Be as vigilant about on-line security as you are in your store
The Internet brings you many opportunities to expand your marketing reach. In fact, every small retailer can sell to a global audience today if theyre on the Internet.
A Web site or Web store on the Internet is usually created by a Web designer skilled in HTML code and hosted by an Internet service provider, allowing others to access it on the Web. These lines are usually T-1 or T-3 high-speed, high-capacity lines that permit information to be transferred quickly and to multiple computers.
At a recent jewelry show, it was clear many small independent retailers are trying to create and host their own Web sites instead of paying for outside help. This may seem a good cost-cutting move, but it could turn into a dangerous and catastrophic mistake for anyone who fails to take the necessary security precautions.
The stories you hear of hackers and computer viruses in cyberspace are true. Connecting your computer to the Internet without first understanding the risk and knowing how to defend against it is like opening a jewelry store with no security.
Even harmless browsing can be dangerous. Downloading e-mail can leave you susceptible to thousands of viruses that copy your passwords, transmit your information to others, erase your hard drive or corrupt selected files. Being connected to the Web full-time increases the risk.
Your Internet service provider may store orders, credit card information client lists, inventory and pricing information. Without having the proper safeguards built into the HTML code, prying eyes can steal this information, change it, delete it, even crash your site.
While passwords offer a small level of security, other measures are needed to keep your files secure. Antivirus software is a must for any home or business computer. This software filters out any harmful programs that may reach your computer. It must be updated regularly, typically every week or two, to stay current because new viruses are discovered daily.
You also will need to install a firewall if your stores computer system is connected to the Internet. The firewall can be a piece of hardware or a software program that allows only authorized users to see your computer files. A proxy server performs a similar function.
Security on the Internet is essential for everyone who comes in contact with it. For example, a virus such as the common PW Steal virus can steal your password and e-mail it to a remote user. The remote user then can access your accounts, e-mail and other files without your knowledge.
Before diving in and swimming in the deep water of Internet retailing, make sure you know how. If youre unsure of how to make your personal and Web files safe, consult with a qualified systems administrator skilled in Internet security.
by Elie Ribacoff
Elie Ribacoff is president of Worldwide Security Systems & Consultants, New York City, a security company specializing in the jewelry industry. You may reach him at (718) 380-0209 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some ways to protect yourself against new viruses:
- Use antivirus software.
Yes, it's annoying to wait for the software to scan a disk or file every time you copy something to your hard drive, but it's worth it.
- Update the software frequently.
The manufacturer of your software should post frequent updates on its Web site to help detect newly created viruses. If you use software that's two years old and haven't updated it lately, it won't help you. (ZDNet catalogs most software updates on its Web site; visit updates.zdnet.com.)
- Be wary of e-mail attachments from people you don't know.
If you receive an .EXE or document file from an unknown party, download it to your hard drive and scan it with your software before opening it.
- Watch out when downloading software from the Web.
As long as you download the program from a big-name company or reputable site, you shouldn't have to worry. But if you've found somebody's personal site that offers plug-ins or self-written software, be aware a virus may come along with it.
- Don't boot your computer from a floppy disk.
If you leave your floppy disk in the A: drive when you shut down, most PCs will detect it and give you an error message. If your computer doesn't do this, be sure to eject the disk when you shut down so the computer doesn't try to boot from the floppy disk when you start up again.
- If you contract a virus, your antivirus software should "disinfect" the disk and erase the problem.
If this doesn't work, however, delete the infected file. When a virus spreads and can't be deleted, you may have to reformat the hard drive (which is why it's important to back up frequently). If you get a virus, contact all the people with whom you've exchanged e-mails or shared files recently.