It may seem like a minor detail compared to hiring the right people, keeping up with the competition, and having enough cash flow to keep your business humming, but there's nothing more important these days to any company – big or small – than protecting the company's data, network and computers. With armies of hackers in cyberspace wanting to steal your secrets, upset your network and even hold your data for ransom, it's a matter of life or death for your business.
Cybercrime and hacking are the biggest existential threats that businesses face today, and the problem is getting worse with the number and sophistication of attacks that increase every year. It seems like every day a major corporation reports that their records have been hacked. The most prominent recent victims include Target, Maersk, Uber, Yahoo and Under Armor.
In fact, one of the most costly and embarrassing breaches occurred in 2017 when credit records were lifted from the credit reporting agency Equifax's servers. It cost the company not only its reputation but a reported $4 billion.
According to a recent study, the average attack takes nearly two months to recover from and costs an average of $2.4 million. For many companies, these setbacks would put them out of business.
The best offense is a good defense, and today that means strong security software for all aspects of your business. Survival requires the right mix of device-level endpoint protection and network server-based security. There's a third element that's just as important: constant vigilance.
It starts with the assumption that someone will – sooner rather than later – try to break in and steal your digital goodies. If something doesn't look right, investigate, and do something about it. Ignoring the consequences of a hack attack is not an option. You could very easily find yourself embarrassed or worse – out of business.
Differences Between Consumer and Business Security Solutions
While consumer and business malware protection often share the same underlying technologies, they differ in several important aspects. The former is aimed more at family members than employees with unneeded things like parental controls, but consumer applications lack an integrated way to monitor, update and change the settings for dozens if not hundreds of systems at once.
There are two areas that should concern anyone trying to protect a company's digital assets. In addition to endpoint detection that protects each system the company owns, the defenses need to include server protection, which ranges from warning of insecure network connections to stopping a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. Neither alone is a complete defense.
Today, all security software is built around the philosophy of three overlapping layers of protection. It starts with traditional local scanning of computers that looks for matches with known malware to eradicate. This is followed up with advanced heuristic monitoring that seeks to find the behavioral attributes of an early-stage attack, like the encrypting of key system files.
Finally, all malware and security products augment this with instant analysis in the cloud for new threats. Anything that appears to be dangerous is sent to an online lab for analysis using artificial intelligence. The new code is dissected, and if it is a threat, a fix is created and distributed. The best AV solutions have millions of business users and rapidly stream updates to their users, often several times a day.
Internet Security Software Checklist: What to Look for
While commercial security programs don't look like consumer software applications, they often use the same underlying scanning, heuristic and cloud back end as non-business programs. Despite their conceptual roots, every security program is different, or at least it uses different jargon to describe its attributes.
This checklist of the basics provides a good protective base for your business.
As its name implies, this feature examines incoming email attachments for malware, like hidden phishing attempts.
Ransomware works by encrypting a computer's drive before the user even knows it's been infected. While some security programs let you sector off areas that can't be encrypted for key data, behavioral monitoring can catch this type of attack.
This adjunct to security programs tries out unfamiliar apps in a secure area that can't interact more sensitive parts of the computer, limiting any potential damage. If the app proves dangerous, it can be quickly wiped.
With these attacks, code snippets directly invade the system's memory, causing havoc and potentially opening a door for the removal of data. The latest malware protection can find and eradicate these threats.
Macro and Script Attacks
This technique involves getting a potential victim to click on a link in an email or web site that then downloads identity-stealing code.
Data Shredder and Encryption
Every company has confidential material and using either file- or disk-level encryption can keep it secret. Shredding a file is more complete, because rather than only removing its file allocation table entry, this technique overwrites it several times to make the file disappear.
Even with the strongest malware protection, some systems get infected to the point where nothing helps. Run rescue software from a DVD or flash drive to start the system in a secure Linux environment and give it a complete cleaning.
Distributed Denial of Service, better known as DDOS, attacks occur when a series of systems or automated bots overwhelm your server with requests, often shutting the entire network down. The best server security software can respond to this type of attack.
Firewalls separate a system from the dangers of the online world. The best offer ultimate protection by blocking unauthorized data coming in and going out while allowing important data to pass unmolested.
While it might seem easier to deal with updates to the operating system and major apps on a system-by-system basis, it's better to deal with it on a fleet basis. That way, every system has the latest security software.
There are other features that are part of some packages, optional or set up with third-party service. Top of the list is a virtual private network, which creates an encrypted session for ultimate communications privacy. Short of that, some security solutions provide a hardened web browser that forces the use of an encrypted secure session, doesn't allow the use of browser add-ons and makes you use an encrypted keyboard to foil keylogger software.
Failing all else, a strong backup routine is the ultimate defense against an attack, although most companies either do it in-house or use a third party to supply this service. That's because you can roll the system back to the last clean archive prior to the attack and be up and running in just a short amount of time.
