Posts Tagged ‘small businesses’

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Beware of botsDid you know that 71% of Americans are unaware of the fastest growing security threat, which is, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, bots? Bots, a term derived from the shorthand of Web robots, are malicious software codes that seize control of computers. Without the user’s knowledge, a bot can commandeer the computer to send spam, host phishing sites or infect other computers with mal-ware. The bot can also harvest personal data, such as social security information that can be used for malicious purposes. Stefan provided tech assistance to a small business owner, a jewelry designer and retailer whose computer network had been taken over by bots. The bots used her small business network as a platform to spam the world with the punitive consequence that many Internet service providers blacklisted her business. Indeed, it was not until her own legitimate e-mails were returned to her as undeliverable that she began to suspect a problem.  As her retailing operation depends on an e-commerce website, this was devastating to her business. Stefan helped her to not only free her network of the bots (and protect it against future invasion) but to reinstate the credibility of her company to conduct business online. It took some weeks of effort on his part to persuade ISP’s to let the jewelry retailer’s business resume delivery of e-mails to their clients!

What are some of the indications that bots may be operating under your radar screen? Be alert to unusual error messages suggesting that applications cannot launch or disk drives cannot be accessed, as these may indicate a bot infection.  Also be alert to unusual e-mail activity, such as messages to your e-mail in-box bouncing back from undelivered mail messages that you did not send, which suggests that a bot is using your system to send spam. Another clue is the appearance of additional e-mail addresses in your small business accounts that you did not create.  The National Cyber Security Alliance is using the month of October to advise consumers on the risks of bot infections, which you can minimize with current anti-virus and security software, consistent with the recommendations in Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses (Wiley, second edition, 2008).  Be wary of downloading software from unfamiliar sources and do not click through or open suspicious e-mails or attachments.