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Security is a broad topic in the IT world.  It covers everything from physical or site security (knowing who has access to your server, for example), to identity theft, to script kiddies probing your Internet connection 24x7.  Factor in dodgy software, social networking, and rogue adware and the excitement really builds.

Here are the guidelines you need some quite obvious, others less so.  Please take a few minutes to learn from others so you won't learn the hard way yourself.

By Stephen Worden / Illuminova Technical Services, (c) 2010

In the IT world, security is not a "one size fits all" commodity.  Every installation, every company, every Internet connection has different purposes, different risks, and different budgets.  It is my job to balance those three elements.

The job of Security cannot be passed off entirely to technology, either.  You have to play along.  You don't play with matches in a barn, and you don't open email attachments from people you don't know.  While the technology does an excellent job you can still get fooled.

First of all understand this: there are twisted, sick people out there that want to steal from you, others who want to break your business because, in their opinion, you were stupid enough to let them.  The good news is that, with reasonable care, their efforts can be nullified.

Security for Small Businesses

Broadly speaking there are three areas you need to secure your Internet connection, your data, and your equipment.

All businesses need a decent, well-configured firewall on their Internet connection.  You need it to protect yourself from others, and you need it to protect yourself from yourself.  You need to restrict the ports you permit inbound access on, and OUTBOUND PORTS as well.  Especially port 25.  (Blocking port 25 outbound will prevent you from being blacklisted due to a mass mailing worm, virus, or Trojan horse.  Allow only your email server to send out on port 25.)

Firewalls

Firewalls are often combined with cable modems, DSL modems, VPN routers, and wireless access points.  The Linksys units work fine for small businesses.  So does IPCop a Linux-based firewall.  The appliances are the simplest and best choice unless you have an extraordinary need.  If you don't have a firewall promise me you will call your IT guy TODAY and get one installed.  If you want us to get this done, give us a call at (302) 737-1000.

Data Protection

You also need to protect your data.  You do that with layers of backups.  Online, offline, local, remote...  You can learn more about backups here.  You can learn about keeping a hot-copy of your data available online here.  At a minimum you need to store your data on reliable equipment (meaning a RAID array on a brand-name server), keep one local copy in a repository (for when you delete or lose something), and one offsite copy on a remote backup server or an external, removable hard drive.

Protecting Your Equipment

I've seen uninterruptible power supplies, cable modems, computers, and telephone systems that were hit by lightning.  This kind of an outage can be very expensive.  You've lost equipment, your business is suffering downtime, and you've got to pay for the IT guy to come in and fix it all back up.

Briefly, the telephone system was fried because the inbound POTS lines didn't have lightning arrestors.  Same for the cable modem.  The computers were torched for similar reasons.  Sometimes the means of ingress was the modem or LAN cabling, but most often it was the power line itself that had taken a lightning hit and passed it along.

The thing to be aware of is that almost all of these kinds of calamities are preventable.  A good surge suppressor or UPS will take the hit instead of your server or workstations.  Surge suppressors and lightning arrestors are very cheap compared to the equipment they protect.  Think of them as an insurance policy for your hardware.

What do I think is good protection?  An intelligent UPS on every server, and good surge suppressors on your workstations.  You can tell if the surge suppressor is "good" by the presence of an indicator light.  Many surge suppressors are good for ONLY ONE HIT.  They will protect your equipment for only one lightning strike.  The indicator light will tell you if the components of the suppressor (MOVs, diodes, etc.) are still operational.

Also, install lightning arrestors on your inbound phone, DSL, or cable lines.  Connect them to a good ground or drive your own ground rod.  Expect to spend $25 to $50 per line.  Folks, this is cheap, effective, and way worth the money.  Have you ever held a fried phone system in your hands?  It is always an awesome but sad experience.

One other point
I've never seen a recently terminated employee try a malicious attack on a client, possibly because we provide a standard set of procedures for our clients to follow when someone is "let go."  But here's the point: You need to restrict access to your network equipment, servers, and software.  This is Physical Security on two levels protecting files through Access Control Lists, Group Policies, and the like, and limiting access to the server room and network closets.  These restrictions need to be spelled out in your Acceptable Use Policy as well, identifying what is and what is not good use of company equipment, email, data, Internet, and other corporate resources.

(If you don't have an Acceptable Use Policy, give me a call.  I have some boilerplate that you can take and make your own.  It's been honed over the years and even tested legally in a couple of cases when some employees were terminated due to excessive use of company equipment for non-business related activities.)


Thanks for reading through this article.  If there's anything we can do to help, kindly give us a call. (302) 737-1000.


You may freely link to this page or quote from here with full attribution and a link to "Stephen Worden / Illuminova Technical Services" pointing to http://www.illuminova.com

Copyright (c) 2010 Stephen Worden / Illuminova Technical Services.

Thanks again for your interest.


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