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Data Theft / Intellectual Property Theft: Don't Make It Easy to Steal from You
Many companies store sensitive data or information. Customer credit card numbers, client account numbers, payroll records, proprietary content or patent specs, when compromised, may create big problems for small businesses.
You've probably installed anti-virus software on the office system, but today, that may not be enough. You're just as likely to lose data or intellectual property to an unhappy employee as you will to an anonymous hacker who finds entry into your company files or steals your content from the Web.
What can you do to cut down on the likelihood of business data or intellectual property theft? Be proactive.
1. Train the team in the basics of computer security. One well-intentioned employee who opens an unsolicited email may unleash malware – dangerous computer viruses and other hacker attacks.
- Equip all workstations with firewall protection as well as anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
- Teach your team the basics of computer security. Update regularly.
- Log off when you don't have to be online.
- Never open unsolicited emails or other communications. If you don't know who sent it, you don't know where it's been.
- Never give out passwords or user names – even to other employees.
- Never leave a work station unattended with sensitive files open. Always lock out intruders before leaving your computer.
2. Create individual user accounts for each employee. This enables you to grant access to individual employees on a "need-to-know" basis. An administrative assistant in marketing doesn't need access to payroll records.
3. Update computer data-protection software. Hackers are at it 24/7 creating and launching new programs that could cause an attack. Data security programs update protection each time a new virus is detected. So don't ignore those notifications that pop up on your screen -- keep your software current.
4. Change all passwords after an employee termination. An unhappy ex-employee – with access to company files – may access those files from anywhere, causing harm to your business. Change passwords for data and intellectual property access whenever an employee leaves the company.
5. Lock down hardware A hacker in a custodian's uniform can slide a laptop into a trash bin and walk out. An unhappy employee can access the server room – the repository for all company information.
There are lock-down cables available to keep your hardware in place, and smart doors that require a password or bio-metric to gain access. Don't just be concerned about online theft; losing a laptop – especially a laptop that isn't protected by a strong password – also can put company information in the wrong hands.
6. Add key-logger software. Key-logger software records every keystroke made by anyone connected to the company network. You can track the on and offline activities of employees to see who's doing what, one keystroke at a time.
7. Register Your Intellectual Property. Check to see what registration you need: trademark, copyright or patent, both in the U.S. and abroad. Although registration is not always required, international and U.S. registration may afford you additional legal protection from infringements on your intellectual property. Assert your rights to your content, logos, product names and designs by using the copyright, trademark or service mark symbols right from the outset especially on Web-based platforms. Protection is not just a legal issue for your business, it is an economic one.
8. Do an audit of your Intellectual Property. You will need to answer several questions, such as who actually owns the intellectual property. Make sure you have agreements with your employees that inventions or designs created during employment belong to the business and not to the employee. Have you registered with the appropriate U.S. and/or international government agency? Are you utilizing the right amount of resources to enforce your registrations?
9. Hire a computer security company. These professionals offer a number of services that add redundant layers of security, such as reviewing your system, installing security software and checking computer files for existing malware that may be ready to launch.
Your office-based data protection software also can be synced to the server-side software used by reputable Web-hosting companies. If in-office and server-side protections aren't in sync, they may not provide the protection you're paying for.
The information stored on your office computer is essential for the effective operation of your daily business activity. It's also your responsibility as a small business owner to protect your clients' and customers' information.
Take a proactive stance against data and intellectual property theft.
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