Take Precautions to Close the Net to Security Threats; Ed Gibson, Chief Security Adviser at Microsoft UK, Says Micro Businesses Should Be the Strongest Line of Defence against Internet Security Threats

Article excerpt

Byline: Ed Gibson

There is much better awareness and understanding of internet crime than in the past. However, too many people and organisations still hide behind the maxim of it'll never happen to me.

In the first six months of 2005, according to APACS, total credit card fraud in the UK was pounds 219.4 million, of which pounds 90.6 million was committed online and the rest in shops or by telephone.

Yet in the physical world, although an individual house is unlikely to be burgled, few people leave their house without locking the door.

Yet because the majority of people are generally less familiar with the online world, they often don't take the same precautions they would in the physical world.

Locking the front door, wearing a seatbelt and not walking through dark alleyways at night are all second nature. Yet equivalent basic protection is often overlooked online.

The security issues caused in the online world are the results of criminals trying to make money.

Individual cyber criminals and organised criminal gangs are now using computer systems and communications such as email to try to steal, dupe or blackmail people and companies.

As a result, the IT security threat is ever-evolving and therefore computers and IT systems have to be kept up-to-date.

Small companies often assume that they are 'too little' to attract interest from criminals, but that is simply not the case.

Micro businesses, defined as businesses with nine or less employees, and sole traders constitute around 95 per cent of the UK's 4.3 million businesses.

That is the potential that cyber criminals see, not individual businesses.

Furthermore, a popular tactic used by cyber criminals is to 'hijack' unprotected PCs to use in attacks on other companies. That puts a duty on everyone who has a PC connected to the internet to ensure it's suitably protected. As the backbone of the UK economy, micro businesses must play their part in addressing online criminal behaviour.

Addressing internet security issues is straight forward and inexpensive. Like the precautions people take every day, they are a mixture of specific protection and common sense.

Because criminals are continually evolving the way they try to manipulate computers, software companies, such as Microsoft, have put in place regular security update processes.

This allows people and businesses to download and install - for free - newly written pieces of software that protect against the latest criminal efforts.

With Microsoft software these updates can be set to automatically, or part automatically, install themselves.

Computers that are connected to the internet should also be protected by having anti-virus, firewall and anti-spyware software installed, which can be free or cost up to around pounds 30 to pounds 40 a year per computer depending on the product. …