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Small Business: The Last of the Unprotected
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By Deirdre Crossan

Most small business owners operate on a tight budget. They donít have extra cash to invest in new software. They simply are too busy to worry about whether or not each machine is equipped with the right antivirus, anti-spyware, intrusion detection and firewall technology.

At the same time, small businesses are finding that in order to stay competitive, they must accelerate adoption of increasingly complex IT infrastructures and IT-dependent processes. Such deployments often leave large security gaps. A recent survey of 1,000 small businesses sponsored by Symantec and conducted by the Small Business Technology Institute found that small businesses are largely unaware and uneducated about information security risks and their economic repercussions.

The survey showed that 20 percent of small businesses surveyed have yet to implement simple virus scanning on email, while less than 30 percent of small businesses have increased security spending over the past 12 months. Additionally, 75 percent do not undertake any information security planning.

The SBTI/Symantec study exposed the challenge starkly: Small businesses are growing more vulnerable. There is good news: Many of the steps that secure a small businesses' information infrastructure don't cost money--or even much time.

Use strong passwords: Passwords are the most common method of authenticating users and letting them into a computer system. Cracking passwords is a way hackers can gain unauthorized access to your computer network. For that reason, it is important to use a strong password.

A strong password is at least eight characters and includes a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, digits and symbols. Trying to follow those rules creates difficult-to-remember combinations. Hereís a tip that might help create a password that is sufficiently easy to remember, but difficult to crack. Replace "Ss" with dollar signs "Os" with zeros (0). Employ different passwords for each service or system and change passwords every 45 to 60 days. Do not write down passwords and leave them lying out in the open.

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Deirdre Crossan is the Small Business Marketing Programs Manager for Symantec.
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