Guest post from Cindy Bates, Vice President, US Small and Medium Sized Businesses (US SMB). This post was first published on Cindy's blog on 4 May 2011. Some links have been changed to point to UK sites.
If you have kids, you might have experienced days when their misbehaving has reached new heights. You wonder what has come over them and if perhaps someone or something has taken over your previously sweet little Billy and Jane against their will? Of course that’s not the case, but that’s certainly how it feels.
You might experience the same feelings of frustration and confusion when you begin to realize that all month your computer has been running unusually slowly and those nagging pop-up ads and e-mail spam haven’t been letting up. You might consider yourself crazy for thinking so, but could someone or something else have control of your computer?
Well, the good news is that you’re not crazy for thinking so, because you could be right. The unfortunate news is that botnets, which are networks of compromised computers run by cybercriminals, are prevalent these days and serve as gateways for all types of malicious attacks, including spam, phishing and click fraud. Botnets currently are the backbone of all cybercrime and just might be the source of your frustration. They have no geographic boundaries and are thought to be responsible for 87 percent of unsolicited e-mail. That’s around 151 billion e-mails a day!
This is just one of the findings in Microsoft’s most recent Security Intelligence Report (SIRv9), a bi-annual, comprehensive threat report that contains security information particularly relevant to SMBs. In addition to the findings related to botnet proliferation, the report also indicates that worms and Trojans continue to be the most common malware threats for businesses and consumers.
On a more positive note, the SIRv9 does reveal that security efforts across the industry are making a difference. Education of consumers and businesses on security best practices has helped to slow the advances of cybercriminals, as has the improvement of technology designed to protect users from the latest threats.
However, I’m guessing that you’re not as much interested in the good news as in what you need to do to keep your company safe from the latest threats. Well, I’ll tell you that there’s more good news on that front – keeping your business safe doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Here are a few very basic and vital measures you can and should take to protect your business:
· Keep all of your software updated. Don’t ignore the update reminders, since the updates often contain security patches your computer and network need to remain healthy.
· Use Microsoft Update, not Windows Update – it’s a more comprehensive update.
· Run anti-virus software from a trusted vendor. Don’t be duped into a supposedly better deal from a name you’re not familiar with; that’s a decision you’ll regret in the long run.
Also, consider upgrading your operating system if you haven’t already done so. While this will call for an investment up front, the long-range benefits are substantial, not only in terms of safety, but also with respect to productivity and cost savings. For example, Windows 7 is Microsoft’s safest operating system thus far.