As small businesses increasingly implement wireless networks and mobile tech, the security precautions they employ may not sufficiently defend their data, warns the American Small Business Travelers Alliance (ASBTA)The U.S. alliance provides services and functions focused specifically on the travel needs and interests of small business owners.
ASBTA’s recent Mobile Professional Survey indicated that a majority of small business owners and employees consider wireless technology essential to their business and rely on wireless devices, such as laptop computers, mobile phones, smart phones and PDAs, to stay connected. Unfortunately, the survey also revealed that although nearly all of the survey respondents indicated that they use antivirus software and/or firewalls to protect their wireless data, very few are protecting their mobile technology from advanced data security threats and equipment theft.
“Whether it’s at the office, in the local coffee shop, or halfway across the world, mobile technology is at risk from more than just viruses, adware and your basic garden-variety hackers,” said Chuck Sharp, ASBTA President. “While antivirus software and firewalls are critical to computer security, they are only a baseline defense to protecting company data, and they don’t even begin to protect against the theft of expensive mobile equipment.”
Like antivirus and antispyware programs and firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs) are an easy and cost-effective mobile security measure. VPNs allow for secure encrypted remote connections and prevent unauthorized users from accessing a company’s data. Surprisingly, only 11 percent of the small businesses surveyed by ASBTA indicated they utilize VPNs. Where a company VPN is not a realistic option, a number of alternatives do exist, including Symantec’s line of pcAnywhere software products, and online solutions like GoToMyPC ( www.gotomypc.com ).
Intel’s online guide, “Wireless Networks for Small Business,” ( http://www.intel.com/business/smallbusiness/wireless/index.htm ), offers a number of other simple ways small businesses can secure their wireless data, including changing default settings for WLAN access points, disabling SSID broadcasting, and using Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) instead of Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) for WLAN security.
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of mobile security is protecting the actual equipment from loss and theft. Security cables and locks for laptops and cases, as well as equipment alarms, offer protection against theft both at the office and in unsecured environments like coffee shops, hotels and waiting areas. In the event a theft does occur, a number of products offer encryption technology to protect data from unauthorized users, and tracking technology to locate the device, including Computrace by Absolute Software ( http://www.absolute.com ), and The CyberAngel by CyberAngel Security Solutions ( http://thecyberangel.com ).
“It’s great to see that small businesses are making sure their technology investment is protected from viruses and spyware,” said Sharp. “But it’s vital that they don’t develop a false sense of security if they are using only those basic security measures, especially when advanced solutions for data and equipment protection are so readily available.”