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Last Update: Saturday April 29, 2017

Art Wong, Vice President of Symantec Security Response

Your data captures your essence.  Protect it!

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Silicon Valley, Seattle, San Diego:  That we live in an increasingly hostile world is self-evident.  Though cash has been king throughout the millennia,  something quite profound has happened with the advent of computers. Within a few years, our business --every equation and process that gives order to our day and every relation that defines its history -- has been detailed and stored in a computer and represents 1000s of hours of work.

Your data is so unique, recreating it would be debilitating. 

One of the biggest problems in small business today is that we under-estimate the value of that data and we have trouble believing anything can happen to those computers - until it does. And, it will.

Issues that face each of us range from viruses to automated internet attacks to outright theft and natural disasters. The cost of these issues in lost information and lost time sometimes is the business itself. Most of us know we need to take a few steps to secure our data but simply do not know where to start.

This episode of the show is our 1-2-3. Please, have somebody in your business become an expert. If you are a sole proprietor, you'll just have to do it!

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ART: I founded a company in 1999 that was later acquired by Symantec in 2002. I was in entertainment software. I developed games for the Nintendo platform. As as a matter of fact, I created the tetra schemes for the Nintento 64 platform and for Gameboy.

HATTIE: Why leave games for security?

ART: Part of it was just an accident. When you run a game company with a lot of open networks and a lot of people accessing these networks, we had difficulties trying to secure our own networks. Secure our own intellectual property -- our games and our code and our software and it was really a natural progression from securing our own stuff which led me into the interest of helping other people secure their environments and helping people protect their intellectual property and their software.

HATTIE: What year was it that you said to yourself, "you know, someone could steal my stuff code?"

ART: It was probably 1995. There was a lot of access to the Internet, transfer of files and collaboration between different people. There was a lot of using different types of systems that really opened up security and made us vulnerable to attack from others who wanted our information. At that time we were concerned about everything. The value or assets of our company were all digital bits and bites. That was something that was open for people to steal, or copy or take. And that's how we stayed in business.

The thought is, where's the value in your own company? At that time, I was running a small business and I knew that the value was our own intellectual property that we put in these little black boxes for our employees to share and get access to and develop. But, that made it vulnerable for others to get at.What I had really thought of when I looked at our security was, what would happen if someone got at this? What would happen if we were to lose this? Our company would be pretty much out of business. Even just not being able to make deadlines. To be productive and communicate.

It starts with awareness. Being aware of having assets on computers and networks that we need to protect. Then, how do we go and protect these things? It starts with awareness then moves into what kind of things do we have to protect ourselves from? We see a lot of threats that have come to light in the last few years. We've seen worms, we've seen viruses, we've seen blended threats. Combinations of worm-like activity and viruses. We've seen these spread globally affecting consumers, small business and even enterprise companies.

Everyone is really at risk. But small business and consumers can do a lot to protect themselves. As much as 60-70% of computers out there don't even have anti-virus software or updated anti-virus software or firewalls.It starts with awareness of what you need to protect. Then having the software that you need to protect your current systems. They are very easy to attain. Buy in a store what you need and that includes layered protection. This will include anti-virus protection, firewall protection, even intrusion detection software and anti-spam and anti spyware protection. These softwares are commonly available and most of them are available as integrated packages. These will protect you each and every month.

HATTIE: Should I have redundancy?

We store a lot of personal and confidential information on our computer systems and they need to be protected and we need to be aware of that. In terms of what we can do; it is simple. It's a very good practice to backup your data to protect yourself form interruption of your business; to protect yourself from loss of data. It's always a good idea to back up.

There are several options which include local backups on your own machine. Backups that you can carry away with you like diskette or backup drives then there are web-based backups mechanisms available. The key thing is to have a backup in the first place. Most people don't back up their files and they really should. These processes can be automated. It doesn't require a person to sit there and create a floppy disk. And, take the updates to make sure you are protected from the next new virus or the next new blended threat.

HATTIE: How did you feel when you realized others could steal your games?

