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Online Security Basics for Small Business Websites

By Nathan Segal, CIO
December 04, 2012 10:25 AM ET

CIO - Online security is, of course, critical if you are running a small business website. It's essential to have antivirus and spyware protection software in place to protect your computer, at home and on the road.

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Popular antivirus, antimalware and registry programs that will keep your machine safe and running well include AVG Free, Spybot Search & Destroy, Microsoft Security Essentials, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and ( Piriform CCleaner.

The Microsoft and AVG programs work equally well, but the former is free of ads and update nags, and the latter is not. Both are also good for spyware protection, though Malwarebytes is better at deep search for malware. Meanwhile, CCleaner is the most stable of the registry cleaners I researched. All of these programs are free, though AVG and other are also available by paid subscription.

VPN, SFTP Enhances Hosting Security

Another important area of security to address is your hosting service provider, as this is where many breaches begin. WordPress is a great content management system, but it's prone to hacker attacks.

One way to secure your WordPress installation is to make use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with a hosting service such as Turnkey Internet. A VPN offers many ways to protect your installation, though you'll need to check with each hosting provider to see what's available. As an example, make sure they offer cPanel, which makes it easy to do database backups.

When you upload files to the server, use the Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP). One good freeware program for doing this is WinSCP.

It's important to use strong passwords and change them regularly. If your SFTP programs allow for it, use all the available characters on your keyboard and use password combinations of 16 characters or more-Y(^&)/E%#V^(!d+dk for example.

Use Password Protection Programs

A big challenge these days is keeping track of all the passwords you use on a daily basis. Sooner or later, you'll have too many to manage. This is where password protection programs come into play. Roboform and LastPass are two programs that I use on my computer.

An alternative to storing passwords on your computer is using a Flash drive and storing the passwords in a text file. When you need to use a password, simply highlight it and copy it as needed. Roboform2go for USB is one of many programs that will do this for you.

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One upside to this method of storing passwords is that copying and pasting won't be picked up by keylogging malware. On the other hand, if you use a cybercafe or other location with shared computers, know that they can be infected with malware. If you have to use one of the computers, virus scan your flash drive immediately after you use it.

Stay Away From Rogue Software

One of the fastest growing online scams is fake anti-malware software, sometimes referred to as "rogue software." It's marketed by ads that simulate genuine software programs. You'll encounter seemingly legitimate names, such as DriveCleaner, AdvancedPCTweaker and PC Cleaner 2008.

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