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Last Update: Monday June 21, 2021

Key Idea: Keep Creeps Out And Let Employees In

Data security in the office is a lot like security at home: know who you're letting in before you open the door.

Key Question:


Sure. You want a firewall to filter junk and you want a VPN for all of the workaholics on your team. Some people would rather work than not work!

The IT person at at Madison Park Greeting wants to be able to work on the systems anytime it comes to mind or anytime he feels like working. To access Madison Park Greeting's servers then, he uses a virtual private network. This doesn't mean every employee feels this way but why not tap into the drive and enthusiasm and provide employees with a way to work from home?

Most of us keep the doors to our homes locked. When uninvited visitors arrive, we look through a window or peephole before opening the door. At the office, we have a front desk person who greets and evaluates all visitors.

People are not allowed to roam our homes or offices uninvited. We let them in if we know them or if they appear non-threatening to us for other reasons. A UPS man at the door with a UPS truck parked on the street is not a general cause for concern but we would turn some strangers away if our suspicions were aroused.

Q: How do you prevent unwanted intrusions to your e-mail?

A: Your first line of defense is at the perimeter, where your mail system first encounters communiques from the outside world. The second line of defense is your local unit, your desktop, laptop, digital assistant, telephone, pager, or any device you use to access your mail. Sophisticated anti-viral solutions such as those offered by Trend Micro, McAfee, and Symantec, combined with the security features of your network, such as the firewall, provide these two lines of defense. Even collectively, they do not obviate the need for a healthy level of skepticism for incoming e-mails. Even when the door is locked and the alarm system enabled, ultimately you and you alone decide whether to open the door.

You need to make your mail opening decisions with the same level of due diligence. Harmful attachments are often blocked by mail systems, meaning you can't err by opening them. Sometimes, because we are aware of this, we become lax, assuming that everything that hits our inbox must be OK. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Here are a few guidelines that can help you be diligent:

   1. Be extremely suspicious of any attachment from an unknown source. Don't open it, no matter how innocuous it looks.

2. Never open any file with an ".exe" extension without personally discussing with the sender. These .exe files are executable files, programs that contain instructions to execution commands which just might be "delete all the information on the network." Identity theft is a growing problem in e-mail. So if Mom sends you an .exe file, call her and confirm she really sent it before you open it. She is probably unwittingly spreading a virus. My mother, over 80 years old, has done it many times.

   3. Keep your systems clean. Many worms use the receiver's e-mail address book to promulgate themselves. The worm verifies and collects the addresses as it spreads itself. We all need software that checks our hard drive for worms and viruses and deletes them for us.. Worms can be smart so outsmart them with an email address that, when sent, will bounce back to you. Now then, you'll have to also pay a little more attention to just those returned emails with that address. Don't open it! Check to see if it contains a virus (with your security software, then have your machine cleaned and cleared of the worm or trojan.

Give Employees Safe Remote Access

Firewalls and virtual private networks can keep out the creeps! A firewall is simply a program or device that filters data coming from the Internet to your computer. At you can read, "A VPN is a private network that uses a public network (usually the Internet) to connect remote sites or users together. Instead of using a dedicated, real-world connection such as leased line, a VPN uses "virtual" connections routed through the Internet from the company's private network to the remote site or employee."

Questions for this clip: 1 | 2

Think about it

What employees do you have now who would enjoy working from home?  Do all of your  employees know how to keep the creeps out of their computers?   Do you open your e-mails at the same level of awareness that you open your door?

Clip from: Protect Your Priceless Data - Understand Security

Meet Art Wong of Symantec, data security guru

Silicon Valley, Seattle, San Diego:  One of the biggest problems in small business today is that we under-estimate the value of our 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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Symantec Security Response

Art Wong, Senior Vice President

20330 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014, CA 95014

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Business Classification:
IT security

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Keep Creeps Out And Let Employees In

HATTIE: (voiceover) I learned more about viruses from Art Wong, vice president of Symantec Security Response. Symantec is famous for its Norton anti-virus software which sits on 120 million desktops world wide. This company is another force for good helping us fight the bad and the ugly.

ART WONG: 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 wary and very diligent about who you are getting email from, what you're reading and what you're opening. To prevent a lot of it, if you have good up to date anti-virus software it will stop most viruses that people get.

ART: 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 worms 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.

HATTIE: We can't be too busy to do this.

ART: We have to stop and do it today. It doesn't take very much time at all. It's actually pretty simple.

Give Employees Safe Remote Access

RON: We have McAfee Software that protects our entire pipeline from Internet to workstation. We have a desktop version of the software that scans everything that's opened by that particular workstation. We also have a server version that patrols any emails that come in, any attachments associated with those emails, etc. So it's on everybody's workstation. The user at that workstation doesn't have to think about it.

ART: 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.

HATTIE: Is a firewall a beginning point to keep the creeps out?

ROBIN: Absolutely a beginning point but there is no silver bullet here. Unfortunately, we can't give small businesses a magic pill that will take care of everything. They are going to need firewalling technologies I would recommend both at their perimeter but also resident on their desktops I'd recommend an anti-viral solution like a virus scan or a service like ASAP. And, I'd recommend a VPN if there are remote workers. And, I'd recommend a VPN if there are remote workers. The principal is dialing in at night, or accessing remotely he also needs a VPN. There's a series of things they are going to need.

HATTIE: Almost all the upside of mobility and ubiquitous computing has brought with it the downside of hazard.

ROBIN: That is the paradox. On one hand we're trying to open up our networks, so we can collaborate with partners, be more in touch with customers, our employees can have more flexible work hours. At the same time, every time we do that we're opening up holes in our environment and for every good guy that can communicate through those channels so can bad guys.

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