ART: Vulnerable. I needed to protect myself. And if I needed to protect myself then others do to. By having the knowledge in the security industry to secure our intellectual property, I was drawn to help others secure theirs. It was a natural progression. Knowledge is really power and to be able to help others with that power certainly benefits everybody. Symantec is a leader in the Internet Security business and I really liked the vision. It was natural progression to come from a small company to a big one to be able to get out to the masses our product. To have it sold all over the world. As opposed to our small company trying to sell this and ge into smaller markets. The suite that Symantec has to be able to offer a wide range of products to customers, consumers, small business and big business was really attractive.

HATTIE: Why is computer protection more and more important?

ART: If my dad were in the restaurant business today, he would notice there's a lot of automation in terms of taking orders to stock and bring in materials and food to keep accounting. The restaurant business and all small businesses are very much different than they were just a number of years ago. They are much more computerized and small business is relying on the availability of networks. So what would be the affect of losing this access, of not having availability, of losing financial data that we keep on our little computer systems.

It doesn't have to be complicated. We use computers and networks for simple things to help us be more productive and installing simple security software, layered security, such that we can get through firewalls updated anti-virus protection, these are really simple. Get them from a store. Many systems come with this software and all you have to do is make sure it is updated.

HATTIE: You are trying to make it easy.

And it should be easy because the restaurant owner, the hardware store owner -- their business is hardware and selling food and serving people, not computer security. What we do is make it easy for them to secure their data so that they can do what they do best.

HATTIE: So why are you doing this?

ART: I can't imagine doing anything else. We have to be aware of threats. These are viruses, worms, Trojan horses and spyware. Spyware is software that can be placed on your system that can send your confidential information out to somebody else. Like credit card information. Any information can be sent to someone with spyware. What you need to protect yourself from spyware and worms and viruses and blended threats you really need anti-virus software and firewalls and possibly intrusion detection to protect yourself.

A user doesn't do anything to really make themselves susceptible. They just are on the Internet an just by being on the Internet they are vulnerable. They need to acquire the software to protect themselves.

HATTIE: It's like going to kindergarten where kids come with a cold and your kid comes home with it. What is a firewall and why do we need one?

ART: Everyone needs a firewall and and anti-virus protection whether you are a single home user or a small business or even larger. Everybody needs protection if they are going to be on the Internet. A firewall is a piece of software, or an appliance, that you attach to your computer system or networks that helps prevent unwanted traffic coming into your network from the Internet. It allows people to set up rules for who is allowed to come in and who is not allowed to come in. Very much like doors and locks on your home.

HATTIE: Who are these bad people and do you think you've met any of them?

ART: It is possible that I may have met some of these people. Hackers and people who write viruses and worms don't look any different than you or me. It is hard to point them out. Hackers and virus writers have their own motivations. I think each one is different. People don't do anything to make themselves get these worms viruses or blended threats. It's just a matter of surfing, being connected to the Internet and as simple as using email. ...It propagates itself and becomes a global problem very rapidly.

Best practice is you shouldn't open attachments from people you don't know or it is unusual to receive emails regarding a particular topic or with particular attachments. You should always be very diligent about what you are opening. If you have good up to date anti-virus software it will stop most viruses that people get.

Spam is a probably on its own. 50% of all emails we get today are spam we don't want that are cluttering our mail boxes and preventing us from doing other things. There are software programs to block spam.

Most people aren't aware that they have something valuable and that other people can get access to it. And steal it or damage it. People who go on the Internet and use email and surf, they don't deserve to be broken into they don't deserve to get viruses or blended threats. As a first step, all they have to do is install some common sense software they can get anywhere to keep them from getting viruses or blended threats. We have to stop and do it today. It doesn't take very much time at all. It's actually pretty simple.

In addition to getting viruses, home users and small business owners' computers can be used to attack other computers worldwide. Unknown to them, they can be easily infected without their knowing then those computers are used to attack others. When we help ourselves by securing our own computers we help the Internet as a whole. We help prevent other attacts on other people.

There are over 65,000 viruses, some 15 new ones per day. We sit on 120 million desktops world wide and our customers submit samples to us.   When we get the virus we create an inoculation for it.