Anti hacking tips for home based online business.

In previous articles, we've looked at protecting your online business in relation to credit card fraud and web site hacking, but another very important aspect of online security focuses on your most important tool - the computer you use to run your business.

Many of us involved in ecommerce choose to work from home - it's a comfortable environment, we can dress the way we want, save time and money in travel and be close to our loved ones.

But if the computer you use to run your online business is the same one your children use for homework and general surfing, this is potentially a very dangerous situation.

A recent security survey reported that 20% of home PC's are infected with viruses and over 80% contained spyware and adware. Frightening figures.

The following are a few anti-hacking tips that will help in keeping your business systems secure.

Don't ignore operating system updates
Practically every day, some new security flaw is found in the most critical aspect of your business - the operating system on which all your other software runs. While it's a major pain in the butt to apply updates and patches so regularly, especially if you access the web via dialup, it's nonetheless of vital importance not to put off performing these tasks as part of regular maintenance.

Don't wait to be alerted via mainstream media of problems that have been discovered - more often than not, these notifications will be delayed. As a part of your daily routine, it's wise to visit the software vendors' site and keep abreast of any critical security updates. In the case of Microsoft, you'll need to go to the Windows Update site.

Anti-virus software used *properly*
Install anti-virus software and ensure that it's regularly updated - this is of the utmost importance. Many times I have come across people who believe that because an anti-virus program is installed, they are protected, yet the last time the virus data file was updated was months or even years ago. Even missing one update could bring down your computer and the business you have struggled so long to build.

Also remember to password protect the settings on the software so no-one else can alter protection levels.

Firewall software
Anti-virus software isn't enough - it's also a good idea to install firewall software which will help prevent unauthorized incoming and outgoing communications from your computer while connected to the Internet. In most instances you wouldn't even be aware that these illegitimate probes and scans of your systems are occurring. Port scanning is *very* common and is carried out with a view to finding weaknesses in your system that can then be exploited.

You can download free firewall software from Sygate.

If you are using Windows XP, then you're in luck as there's already an effective firewall included - but it's not enabled by default.

To activate the firewall in Windows XP:

- Go to "Start"
- Go to "Settings", then "Network connections"
- Select your Internet connection
- Click on "Properties"
- Click on "Advanced"
- Check the box in the "Internet Connection Firewall" section
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