Businesses of all sizes are increasingly reliant on technology, yet technology inherently carries numerous vulnerabilities along with its advantages. If you don’t take the proper precautions against computer problems, the well-being of your small business can evaporate in a heartbeat.
Read on to learn about the top 5 threats to your computer, and what you can do to protect yourself.
1) Hard drive failure
The biggest threat to your computer, whether it’s a Mac or PC, is hard drive failure. Hard drives are failing at an alarming rate—a Squaretrade study from 2009 found that 31 percent of laptops fail within three years of purchase, and as we ask hard drives to store more and more data, the potential for loss increases.
Solution: Automated computer hardware monitoring. Your servers, laptops, and desktops should be registered with a service that can alert you at the first signs of possible failure. For the Mac, take a look at our IvanExpert Mac Wellness service; for the PC there are many available options, so talk to your IT company about what they offer or recommend. In addition, set up at least two fully automated backups for each computer—one onsite, and one in the cloud.
Having weak passwords—whether on your computer itself, for your email, or for online accounts—can compromise your system and your data. Remember, once your email is accessible to a hacker, he can usually gain control of other accounts and passwords fairly easily. The recent story of Mat Honan, who had his entire computer and iPhone erased by someone who managed to get his iCloud password, is a sobering example.
Solution: Improve your passwords. Make sure each password has at least 10 characters, with lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols if you can. And don’t even think of using the same password for different logins. Use a password management system to keep track of all of them (our favorite is 1Password for both PC and Mac; a web-based alternative that lets employees share passwords is Passpack).
Your computer can be invaded by unknown software or individuals if you visit a web site created for that purpose, including a familiar website which has itself been attacked by hackers. Just visiting a webpage or clicking on a link on that page can be the trigger.
Solution: Consider adding a security appliance to your business IT infrastructure. Hardware such as those made by SonicWALL and Cisco provide a barrier between the outside world of the internet and your office network. For small offices, or for laptops belonging to employees who travel, install antivirus software, and make sure it checks for updates automatically.
Viruses and malware have attacked via email for years, and they still pose a major threat. Absentmindedly clicking on the wrong attachment can install programs that slow your system to a crawl, log your keystrokes to capture your passwords, or send out spam through your email account.
Solution: Choose an email host for your business that has top-quality email screening for spam, viruses, and malware. If you don’t have a security appliance (see #3), install and run antivirus software on every computer, and don’t forget to make sure it automatically checks for updates.
As more people carry laptops while traveling around the globe, the number of laptop thefts has increased. Your computer is vulnerable in the hotel, the coffee shop, the checkroom at the restaurant, the rental car, and the back of a taxi. In addition to the pain of the loss of the computer itself and all your data, think about how much proprietary company information could fall into the wrong hands.
Solution: All company laptops should require a username and password to log in, and make sure the login is required after waking from sleep and after lack of activity—not just on startup. Consider signing up for remote wipe capability (on Mac, it’s free using Find My Mac; for PC or Mac check out Absolute Computrace, Absolute LoJack for Laptops, or Prey). You may want to encrypt the company files on your computer, but be warned that all your data is unrecoverable if your encryption key is lost. And did we mention the importance of multiple backups?
Although we never think computer problems will hit, they do happen if we aren’t prepared. It takes just a few minutes to protect your computer against major problems that can have long-lasting impact.
Ivan Drucker and Caroline Green are the principals of IvanExpert, Inc., a Mac-focused technology consulting firm. IvanExpert advises small businesses in the New York City area on how to leverage their tech to be more efficient and productive. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.