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FCC helps small businesses with Internet security

Posted by Jason Keith  October 26, 2011 06:00 AM

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Internet security is one of those things that you never think about, until you’re the one that becomes the victim. There are always horror stories about the guy who had his identity stolen by someone who went on a shopping spree in some foreign country, but no one ever thinks that they’re the ones that this can happen to.  Believe it or not, small businesses are prime targets for cyber criminals, so much so that the Federal Communications Commission announced plans this week to release a free online tool to specifically support them from cyber-attacks.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Monday at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event that, “A recent study found that American small businesses lose billions annually to cyber-attacks. The cost of each individual cyber-attack to small and medium sized businesses averages about $200,000. Contrast that with the Connected Nation study that projects $200,000 in increased annual revenue, and you see that failure to take cyber security seriously can potentially negate the benefits of being online.”

A new survey by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance released on Monday found that only 52 percent of small businesses had a basic cyber security strategy or plan, while 85 percent of owners said their companies were safe from cyber threats.  It was more than a little shocking that 77 percent had no formal written Internet security policy, and of those, 49 percent did not even have an informal policy.  In other words, most small businesses are hoping nothing happens. If it does, they aren’t prepared. 

The tool assumes that small businesses lack the overall knowledge or expertise when it comes to online security, and recognize that hiring someone to help can be cost prohibitive.  "We know that hiring cyber security experts is costly," Genachowski said. "This tool will be of particular value for businesses that lack the resources to hire a dedicated staff member to protect themselves from cyber threats. Even a business with one computer or one credit card swiper can benefit from this important guidance."

The FCC also has a website dedicated to fighting cyber-attacks and provides information and best practices for small businesses.

“Any tool or Q&A that serves to help simplify information security for small business leaders is a good thing. Unfortunately, the intersection of security, business operations, and IT demands is a very complex thing," said Kurt Baumgartner, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based security firm whose North American headquarters are in Woburn. "Small and mid-size businesses with expensive security consultants guiding the way are getting hacked just the same. Hopefully the tool that the FCC is expected to release will help better guide these under-resourced shops through some of the fundamental first steps to securing and maintaining their computing resources, and provide additional planning options as well."

While they may seem like common sense, some tips that were advised as part of the meeting that small business owners could take advantage of immediately included encrypting data on computers, having the latest security software installed and up to date, training employees on the dangers of cyber-attacks and identifying them, as well as protecting internet connections, which are increasingly vulnerable to attacks. 

As a small business have you considered your internet security? Have you been the victim of a cyber-attack?  How did you cope with it? 

 

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email jasonpkeith@gmail.com.

This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.

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