Smaller does not mean safer when it comes to viruses DESPITE WHAT MANY may believe, the security needs of the small and medium-sized business (SMB) are quite similar to those of a large company, according to Andy Lake, director of partners for MessageLabs Asia Pacific, a company that specialises in the protection of e-mail. 'SMBs face the same e-mail security challenges of much larger businesses, yet they often lack the resources to effectively implement and properly manage an appropriate security infrastructure. As such, SMBs are increasingly outsourcing their e-mail systems to managed e-mail security service providers as a cost-effective way to gain access to the latest technology and expertise to protect their networks,' he said. SMBs should give serious thought to a number of important measures if they wished to protect themselves, Mr Lake said. 'Management resources must be dedicated to develop and implement a coherent, enforceable policy. At its most basic, the policy should set hard-and-fast rules to guard against damage to the system and cover an assortment of issues,' he said. Among those are rules for use of the system, virus and content filtering, system monitoring, policy rules and a periodic review of everything. It is also important to use a system of e-mail protection that handles threats outside the network. If it does not, it will be too late to do anything about it. He warned that desktop solutions were not strong enough to protect you from a serious attack. 'You must stop threats before they enter your enterprise. This can only be achieved by a managed e-mail security provider, with the equipment and knowledge to keep one step ahead of the cyber criminals. Using PC-based software or dedicated appliances is no answer,' he said. Something many people forget to do is secure outbound e-mail. 'Many viruses and much malicious content and spam are unwittingly passed on from one company to another, so you must be able to detect and stop threats before they leave your system,' he said. A trend that began last year, he said, was the convergence of spam and viruses. The writers of viruses and other malicious software have combined with spammers to produce blended threats. Not only is this bad for your business, if you then pass it on, you could be liable for damages. One of the biggest problems for SMBs is understanding what they are getting. It is extremely important to be aware of what the service is providing and that the provider can prove it is working. He said it was crucial to understand all the costs and to be certain there was nothing hidden. 'You are making the service provider responsible for clean e-mail. Be sure you can monitor and fine-tune the service required and expect detailed performance reports,' he said. It is true that many large companies use such a system and if the price was right, a MessageLabs solution could work for an SMB as well. The first thing that a company such as MessageLabs must do is persuade SMBs that it is indeed a cost-effective proposition. Many smaller companies do not feel the need to spend on security or understand the issues. If Mr Lake can get them over that hurdle, he may find sales increasing.