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Three simple rules to keep your home based business safe

You may think that your small home business is secure, but the facts show that many small business owners aren't prepared. A Symantec Threat Awareness poll reports that 50 per cent of the owners thought that they were too small to be a security risk. Another 60 per cent said that they don't use any kind of Internet security. Thieves and hackers don't care how small your business is. Don't make your small business a target by ignoring these basic rules.

A professional burglar interviewed by Gina Roberts-Grey for MSN Money said his favourite activity was going through somebody's rubbish. If your rubbish contains company information and you put it out on the kerb the night before collection, you've just left an encyclopaedia of company data out for thieves to use in their research.

From magazines and flyers, they can tell what type of business you have. They may have access to company contact information and accounts through bills and receipts. They may have access to sensitive information through notes tossed into the rubbish. Not only can this lead to tampering with accounts, but identity theft is also a possibility.

Keep your bins indoors until time for them to be picked up. Use a service to shred company information or do it yourself and take it to a professional company for disposal.

If you work at home, you have an even greater need for home security. John Pullen writes in Entrepreneur about a Seattle-based small business that was broken into and old laptops were taken. The thieves used the data they found on these discarded computers to create fraudulent bank accounts.

Research your home security options. When you find a product that fits your home, business and budget then create a plan to make your home secure. Start with simple sensors on windows and doors that trigger an alarm when moved. Add security cameras and 24/7 monitoring until you know that your company's assets are safe and secure.

Thieves are sitting in front of their computers at home waiting for you to become a target. Verizon Business ran a thorough study that found that 81 per cent of all computer break-ins in 2011 were by hacking into the company's system. Install a firewall to slow down or stop someone from getting access to your computers without authorization. Antivirus software detects programs that have gotten through your firewall that could cause damage.

A typical threat happens when you or your employees introduce a problem into the system. They could access a website that contains a virus that tries to load itself onto your system. Or they receive an email with an attachment that they open and it contains a virus. They may also connect an unauthorized device to your system such as a personal laptop, tablet or smartphone and inadvertently infect your system with a virus.

Create a digital information policy that states how access to the system is to be managed. Include in your policy such things as:

  • The use of passwords and when they are to be changed
  • Which file types are allowed on the system?
  • How to handle email received from outside of the company?
  • What devices are allowed to be connected to the system?

If your staff are on the road often, include such items as:

  • Do not leave laptops or smartphones unoccupied in cars or hotel rooms
  • Use a VPN whenever accessing the company computer on a public network such as in a hotel or coffee shop

Once you have a policy in place, review it with each employee and make sure they understand it fully. The more they understand and are compliant with the policy, the lower the risk is that an "accident" by an employee will cause a security problem.