- Educate your staff. Periodically remind them not to open an Email attachment or website link unless they know the sender and what it is that they’re opening. Computers used exclusively for appropriate business certainly tend to be less vulnerable. (That said, it’s not a fair assumption that a staff member was doing something wrong if the computer got infected. Unfortunately, when perfectly reputable business websites get infected they tend to share the problem with hundreds or thousands of users, not just a few dozen. )
- Limit administrator access. Ask your IT expert to set the computers up so that the users do not have Administrator access. If the person who is on the computer when it gets infected doesn’t have permission to install software, most malware can’t get very far. So, even if that user’s account is infected, the rest of the computer will likely be ok.
- Keep your systems up to date. Make sure that updates are allowed to run automatically make – and keep up with – a schedule for regular manual update checks.
- Make sure that you have an antivirus product installed. And ensure that you know how to keep it up to date. Money saving tip: You can pass on the bloated feature-rich security products sold in stores. For networks with only a few computers, the free options like Microsoft Security Essentials are fine. For larger networks, you’ll want to go with a product like Trend-Micro that’s designed to be managed from a central console. You also might consider supplemental products like Malwarebytes, Spybot S&D and CCleaner to help keep the computer clean and garbage free.
- Have a good firewall. This creates a level of prophylaxis between your computer and the Internet. Newer devices do a great job at screening websites and scanning network content before it gets to your computer. As referenced in our last blog posting, all the heroic policing efforts of Google and others to scan the Internet and keep it safe are great, but it’s not safe to assume that they’ll catch every site fast enough. For larger or growing sites, I definitely recommend Barracuda to do this job. (Employer bonus: Barracuda can also help ensure that your users are primarily using their computers to do their jobs, instead of shopping, playing fantasy football or hanging out on Facebook.)
- Protect your Email. Make sure that your Email systems are screened for spam and also well protected from viruses. We provide robust filtering on our Microsoft Exchange hosting services, but I feel very strongly that Email should be filtered long before it reaches your computers or servers. You’ll want to check with your Email providers to ensure that this is the case.
- Get a Mac. I can hear the outcry from here. But think about getting a Mac. There’s at least a modest premium for purchasing Apple and they’re not the best solution for larger networks or environments with specific applications which don’t run on Mac; but I haven’t seen a virus on a Mac in at least 15 years, and even then, it was in Microsoft Office. Yes, Windows has made impressive strides toward becoming safer and there are (at least theoretically) Mac OS viruses out there, but it’s getting easier and easier for Macs and PCs to get along and everyone I know (including myself) who has one, loves them.
- Backup, backup, backup. It’s the mantra we can’t afford to ignore. Almost always, your data is far more important than your computer. Make sure that you have a robust onsite and offsite backup solution in place so that if the computer is so badly infested that it needs to be wiped out, you will make sure you don’t lose the data that your business needs to function.
Dovid Winter is Principal Consultant of Winter Solutions and has been providing hands-on IT management services to small-business, non-profit and education since 1986. In addition to website development and hosting services, Winter Solutions' offers an array of managed IT services. Whether you are looking for assistance with a single project or to outsource your entire IT department, Winter Solutions has a solution to meet your needs. Contact us at 781 821-0000.