Simple steps to prevent malware

Serious middle aged executive manager explaining colleague online workCyber attacks on small businesses and organizations are becoming increasingly common. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you and your agency’s employees understand how to keep your company’s computer system safe and secure.

Online attacks are costly to address. It’s estimated that 60 percent of small businesses and organizations fail within six months of one. The good news? Studies also show that nearly 90 percent of all cyber attacks can be easily prevented with some simple safeguards.

For most companies, the problem is malware. That’s malicious software designed to gain access to a network, find sensitive data and steal that data. There are various types of malware, including spyware, viruses, worms, or any type of malicious code that infiltrates a computer. Once malware is installed, it can allow hackers to extract private and sensitive data.

Some of the best ways to prevent malware from being installed on your computers are the most simple. Train your employees to not click on links or open attachments to e-mails they are not expecting. This is one of the most common ways hackers gain access to a company’s computers. Be wary of any e-mails containing attachments. If you are suspicious of what you are being asked to view or install, don’t do it. Scan a disc or flash drive before using it; it too can unknowingly contain malicious code.

Long and strong passwords with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols are important, too. Set a specific timeline — such as every three months — for changing company passwords. Consider requiring employees to refrain from checking their personal e-mail accounts and social media channels using company computers and devices. If a computer contains company information, you’ll want employees to avoid downloading any programs or apps on it without your permission. Well-trained employees are the first line of defense against a cyber attack.

Security measures also are important. Install anti-virus/malware software, firewalls and anti-ransomware, keep it up to date and run regular scans. Don’t let updates to your operating system, browsers and plugins pile up. Updates often address security vulnerabilities that have been discovered, so it’s important to handle those in a timely manner.