the computer on to other storage media, such as external hard disk drives, USB drives, optical disks or Internet or network Cloud storage. Unfortunately, the many other demands of a small business pushes the back-up regime to the background, resulting in back-ups being forgotten or skipped.

Automated backing-up is therefore the preferred option, as this does not rely upon the human operator remembering. Backing-up over an Internet or network connection removes even the need for the human operator to plug in USB drives or insert disks. Many Cloud providers such as Google and Microsoft provide a small volume of free online storage with chargeable rates if more is required.

Acer Cloud is a different solution in that the back-up data passes through the Internet or network to another computer or device owned or nominated by the business owner. For example, data from a computer at work can be backed up over the Internet to a different computer at home.

Scanning Records

Record keeping obligations can vary between different government jurisdictions, though a widely accepted retention period is seven years. Paper records may deteriorate with age, become bulky and time consuming to search, so the business should consider scanning, storing and backing up electronic copies with a convenient PC search function.

Physical paper records can then be archived and put away for storage. In the unlikely event that a government audit or legal dispute requires the presentation of weighted evidence, electronic records can be quickly and conveniently searched.

The term “weighted evidence” refers to how much weight or factual worth a piece of evidence is given in a Court of Law. Copies of an original document, such as an electronic scan or photocopy, may be accepted as evidence but carry less weight than the original.

Stock Shrinkage

The term applied to inventory loss from employee theft. Most small businesses will at some point suffer employee theft to some degree, and unless the owner is there all the time with a watchful eye, it can be difficult to pin point who is responsible and ensure that an employee’s dismissal does not rebound as an Unfair Dismissal complaint.

Surveillance camera systems have become more sophisticated and cost effective in recent years, allowing even the smallest business to set up a security monitoring system. Many of these surveillance systems allow for live feed through an Internet or network connection to the computer, laptop, tablet or even mobile phone of the owner to keep an eye on the business even when not there in person. Cameras can be set to record only if movement detected while infrared can be used for night time recording without leaving the lights on and adding to electricity bills.

Surveillance systems can help deter employee theft. If an employee is willing to take the risk, then camera recordings can be used for disciplinary measures or for filing a police report to remove the offender.