Small Business Computer Security

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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The elements of computer and network security for small organizations are no different than for individuals and large corporations. This includes the facetious remark about disconnecting the electricity and cable. Two aspects of computer security are important to bear in mind. First, no security is absolute. Second, getting as close to that as possible means encryption. Three words paint the full picture: firewall, anti-virus, and encryption.

How a network firewall and anti-virus protections are configured is a complex and technical topic. Among the critical issues to consider are how frequently virus definitions are updated and how many layers of firewall--packet filtering, application and circuit gateways, proxy servers--are possible before system processing gets so slow that the return on the added security begins to drop significantly. Another is whether outsourcing computer and Internet security might not be the most efficient solution.

Security and Encryption

Whether a business wants or needs the encryption icing on the cake is a judgment call for management. An export-import agency or a trade consultant might understandably deem it necessary. A small foreign policy publisher might go either way. A local chamber of commerce, literacy nonprofit, or golf association probably needn't bother. Encryption puts a burden on both the network infrastructure's firewall and the users at either end.

Encryption is precisely what the word indicates. Data is encoded using a cipher key, which is an alphanumeric sequence. There are two basic categories of encryption--symmetric and asymmetric. With symmetric encryption, the same key is used to encode and decode the file. With asymmetric, there are two keys, both set by the sender.

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