It seems as though every day brings another headline story of Internet hacking into businesses, large and small. Many business owners assume that firewalls and antivirus software are enough to protect their computers and valuable data, causing them to overlook their Internet security and putting their business at risk.

The fact is that as the Internet has grown in sophistication — so, too, have the threats to the security of the people who use it. One technology firm that screens emails for spam and viruses on behalf of small-business customers estimates that 3.6 percent of all messages contain a virus.

Central Maine SCORE certified mentor Peter Sassano warned, “As a business owner, you must be prepared to protect your IT hardware, software and data resources. The first step is to educate everyone at your business about the dangers and to set policies for using the Internet and opening email attachments. For example, don’t let employees use file-sharing Web sites, and prohibit downloading applications from unknown sites.

“Furthermore,” Sassano said, “all your computers, networks and email servers should have antivirus software and other security features. Use a firewall to block incoming traffic that is not needed for your business. And update all operating systems, software and security measures on a regular basis. Older versions are particularly vulnerable to attack. If you discover that a PC is infected, take it off your network so that fixes can be installed.” offers a full range of antivirus, anti-spam and computer problem-solving solutions for small business. The site has dozens of articles on computer security and maintenance, such as downloadable publications on protecting Windows operating environments, managing risk and other timely topics.

Other helpful information sources for computer security include and the security section of Microsoft’s Small Business Center at

For more help with this and other small-business issues, contact Central Maine SCORE at 782-3708 or at for an appointment with a volunteer mentor. In Oxford Hills, call 743-0499; in Rumford and Mexico, call 364-3123. Or contact SCORE at

This column is provided by the Central Maine SCORE chapter.

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