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Under Lock and Key

Always keep your guard up when it comes to computer security.

Launching your business is scary enough--but the thought of a computer security breach could really keep you up at night. Whether you are starting small from a home office or you've procured outside office space, you need to know your security basics. First, take stock of your software. Set up your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs right away. Employ more than one program at all times, especially anti-virus programs, to cover any possible vulnerabilities, says Clint Laskowski, information security consultant at BlueHat Security Inc., an IT consulting company near Milwaukee. Also, back up your data with a simple thumb drive or external USB drive.

Then implement a home network with a NAT router. "It prevents outside people from easily getting into your inside network," says Laskowski. Use an encrypted and password-protected wireless network so others can't steal your bandwidth. Check out some free open source security software at www.sectools.org, www.clamwin.com and www.snapfiles.com, or try the beta version of Microsoft Windows Defender.

And if you have the budget for it, seek out technology experts to help you get started. Look for a Certified Information Systems Security Professional, or CISSP, at www.isc2.org, or find a professional with Global Information Assurance Certification at www.giac.org.

"Security is in the forefront of our mind," says Luke Pilon, 26, co-founder of the Lead Shop Inc., a data company in Solana Beach, California, that provides sales leads to mortgage brokers. Because customer data is the cornerstone of their business, Pilon and co-founders Jordan Glazier, 38, and Paul Ramirez, 48, budgeted $5,000 of their startup capital for security--covering everything from setting up their firewall and e-mail filters to hiring a security company for expertise and additional protection. That peace of mind has enabled them to reach their first-year sales projections of $250,000 for 2006.

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