The internet it is a great resource for businesses, but also carries some security risks. Information held in IT systems is crucial for the operation of many businesses. Good e-security policies and practices help preserve the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data and services for your business.
These following top ten tips will help you to protect your business and secure your server.
1. Use a firewall
A firewall is your computer network's first line of defence against intruders. Firewalls can block all traffic between your network and the internet that is not explicitly allowed. Firewall software is built into operating systems and can also be purchased as special purpose hardware. Basic firewall settings to help get you started are available from your vendor or the internet.
2. Keep up to date with security patches
Most operating systems are supported by automatic updates ('security patches') that fix vulnerabilities found in important software components. You should either use the 'automatic update' option, or subscribe to a security-related mailing list and install these patches when necessary.
3. Protect yourself against viruses
Viruses and other malicious software, such as worms and trojan horse viruses, can alter or erase data on your computers and allow spammers and other intruders to use your computer and network. They may also replicate and spread to others. If you run an email server, you can install anti-virus software at the server to filter out email viruses before they reach users. Each individual computer should also have up-to-date anti-virus software. Viruses and worms spread fast, so your anti-virus software must be updated regularly.
4. Use passwords that are difficult to guess
Passwords are surprisingly easy to guess. Read these tips from Stay Smart Online on creating and remembering strong passwords: www.staysmartonline.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/19523/F15_password_security.pdf
5. Check and alter default settings
After installing software, check the configuration and setting options – you may find the software has extra features you don't need or want. Turning off unnecessary services is a good security precaution.
6. Back up your software
Back up your data regularly and verify your backups from time to time.
7. Monitor your servers
Your servers can be compromised without your knowledge. Monitoring your servers can alert you to intrusions as they occur, as well as allowing you to check the servers are working properly. Turn on the 'logging' function as a first step. Ask your vendor or an expert about the best way to monitor your network.
8. Join security-related mailing lists
The Stay Smart Online Alert Service is a free subscription providing the latest information on computer network threats and vulnerabilities as well as solutions in simple, non-technical language. Visit the Stay Smart Online website to join the alert service: www.staysmartonline.gov.au/alerts
9. Secure your mail server: close open relays
Mail servers are very attractive targets for hackers and spammers because they exchange data between external users and internal users. 'Relaying' is a feature in mail servers that allows the server to forward mail from one external domain to another. If you run an 'open relay', spammers will quickly find your computer and use it to send spam, which may result in your server being blacklisted – which will stop you from being able to send legitimate emails.
10. Secure your web server: close open proxies
Web servers are large, complex, and highly configurable - that is, they can be fine-tuned to suit your needs. As such, they are often targeted by hackers and spammers. Make sure you know what you are doing if you are setting up such a server. If in doubt consult an expert, the two most popular web servers are Apache and Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS). The default installations of both servers are often adjusted to improve security.
Modern web servers can also run as 'proxy servers', a feature which allows users to forward web requests through your servers. If you run an 'open proxy', allowing open access to your proxy, spammers will quickly find your server and misuse your generosity, which could harm your reputation and result in your business being placed on spam blacklists. You should also:
- seek expertise - talk to friends or hire a technical consultant who can provide help through training, setup, ongoing administration and security
- Outsource - ISPs and other service providers offer IT solutions that include security management.