Computer security is particularly important for home-based businesses which often share their computer resources with family members.
If you share your computer with your family, particularly children who are less aware of online risks, then you need to take extra care to secure your computer and your business information. You need to be aware of legal obligations to protect personal data that has been collected from customers and ensure it cannot be inadvertently accessed or shared.
Make sure your business information is kept separate from other information on any shared computer.
Also ensure that you regularly and separately back up your business information and the applications that are essential to running your business.
- Create separate user profiles for each computer user. This will allow you to control who can access your business data by restricting access to drives and folders to specific user accounts.
- Make regular backups of critical data and programs on your computer. Store the backup disks in secure offsite storage. Read more information on backing up your data.
- Install security software that includes a firewall, antivirus and anti-spyware. Ensure that it is updated automatically. Read more on securing your computer.
- Set strong passwords and change them regularly - consider making a diary entry to remind yourself.
- Keep yourself informed about the latest cyber security risks. Subscribe to email notification services that keep you informed about the latest cyber security risks and solutions. See our Alert Service.
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- Create separate user profiles for each computer user
- Isolate your business data
- Create offsite back-ups
Create separate user profiles for each computer user
You should create individual user accounts for all users that have access to your computers.
Most operating systems allow you to create Standard or Administrator level accounts. It is recommended that normal users have accounts without the ability to install software (Standard accounts) as this greatly reduces the chance of spyware or viruses being installed without their knowledge.
If you have employees that occasionally need to install or modify software, create two accounts for them. Create one as a Standard account and one as an Administrator account. They should only use the Administrator account when they need the additional privileges.
If you have children sharing the computer you can also enable parental controls for the operating system and the browsers to further reduce the chance that could make accidental changes to the computer.
Having separate user accounts also allows you to control who can access your business data by restricting access to drives and folders to specific user accounts.
Isolate your business data
If your computer is shared between business and personal users you should isolate your business related data, particularly if you collect and store personal data about your customers (credit card, bank account, phone numbers, email addresses, etc).
The simplest approach to isolate it is to keep it on a separate external USB hard disk or file server. Be aware that USB memory sticks (USB keys, thumb drives) are not as reliable or long lasting as an external USB hard disk and should not be used as the primary storage of your business data. Having your data on a separate USB drive or file server allows for easy backup and quick removal or isolation if you want to allow other users to use the same computer or your network.
Australian businesses have legal obligations to protect personal data that has been collected from customers and you may be personally liable if the data that you have collected is stolen or misused by one of your employees or somebody from outside of your business.
Create offsite back-ups
Home based business may not have the same level of security as a normal business and may be more likely to suffer a break in.
You should ensure that you create additional copies of your data so that they can be stored offsite. Having an offsite copy ensures that in the event of a break in or fire that you have a copy of your data away from the danger.
A typical backup strategy involves making daily backups of data which are stored in a secure location on premises with a weekly backup that is removed from the premises once a week.
Companies on the internet are now offering online backup of data. Some antivirus products also now come with free online backup with around 2GB of space. These can be an ideal solution for some small business but remember that you are entrusting your data to a third party company and that you have little control of who has access to it from within their organisation.
Don't forget to ensure that all backups (onsite and offsite) are encrypted and protected with a password.