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Protect your IT network

As you read about computer network attacks by exotic sounding viruses like Stuxnet, Duqu and now Flame, you may think “that stuff doesn’t affect me or my business.” While it’s likely true that your business doesn’t draw the attention that an Iranian nuclear reactor or a major international financial institution does, the fact is that all business and personal computers are increasingly vulnerable to threats. I’m anything but an early adopter when it comes to information technology. (I’m so far down that curve I just got my first smartphone two weeks ago.) Acknowledging my own ignorance while recognizing how important network security is, I turned to Brian Skutt, the CEO of SafeOperations, who designs IT security systems for a living. After scaring me silly with his descriptions of the ongoing war between the people trying to get into our systems and those defending them, Brian provided me with a few simple rules to follow that can make a huge difference for the business owner, regardless of business size. But first, some background information. The vast majority of people significantly underestimate the cost of IT security breaches and overestimate the efficacy of their defenses. Most of us think we’re protected because we bought a firewall, have network protection and software that detects malware. Our Internet service providers have tools to protect us, and if we even think about them, we assume are doing their job. Yet the threats are getting more sophisticated and the gap between the “bad guys” and our tools of defense is getting wider. In January 2012 alone, 150 large businesses reported hacking incidents costing them a total of $135 billion. The Ponemon Institute, a privacy and information management research firm, estimates the cost of hacking to business in 2011 to be $1.5 trillion.

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