Viruses, worms, trojans, and spyware all represent unauthorized use of your computer systems. They can destroy data, cause downtime, and degrade performance of your network. Luckily, with some common sense procedures, the proper use of Anti-virus (AV) software, and a good maintenance plan, you can protect yourself. NEVER open email attachments from an unknown or anonymous sender. NEVER open any email AT ALL from an unknown or anonymous sender if you are using Microsoft Outlook. NEVER download and install software from dubious or uknown sources. Always use quality Anti-Virus software. Atlantis Consulting recommends Eset NOD32 Anti-Virus software to scan your emails, computers, web-downloads, and servers for malicious software.
Once synonomous with meat from a can, SPAM now has a much darker and sinister meaning: Unsolicited Email. SPAM does not have to be a problem, there are a few solutions out there that will eradicate most of your unwanted email ads, while not throwing out valid messages. Atlantis recommends a server-based solution called Spam Assassin coupled with the qmail mail server with anti-spam measures to eliminate up to 90% of your unwanted SPAM email without the "false-positives" of the other solutions we've tried in the past.
One of the primary benefits of the Internet, is that legitimate communication between computers is easier than ever. Unfortunately, this has also made it possible for intruders to break in, from anywhere in the world. Firewalls are special purpose routers which allow authorized connections, while blocking access attempts by unauthorized parties. It is important to have a reputable, PROPERLY CONFIGURED firewall between any network containing secure information and the Internet, and any other networks on which you cannot 100% control access to (read: Wireless Networks).
Virtual Private Networks, or VPN's are becoming more common as encryption technologies and public-policy have evolved. A Virtual Private Network allows secure computer-network or network-network communications using an insecure network (usually the Internet) as a transport. VPN's allow authorized users to access your business network while on the road, and allow telecommuting employees, to process from their homes, freeing up office space.
Unsecured communications over E-mail can lead to a loss of proprietary information. Account numbers, credit card numbers, social security numbers, PASSWORDS(!), and any information of an proprietary nature should NEVER be sent over "clear-text" email. Using a tool such as GPG (GNU Privacy Guard) can allow you to not only encrypt, but also digitally sign sensitive documents and emails. With the GnuPG-Plugin by GData, you can have email signing and encryption at your fingertips.
A common misconception about computer security is that the risk is only from high-tech exploits, carried out by faceless "black-hat" hackers in the night. Realistically, many a company has been sabotaged by a disgruntled employee or ex-employee with more access than he or she should have. It takes relatively little effort for a complete stranger to compromise your systems by using an unsecured, or poorly secured workstation after-hours, or even in the middle of the day; many activities go unnoticed in a busy office. Kevin Mitnik, one of the most notorious hackers ever, relied on what he called "social engineering" to gain access to corporate networks, basically the same, low-tech confidence tricks that have been used for centuries. Just as it easier for a gas-station attendent at a rest area to get your credit card number than to hack it from an e-commerce site, it is easier for someone to gain access with a password that has been written down and stuck to the monitor, than by cracking your firewall. Employee education is the best policy and can save you thousands of dollars.
Your network MUST be secured. All servers and desktop computers need to be password protected, and employees need to be trained in secure practices. A trained professional should be in charge of designing and periodically reviewing a security plan and system logs read regularly to look for signs of intrusion. Antivirus software should be used on all computers, and updated weekly. Policies such as forcing users to change their passwords should be weighed against the likelihood that this will lead to an increased instance of passwords being written down and stored where they can easily be discovered. Like most aspects of computer "science", security is more an art than pure science.
Atlantis Consulting can perform most security audits in about an afternoon, diagnosing your windows systems, routers, unix systems, and firewalls to find common vulnerabilities. We also offer preemptive solutions such as trip-wire software which find hacking attempts before they are successful. Our belief is that security should be an integral part of network and software design, not an add-on feature, and design our networks and software with that in mind.