Small companies ignorant of security?

Small businesses must become more aware that they are the potential victims of cybercrime, according to former White House security advisor Howard Schmidt.Speaking at an IT security event organised by managed services specialist Claranet at the House of Lords on Monday in the UK, Schmidt said all businesses are at risk through a lack of proper configuration of security equipment, or through not taking proper security precautions.

Small businesses must become more aware that they are the potential victims of cybercrime, according to former White House security advisor Howard Schmidt.

Speaking at an IT security event organised by managed services specialist Claranet at the House of Lords on Monday in the UK, Schmidt said all businesses are at risk through a lack of proper configuration of security equipment, or through not taking proper security precautions.

"SMEs have to realise that just because they are small, it doesn't mean they won't be targeted," Schmidt said. "Bad guys target wherever they can get money."

Ninety percent of small businesses and consumers install antivirus, but 10 percent never update the signatures, according to Schmidt. Small businesses with limited staffing resources simply do not have time to devote to cybersecurity issues, he said.

As well as malware, organisations need to be aware of important data leaving the company, often through human error. Employees using file-sharing networks are often not aware of the security implications, said Schmidt.

"Individuals working on peer-to-peer networks often don't realise they're sharing the whole contents of their drive," Schmidt said.

"You can find Homeland Security vulnerability assessment documents online from employees [using P2P]."

However, Schmidt said that SMEs will eventually start using managed software security services, with third-party providers managing both low-cost application level security and end-point hardware.

"Eventually we'll move to a model of software as a service, with a low-cost environment of managed security services," he said.

However, application software should have security built in from the beginning, according to Schmidt, who said he looks forward to a time when software will be able to configure automatically to a user's system, and detect attempted security breaches.

"I don't think the end user should protect themselves. It's like safety in new cars -- built in. They want automatically self healing and self configuring software," said Schmidt.

Small business must take security into account in their planning, and decide whether to outsource security, invest in training, or allocate more resources. "Training is important because we don't know what we don't know," said Schmidt.

If a small enterprise does have a full-time IT manager, they should familiarise themselves with security standards, said Schmidt.

"IT managers need to follow best practices -- they should know what security applies to which devices. The trouble is many times they're far too busy."