If you don’t take basic steps to protect your work computer, you put it and all the information on it at risk.  You can potentially compromise the operation of other computers on your business’ network, or even the functioning of the network as a whole.  As a business owner, you understand the importance of operational efficiency and the need to streamline your company, including your employees’ processes and tasks. To keep your business running at optimal performance, one of your top priorities should be the security of your technology. Security attacks and breaches can impact your work force and, ultimately, your company’s output.

By understanding the current security threat landscape, you’ll be equipped to make informed software decisions and educate your work force on safer online practices.

Fortunately, there are a few simple tips that can help you protect your company from security risks, ensuring you and your staff remain protected and your bottom line isn’t negatively impacted. Here are a few:

Every employee should have their own profile set up and all logins should be protected with strong passwords which need to be changed every 4-6 weeks.

Every time employees leave their desk, they should log off. Screen savers should also be set to log users off after a few minutes of inactivity.

Don’t become prey to viruses and malware. There are three main malware categories infecting businesses: worms, trojans and miscellaneous potentially unwanted software. These security risks pose a serious threat to your computers and, left unprotected, can infiltrate your company’s network, causing damage and the loss of important business data. To protect yourself from these risks, use free antivirus tools from recognized and trusted vendors.

Login details and passwords should not be written on pieces of paper and never written on a post it and stuck to computer screens.

Educate staff about your IT security, keep up to date with what scams are happening currently in the computer world and let staff know what to be careful of and monitor this.

Avoid phishing scams and never respond to unsolicited requests to update your business account information. One of the most common practices you can implement in your work force is never to open or click on links contained in unsolicited e-mails from someone you don’t know. These e-mails can contain viruses and can try to steal your business information, such as company passwords and other confidential business information. To reduce unwanted e-mail, use an e-mail filtering service and implement e-mail authentication, which verifies the sender’s identity, within your work force.

Keep anti-virus and anti-spy ware software up to date. Most small businesses have anti-virus and anti-spy ware software in place, but forget or neglect to make sure they have the latest versions or the latest updates, which can open the business up to all sorts of data security breaches.

Make sure you’re visiting a legitimate website. By clicking on a link to a website you’re unfamiliar with, you risk infecting your computer — and potentially your entire business network — with malware or other security threats. New Web browsing tools will notify you of unauthentic websites by highlighting the domain name in your address bar in black. Also, when you are conducting a general online search, your browser will highlight safe, trustworthy websites by showing a green address bar.

If you outsource any critical functions or store information offsite, ensure you vet third-party security practices such as cloud providers or ISPs. You are still responsible for that data and should ensure the third party is secure.

If your employees visit websites that offer payment options, make sure the sites are encrypted. Do you and your employees regularly make online purchases? You need to ensure there is encryption protecting your confidential data. You’ll know a website uses encryption when you see a yellow padlock on the bottom right of your computer screen. Without this encryption notice, your company information, including credit card and Social Security numbers, is not secure, and you become susceptible to security attacks and cybercrime.

As your company’s leader, it’s important for you to promote security awareness within your organization. Knowledge is one of the easiest tools for achieving strong security levels.When you educate your staff on these security tips, not only will they be better protected from attacks and risks, but also they will deliver optimal productivity that will allow you to focus on important business initiatives.