Why business owners shouldn’t rush out and buy antivirus

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Most people have now heard of the WannaCrypt (or WannaCry) malware, and most business owners have had a bit of a wakeup jolt as they realised that maybe they hadn’t paid as much attention to their system’s security as maybe they should have.

Apart from the headlines, this recent attack has also generated a plethora of companies offering anti-virus solutions to worried business owners. That a good thing surely? Well, maybe not. IT security can be a complex subject and your company data is valuable. Many firms (some only having a vague connection with the IT industry) are trying to cash in on business owners’ worries and are running advertising campaigns offering anti-virus solutions for this recent outbreak.

So, should you react to this recent malware outbreak? Probably not. And this is why: the malware exploited a known security hole in Windows. Any modern PC that was kept up-to-date simply was not vulnerable to the attack and this particular piece of malware has been stopped dead in its tracks (by an IT worker who struck lucky). Given the vast amount of publicity over this particular Windows vulnerability, it’s unlikely that anyone will waste time writing a new piece of malware that will try to push through a door that has been very firmly shut.

What then, should business owners do? The steps that can be taken to protect your business from malware and potential disaster are quite simple:

  • Make sure all your computers are running modern operating systems and are kept up-to-date. If you have any Windows XP machines, switch them off and buy a new PC. If you are still running Vista or Windows 7, then consider upgrading to Windows 10.
  • Don’t download freeware or non-business programs and don’t allow your staff to either. A business PC is a tool for work and shouldn’t be “blingged up”.
  • Get advice off professional IT security experts with industry qualifications and some history behind them.
  • Don’t use free anti-virus. Most are only free for non-business use and should you get infected you will get no support. You are better off paying for antivirus from well-known brands.
  • Make sure you back up your data. Then back it up again. Then keep backing it up every day.

It’s important that the above steps aren’t taken as a reaction to the recent outbreak, but become the company’s philosophy, as it should be for all of us, all of the time.

Mark Bamford is a Cyberoam and Fortinet qualified network security expert who has been working in the IT industry for 15 years and in the security sector for over 8 years.