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Secure your PC and protect your customer's data

Small business computer security is very important. The damage you risk by not having your Internet security up to snuff ranges from losing hours of your time to having customer's card info stolen.

You need at least three components in your computer security lineup:

Hardware Firewall-keep the hackers out

In a small office/business, a hardware firewall usually comes in the form of a router that provides your access to high speed internet. Your DSL modem may be a router, and your wireless router certainly is. Make sure you change the default password in your router's setup or you are still wide open to hackers.

If you are using a wireless router, make sure your connections are encrypted. WEP encryption can be hacked ⇒, which means that someone outside your building could snoop on your network traffic and steal credit cart info. Use WPA2 encryption if you can.

Antivirus Program

An antivirus program will help keep your computer safe from...viruses! Nod32 seems to be a favorite of security experts, costs $40 a year, scans fast and uses very few system resources. Another option, Comodo Anti-virus is free and offered to business users as well as home users.

Security Updates-patch vulnerabilities

Software vulnerabilities can allow hackers to install software on your business computers without your knowledge. All software has bugs, and vulnerabilities. Software publishers and the security community are always on the lookout for new ones. Publishers issue Updates, which are required to patch security vulnerabilities in the software on your PC.

Windows, Internet Explorer, Firefox and the Acrobat Reader all have regular updates to eliminate security holes and to fix bugs. You can use Windows Update to take care of Windows, Internet Explorer and the Office applications. Firefox automatically issues updates.

Other programs on your computer can be outdated and present security risks as well. Try Secunia's free online Software Inspector to test most all of the software on your system. This free vulnerability scanner is really an amazing resource. Be sure to run it, then you'll know which programs have security holes and need to be updated. You will be able to get updates for these other programs from their publisher's web sites..

If you are a computer novice, it's best to set updates on Automatic in the Windows Security Center. If you are a bit more experienced, you might like to read Woody's Patch Watch to see if the current Windows patches are causing any problems. Regardless of your experience or enthusiasm for the task, it is still vitally important to keep up with patches. Your customer's info needs to be kept secure!

It's also a really good idea to have anti-spyware tools available. Windows Defender is available for free download for Microsoft XP users, and it comes pre-loaded on Vista computers. There are a few other highly rated anti-spyware programs. Perhaps Spyware Doctor with Antivirus or CounterSpy might be worth a look.

Anti-virus, anti-spyware and software firewalls are found all together in a profusion of Security Suites. Perhaps one of these might suit your needs.

The Internet can seem a bit like a rough neighborhood, but if you get these basics taken care of, you will have an escort through the 'hood.

There are a few more security policy issues that the credit card companies want you to take care of, regarding PCI compliance, and we will address these in a future article.