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Why your small business should be bothered about computer security

One of the biggest problems in computer security is that people have trouble believing that anything bad can happen to them - until it does. The truth is that bad things do happen and they happen more often than you might think. Surveys conducted by the Computer Security Institute and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation estimate that 90 percent of U.S. corporations and government agencies detected computer security breaches in 2002. Of those corporations and agencies, 80 percent acknowledged resulting financial losses.

Many small business owners believe that they do not need to worry much about security. "After all," they reason, "who would want to target my business when there are so many bigger targets out there?" While it is true that small businesses are not directly attacked as often as larger ones, there are three flaws with this reasoning. The first is that small businesses often end up as part of larger attacks, such as mass worm outbreaks or efforts to harvest credit card numbers. The second is that because security is becoming tighter than ever at larger companies, small business networks look increasingly tempting to attackers. And the third flaw is that this assumes that all attacks come from the outside.

Regardless of how or why your business is attacked, recovery usually takes significant time and effort. Imagine if your computer systems were unavailable for a week. Imagine if you lost all the data stored on all the computers in your company. Imagine if your worst competitor was able to obtain a list of your customers, along with sales figures and sales notes. How long would it take before you noticed? What would these breaches cost your company? Could you afford these losses?

It seems like common sense. You wouldn't leave your building unlocked at night. The same is true with information security and a few simple steps can make you a lot less vulnerable. Technology experts have a way of making basic security seem like a huge and difficult issue. Luckily, securing your business is easier than you might think.

Of course, there is no way to guarantee 100 percent security. As the old saying goes, "You can make a door only so strong before it's easier to come through the wall." However, you can achieve a reasonable level of security and be prepared in case breaches do happen. Properly weighing risks and consequences against the cost of prevention is a good place to start.

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