Are you sitting at your computer? Take a look at your desktop or click on your programs folder; chances are that on there somewhere is a little clickable icon that represents your antivirus protection software. But when did you last check this or run a scan? If you’re like most people, you likely have the same antivirus software you installed when you first set up the computer. And you are happy to presume it’s doing its job every day, and keeping your systems safe from harm.
Yet the truth is that, unless you’ve been keeping your antivirus software updated and are tuned into catching the latest threats out there, that old antivirus software on your devices is only giving you the most basic level of protection.
Antivirus software is used to prevent, detect and, hopefully, make safe any malware threats and viruses that make it onto your system. And most programs do this well. But the big problem is that antivirus software is a reactive technology, and only effective against known threats and variations of them. The guys who are writing antivirus software need to understand how a piece of malware works before they can adapt programs to discover and neutralise it. And in the time it takes for this to happen, many thousands of systems can be infected.
With hackers and criminals making new and increasingly sophisticated malware all the time, there are a lot of dangers out there that your current AV setup just won’t see coming. And hackers are patient people; they will take the time to rewrite and test their malware until it can find its way past even the most sophisticated protection – and if that doesn’t work, they’ll write a new one. Intel Security, the company that makes the popular McAfee software, estimates that new malware is released at a rate of about one new virus per second. Little wonder it’s hard for the boffins to keep up.
The rise of social media and cloud services means that hackers are exploiting new ways to infect systems that can be carried out in your web browser, rather than by being installed on your computer in the conventional way, and where a traditional virus checker would normally scan. Your social media profile could be hacked to send out spam or links to dodgy sites. Your data could also be hacked when it’s in the cloud and far away from your antivirus protection. This is why it’s important that you check the level of protection your cloud provider offers.
And remember, your mobile devices phones and tablets are also targets. Have you got antivirus protection on your phone? The chances are you haven’t, but you’ll probably be accessing the same sensitive data via your smartphone as you do on your office computers.
Antivirus software alone is not enough
It is important to take a blended approach when it comes to acting against viruses, employing several layers of protection. So let’s take a look at the best ways to stay safe.
Check your current antivirus software
Make sure it’s up to date as often as you can. It is designed to spot known malware and check unknown files and URLs against a database of known sites carrying viruses.
Your computers and networks need separate firewalls. The corporate one can protect against external threats, while a personal firewall gives some protection against viruses or hackers who are already in the system.
Update your management software
Updates and patches are important, so don’t ignore the reminders that come through. Hackers are always finding new weak spots in operating systems, and this is why patches are regularly released to plug these vulnerable holes. You need a process for you and your staff to apply patches and upgrades as soon as they come out. Updated management software can run an inventory of the programs you use, and update them automatically while flagging vulnerabilities that could cause future issues.
Use password management
The usual password rules apply. You already know them; don’t use the same password for all accounts, change them often, and use long passwords that include numbers and symbols.
Make use of encryption
These days, most hackers want to steal data rather than simply cause trouble. They want your intellectual property, documents, account names, and personal details. Make sure such data is encrypted so that, if an attack is successful, the information can’t be read, used or exploited. A password manager that encrypts passwords, and gives you access via a master password, can be useful.
Install DLP Software
Data Loss Protection tools can spot and block important or sensitive data that is leaving your system via the net if this is unauthorized, accidental or malicious. Such data may include credit card or account numbers.
Carry out ongoing training
Make sure your staff are always vigilant about hackers and viruses. Teach them to be careful about the sites they visit online and how they use social media. Run regular workshops about new threats or phishing scams that are out there and how your staff can make their personal devices more secure if they are being used for work.
To learn more about staying safe online, or to find out if your current security setup is adequate, come and talk to the experts at Empower IT, who will be happy to answer your questions.