Article

Protect Your Dealership From Electronic Intruders

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Smelley - Also by this author

Every computer is susceptible to a wide range of electronic intruders. Viruses, “Trojan horses,” worms and spyware cause immeasurable harm and most often without your knowledge until it’s too late. These invisible intruders can destroy your data, compromise your dealership computer operation, steal financial data and send your information to the far reaches of the Internet. Don’t be deceived into believing it can’t happen to you. If you are infected by any of these electronic intruders it will cost you time, money, productivity and much more.

This situation is largely preventable if you have an effective electronic protection policy in place. An effective policy should include the following components: physical security, access security, detection security and diligence.

Physical security is the simplest and most often overlooked method of prevention. Simply put, don’t allow non dealership personnel to use your computers. Limit usage by authorized personnel to dealership business only. Most virus related problems I resolve for my clients have resulted from unchecked and unauthorized access. In one case, an employee’s child visited the dealership on a regular basis and was allowed to browse the Internet unrestricted, resulting in viruses and spyware on all network computers. The down time and expense were quite costly and unnecessary to the dealership.
Access security consists of the implementation of passwords, granting limited rights to software based upon need, even limiting the Web sites employees may access. It is important for employees to understand the acceptable uses of Internet access and equally important to understand the unacceptable uses of Internet access. You should also define the consequences of policy violations, particularly with regard to browsing, and be prepared to enforce them.
 
Access security consists of the implementation of passwords, granting limited rights to software based upon need, even limiting the Web sites employees may access. It is important for employees to understand the acceptable uses of Internet access and equally important to understand the unacceptable uses of Internet access. You should also define the consequences of policy violations, particularly with regard to browsing, and be prepared to enforce them.
Detection security is a combination of software designed to detect and clean viruses and spyware from your computers. Antivirus software, while widely used, often provides a false sense of security. After installing antivirus software, you feel well protected and in the beginning you are, but over time the protection diminishes because new viruses are being developed daily. Updating your antivirus protection on a regular basis provides protection against these new viruses. It is also wise to use more than one type of software for more thorough protection. There are freeware programs available which will provide some level of protection; however the more powerful versions of these programs will normally require a nominal license fee. Licensing fees are a small price to pay in comparison to the time and money required to clean your systems after the fact. Choose software that provides automatic updates of new virus definitions and make sure the option is enabled.
 
Diligence, as always, is the key to your success. You cannot address this potential hazard just once. You need to periodically review your policy regarding usage, check computers to assure that software protection has not been disabled, remind all employees of your policy and your expectations as to their compliance with policy.
 
No one likes dealing with these electronic vandals, but ignoring them is risky. Take proactive steps to implement physical security, access security, detection security and be diligent over your computing assets and you will save yourself unnecessary expense and aggravation.

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