It all starts so innocently. You hate your job. You’ve been laid off. You’re looking to make some extra money. So you commandeer your family computer and start (sometimes accidentally) a business.
This scenario gets played out every day in thousands of homes across America. Many a successful businesses have been born as a result of boredom, need or desperation. There’s nothing wrong with starting a business this way—but by using the family computer to start (and then possibly run) your company you could be opening up a Pandora’s box.
The troubles begin because business owners generally take computer security issues more seriously than “civilians” do. So while you’re using your computer to do things entrepreneurs do—buy products, create a business plan, bank online and so much more—your kids are playing games and sharing links with their BFFs. But all of this seemingly innocent activity can expose your data to all sorts of bad things, such as malware, spyware, spam and outright theft of your information.
You may think your data is protected because you have a consumer security solution on your home computer. That may—or may not—be true. There’s nothing wrong with using a consumer solution to protect your data—if it’s the right solution. Most problems occur because many consumers don’t have adequate protection on their computers to begin with, and don’t think about adding or upgrading their software as needed.
Natalie Severino, the director of Consumer Product Marketing at TrendMicro (which just introduced its Trend Micro Titanium security product) says most consumers mistakenly think their data (personal or business) is protected by anti-virus software, so they don’t worry.
But you need to be concerned. The statistics are startling. According to primary consumer research commissioned by Trend Micro for their Titanium 12 product launch:
- 66 percent of consumers know they would be “financially susceptible” if someone got access to the information on their computers.
- Although 31 percent of consumers are “very concerned” about online safety, 36 percent click on a link at least once a month that takes them to an “unexpected site.”
- 73 percent are worried about online theft and 14 percent claim they’re actually been the victim of online identity theft.
- Almost 50 percent say they’ve already experienced some type of data loss.
If you have kids, your potential computer troubles grow exponentially. While most parents (83 percent) are “very concerned” about what their kids could be exposed to online, only 30 percent check their child’s social media profiles. And 35 percent say their kids have clicked on malicious links.
So you can see the potential danger of sharing a computer with your family. But that data could be at risk even if you don’t have kids, or don’t let your children near your work computer. Severino says 51 percent of small-business employees visit non-work-related sites on their work computers, again exposing your company data. Or many employees have work data loaded on their personal computers, which their families have access to. As more businesses go virtual, or allow remote working, this problem will only get worse.
Severino says it’s all due to “consumerization,” a growing trend driven by the availability of less-expensive and more accessible (including mobile) technology. But there’s good news: In many cases, you can use more affordable consumer software solutions for your business. For instance, if your business has less than 10 employees, Severino says, you can use parental controls found on consumer security software to block your employees’ access to certain websites.
If you’re concerned your employees might be inadvertently exposing your data, Severino suggests you create rules for use of work computers. She says explain explicitly how you want them to treat their work files and when to back up their data. If they’re using work computers, consider restricting access to certain websites, and not allowing them or their families to use the computer for personal business.
As the line between consumer and small business use of technology gets increasingly blurry, it’s your responsibility to keep your data safe. The key is to get the right product that ensures your business data is secure, so you can concentrate on growing your business.