By Thomas Vollrath, CEO, 123 Reg

In recent years there has been a significant surge in the amount of online businesses, with widespread and faster internet access being a key driver for this growth. The increase in internet usage creates a number of problems for businesses in terms of IT security.

Small businesses that do not have security measures in place could find themselves falling victim to an online threat. For instance: a customer database could be stolen and used by spammers, important information could be deleted from their systems, or software could be damaged.

So, what can a business do to ensure it is protected?

1. Firstly, get the basics covered. This means installing security and anti-virus software onto computers, keeping applications up-to-date and taking regular backups of important data.

2. Ensure hosting is secure. A company’s website and other online services, such as email, intranets or order processing systems can be vulnerable to attacks from hackers or viruses.

3. Consider a shared hosting package. Web hosts usually restrict what can be installed and work hard to ensure all the systems are protected and up-to-date to make sure one customer’s mistake will not affect others using that server.

4. Flexibility in web hosting enables small companies to run their business how they want to, rather than based upon the restrictions of their hosting provider. However also be aware that flexibility, such as the ability to install any software, also brings with it increased security implications.

5. Block unwanted traffic completely. This can be done through a firewall, which can be either a piece of software installed onto a computer, or a separate piece of physical hardware. Both perform similar jobs: they filter out malicious internet traffic, before it can cause damage to the server.

6. Consider a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certification, which provides security by proving identity and scrambles information sent across the internet, so nobody else can see it. An SSL will give peace of mind that important data on a website is safe and secure, which is particularly important for customers making an online purchase and entering private information.

It is also important to consider the potential threats that employees can bring into the business. Many companies allow members of staff to access instant messaging services and social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, while at work. These increasingly popular websites can often find themselves the target of malicious code, viruses and key-loggers. Although many employers will want to keep employees happy by allowing them to access such websites and services, it is also important to ensure they are aware of the security risks involved and the need to be vigilant of any potential threats. Failing that, it might be worth reviewing which sites staff have access to.