Be social, but please don’t spread any nasty viruses

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Sticking with the social media theme this week, now that you have some tips about how to leverage the technology to benefit your business, make sure you don’t do more harm than good by latching onto a nasty virus.

The latest threat to your company network is a worm called Koobface, which can steal sensitive data from workstation hard drives. Like previous bugs, it not only infects your computer, but uses it as a point of entry to infect others — like your Facebook friends and business associates.

“Koobface’s most effective way to spread is to send links to your friends with text like ‘I can’t believe it’s you in this video — were you sober? LOL!’” said Chip Reaves, global director of Computer Troubleshooters, an international network of outsourced IT providers. “Koobface combines state-of-the-art software which can infect your compute in multiple ways with these creative lures designed to make you want to click on the infected links. It’s pretty insidious.”

So, how does a company take advantage of social networking sites without spreading malware and spyware to their colleagues, co-workers and friends?

Reaves offers the following advice for protecting your office network:

Anti-virus, anti-spyware: First and foremost every computer user on the Internet needs professional, up-to-date protection software. This should at a minimum include both anti-virus and anti-spyware support (some free packages do not include anti-spyware), and ideally should also include a link scanner component to minimize the risk of visiting Web sites which are known to be infected.

Claim your name, check your fame: If you are using social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, do periodic searches for yourself. This is especially helpful with small businesses to see what people are saying about you, but if you’re infected you may find updates from yourself — which you never sent.

Use a third-party Twitter application or your phone: Third party applications such as Tweetdeck or Twhirl can help block certain exploits that would otherwise infect you from the Twitter Web site. They can also help by showing where a “shortened” URL will take you before you click. Using your cell phone for updates also is safer than using the Twitter or Facebook Web sites directly.

Secure your browser: Make sure your web browser is the most up-to-date version, since many vulnerabilities in older browsers (even ones from just a few months ago) are often used by malware creators to infect your computer. Chrome and Firefox are generally considered safer than Internet Explorer, but any browser with its security setting set to “High” and with the most recent updates should be fine. For the highest level of security consider using Firefox plus Noscript.net to block most potential points of vulnerability.

Ask to include social media protection in your IT management plan: Many small businesses and home users are outsourcing their computer management to a local computer service provider through what’s called a managed services plan. Ask your service provider to include social media protection in your computer management plan.

“If your IT department or outsourced support doesn’t take all those elements into account, it’s not a matter of if you’ll experience downtime — it’s a matter of when and for how long,” Reaves said. “It’s not right to be held hostage by your computer troubles or by your IT support by proxy. Uptime is not a luxury — it’s a necessity for any home or business. Make certain that your IT company guarantees it. If they don’t, look for another firm.”

Yeah, ‘cause I don’t think this social media thing is going away any time soon.

Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Mike.Boyd@csbj.com or 329-5206.