Small Businesses in Danger Picture your graduation day. You have finally completed your undergraduate degree. You initially looked for a job, but you have since decided that you want to start your own business. You pitch your idea to your best friend and ask him/her to join you in a new business venture. Because your degree is in marketing, you would like to start a small promotions business. You and your new business partner develop a solid business strategy, obtain a small business loan from the bank to purchase your computer equipment, and then head over to the courthouse to set up your new Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). Two years later, things could not have turned out better! Hard work, late nights, and social media exposure have landed your business quite a few clients. The two computers you purchased with your small business loan (one for you and one for your business partner) have turned out to be invaluable. In fact, you now realize more than ever how much you depend on your computers and how lost your business would be without them. You wonder if your antivirus software is up-to-date and if there is anything else you should be doing to protect your critical business data, especially your clients’ data. But, you are too busy to research these issues, so you just trust that everything will be OK. You and your partner have never had such high-quality computers. Fast processors, big monitors, and plenty of memory—all purchased with business intent of course—make these computers superior to the ones you have at home. Naturally you both use your computers for personal work as well. Why not, right? But then, suddenly, your partner’s computer starts to slow down dramatically. Your machine is identical to his, but yours runs much faster. Your partner takes his computer back to Best Buy to have the Geek Squad look it over. The technician determines that malware (malicious software) has infected his computer so thoroughly that the hard drive must be replaced. Additionally, the data on his hard drive cannot be recovered, and he has not backed up any of his files—not even the business data. Now, you have problems. Lost data can result in lost (certainly irritated) customers. In addition, you will have to spend time and money recreating that data. How could your partner’s unprotected Web surfing have resulted in so much lost data? The fact is that even though you both consider yourselves somewhat tech savvy, neither of you ever took steps to protect your computers. You just assumed that a malware infection would never happen to you. Now, what would you say if you knew that you are not alone? A recent report by GFI Software revealed that more than 40 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) reported a security breach that resulted from an employee visiting a Web site that hosted malware. Amazingly, even though 40 percent of SMBs have experienced this problem, 55 percent reported that preventing this problem from re-occurring was not a priority! Furthermore, 70 percent of the respondents do NOT have any policy about Web use at work, and they claim that Web use is not a problem! As you can see from this case, installing and maintaining security on computers and information systems is vital to avoid losing business relationships as well as significant amounts of time and money. Fortunately, there are many third-party companies that provide security solutions—see, for example, GFI Software at www.gfi.com. Ultimately, however, you are responsible for seeking out their services and implementing security controls on your own systems and customer data. If you do not prioritize security measures, then you expose your computer and your fi les to potentially irrevocable damage from thousands of malware systems and viruses. Sources: Compiled from “GFI Software Survey: 40% of SMBs Have Suffered a Security Breach Due to Unsafe Web Surfing,” Enhanced Online News, October 12, 2011; “Small Businesses Hacked But Still Not Taking Precautions: Survey Says,” The Huffington Post, November 7, 2011; www.gfi .com, accessed March 8, 2012. Questions 1. What security controls should you and your business partner have adopted at a minimum? 2. How important are backup plans and fi le backup procedures to small businesses? 3. Why is it important to protect customer information in businesses of any size?
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