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Internet security is important for every dealer

Boat dealerships are small businesses. As such, it’s easy to assume we wouldn’t be a target for computer hackers and thieves. After all, it’s much more lucrative for them to hack into a bank or big corporation than a poor boat dealer.

“Me, a target, huh! What are they going to get, anyway?” It’s just such a casual mind-set that leaves us at risk. It is today’s reality that criminal hackers can run an automated scan on just about anything connected to the Internet. Moreover, even if you are not doing any online commerce per se, you can still be a target, according to David F. Carr, Forbes Magazine’s columnist on technology for small and mid-size businesses. In his article “No Business Is Too Small For IT Security,” Carr aptly describes today’s criminal computer attackers this way: “It's like walking down the street jiggling the door handles on every car to see who left the door open, whether it's a shiny Mercedes or a rusty old Chevy.”

Small businesses are increasingly finding themselves the target of “phishing” attacks, says Carr. Phishing is a fraudulent process of attempting to acquire sensitive information like usernames, passwords and credit card details, for example, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in a communication such as an e-mail. These attackers can even get the online banking credentials of a small business and empty its accounts!

A hacker could also access your customer database that might contain sensitive personal information such as social security numbers, credit cards, etc. In fact, because of growing worries and reports of identity theft, Carr notes many states now require businesses to notify everyone affected by any such breach. Further, that could cost $130 per person, so a data theft impacting 1,000 customers could cost $130,000. Numbers like that should get the attention of all dealers!

So what’s a dealer do? Carr cites a variety of moves. Start with some simple basics, like effectively using passwords. Believe it or not, most small businesses use a standard password for almost everything . . . and never change it! In addition, small businesses often fail to renew the security software that came with their PCs and, thus, never get the critical updates. While hiring an IT specialist may not be in a dealer’s budget these days, there are still many low cost PC security options on the market. Some might even be free -- for example, Microsoft Security Essentials.

Carr correctly admonishes all small businesses to take any and all necessary steps to include configuring firewalls and the security parameters of wireless networking devices. Not doing so clearly leaves the door unlocked. And, while perfect security may not be reachable for a small business, he correctly summarizes that we don't have to achieve perfect security to be in a much stronger position, thus leaving someone else be the "easy target."

If you haven’t considered your computer security issues lately, this is a good time to review and make substantive improvements.

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