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How to protect your business data from viruses and malware

It is an unfortunate fact that every computer with a network connection is a potential victim of computer viruses and malware. Find out how to protect your business data.

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It is an unfortunate fact of modern life that every computer with a network connection is a potential victim of computer viruses and malware. If your computer is ever infected then it can result in catastrophic loss of important business data. Protecting this data and your PC equipment is therefore a vital part of running a small business. What is malware? Across the world there are many hundreds of individuals who spend their time creating software that can damage computers. The term used to describe this software is "malware" and it encompasses all of the nasty software you may have heard of including viruses, Trojans, worms and adware. There are technical differences about the nature of such malware and indeed some are more damaging than others. But you should not be concerned about these detailed differences, rather focus on protecting your business computers from all malware. A significant and rising concern is about malware called BotNets. This is software that is installed onto your PC without your knowledge and then involves your computer in sending out spam email messages or other malware. Some of these networks can comprise thousands of linked PCs, all controlled by a remote operator who steals your computer's processing power. The only evidence of being infected is often just a slowing of your PC's performance. How to protect your business First you need to purchase some antivirus software. This sits on your PC and makes sure that any damaging software is not allowed to enter. Because the nature of this malware threat changes regularly this software rather cleverly downloads a new set of updated antivirus instructions every day to make sure you are up to date with any malware development. Suppliers of anti-virus and anti-malware software There are a large number of providers of antivirus software. Most of these products can be obtained on a subscription basis and may cost around £100 per year. Others may be available free of charge. Look for a supplier that has good widespread use as they will generally be up to date with the latest malware threats. Trusted antivirus and malware suppliers include AVGUK, Symantec, Microsoft, McAfee. To install the software you will normally visit the vendor's website and then follow the instructions to set up your PC. For suppliers that charge for the software you will need to enter registration details and a credit card number. Some computer hardware suppliers may sell you a new PC with a free trial subscription for some antivirus software. This is a useful service and worth taking advantage of, even if it only lasts for 60 days before you need to register. Keeping your PC software up to date Software manufacturers often need to make changes to their products to ensure they remain secure. This is in response to the hundreds of hackers that like to try and find a fault in the software that will expose information such as passwords and banking details. To prevent this from happening, you need to ensure that your business PCs are fully configured with these latest updates – sometimes referred to as patches. The good news is that most of the main stream business software vendors will automatically update your software for you – all you need to do is reboot, switch the computer off and then on again, for these changes to be implemented. Most business users will use Microsoft software, and as such this is a large target for hackers to attack. It is strongly suggested that you make sure you are receiving all the latest updates for your Microsoft software, including Windows and Office. The good news is that this is a free service. About the author This article was first published in Computer viruses and malware on Business IT Guide, part of e-skills, the Sector Skills Council for IT and telecoms. The Business IT Guide has been developed in collaboration with industry experts to help small businesses find the right IT solutions for the issues that affect them.

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