Other Issues to Consider
While it doesn't have the same criteria as consumer software, the application needs to be well designed with equal consideration paid to the IT group administering the software as to the ultimate users.
Paramount is the ability to see at a glance if the system is safe, under attack or in need of attention. Most security apps have an illustration or icon with a checkmark or traffic light. Green means good, and red that something bad is happening.
It needs to be easy to get new software updates, so the protection is up to date. The best solutions automatically download updates as they become available from the manufacturer. Next is the ability to customize the configuration to the specs of your company's IT crew. This can mean turning features on and off when the software is installed.
On the other hand, the last thing you want is for employees to remove some of the protection they feel is annoying. Because of this, business security programs allow the IT staff to gray out configuration changes, locking the setup in place.
That said, the software must allow your IT administrator to remotely make changes across the board to every one of the company's computers. All it takes is one click to raise the company's online defense posture in response to a new threat.
Finally, most business-oriented security programs have a management console or dashboard so that IT technicians can view the security status of every system from afar and make key changes to adapt to a new threat. The most recent programs allow you or your IT admin to view and make changes to a single machine, a group (like at a satellite office) or every computer in the organization.
Look for programs that have the same look and feel as the client software so that the transition from local to remote management is simplified.
Even the best security software would be worthless if it didn't work with every computer in your company's fleet. In practical terms that means that all recent versions of Windows, Mac OSX and often Linux are covered.
More and more, companies are using phones and tablets as replacements for more traditional computers. There may be fewer threats to phones and tablets, but they do exist. The best security software covers Android and iOS (for iPhones and iPads), but be careful, it's often the case that Mac and iOS software lacks some of the key elements of the PC and Android versions.
Finally, look for a software package that includes server software that not only allows remote management but guards against network-based attacks, like DDoS threats. It is only when the software is looking for all possible threat vectors that the IT chief can truly sleep soundly.
After loading each app onto an HP EliteBook Folio G1 business notebook, we launched the app, timing how long it took to get the system up, running and protected.
After familiarizing ourselves with the program, how it works and trying out its major features, we ran several full and quick scans, timing each scan and noting how many files the software examined. You can find the average scan time within each review.
Finally, we consulted the German security software lab AV-TEST for their results regarding how effective the app is at catching new and widespread threats.
How much performance the security software saps is important as well. Within each review, we've also listed AV-TEST's results on the effect each app had on computer speed in relation to tasks like opening web sites and launching apps.
Price and Customer Support
While the single seat price for security is often quoted, it is merely the software company's opening bid. It pales in comparison to the app's cost for 10, 20, 100 or more users; in some cases, the price drops by 50 percent or more.
While we report the price for volume purchases of the software and whether there's a trial version to try out before purchasing anything, the more licenses you buy, the better position you're in to bargain the price down or add extra features, like premium support or periodic security assessments.
Every great security program deserves great support, and we tell you whether the company's technicians are available 24/7 to answer questions, fix problems and clear pesky infections. After all, if an executive's notebook gets infected at 3 a.m. on a Sunday in Shanghai, it's just as bad as if it happened at noon on Tuesday in Tucson.
The mix of support offerings vary from program to program. The best solutions help let employees directly connect to support from the program. Look for apps that combine access via phone, email and chat windows with videos with FAQs, troubleshooting and instant access to updates.
The bottom line on security is that every business can be protected against an attack. Yes, the costs are significant, but think of it as insurance against a business-ending disaster.
When shopping for an internet security solution, take advantage of free trial periods. Use the trial to test and evaluate the following:
- Performance. Antivirus/Antimalware can take up a lot of your computer's resources when active, let alone when it's performing a system scan. Do your research see how the software will use up your processing power, as it could affect the performance of your other applications.
- Ease of Use. The best programs are ones that do their jobs without requiring much input from you. It should be easy to schedule regular scans, plus it should provide you with important notifications and alerts. If it does detect malware, it should walk you through the process of fixing the issue.
- Security Features. Besides active internet protection, investigate the program's security features. Some programs come with unique options to further protect your data, such as anti-theft capabilities, firewalls or email scanners.
Look for companies that offer rewards or discounts for renewing licenses or buying multiple licenses; this will lower the cost of your annual renewal fees.
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Common Internet Security and Antivirus Software Questions & Answers
There is no software that will magically fix everything. But here are some suggestions. 1. Run an anti-virus program constantly. You indicated you were "downloading your email" so I'm assuming that means you're accessing your email via Outlook. Make sure your anti-virus scanner has the option to check Outlook, many do, use it. Suggestions are AVG, Norton, McAfee, Malware Bytes. Remember not to open email and attachments from people you don't know. 2. Use the built in firewall that...
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