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updated: 5/28/2017 5:11 PM

IT security becomes top-of-mind issue

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Talk to Dave Davenport or Jason Burton and marvel at the ways technology will make your business more efficient, more productive, more consumer friendly -- way more cool in many ways.

At the same time, however, pay attention to their concerns about protecting your IT system from the types of attacks that hit so many countries earlier this month and from issues causewd by what Davenport calls "legacy" systems. (In the IT world, "legacy" is polite for old, slow, essentially obsolete and easy to attack computer systems.)

Davenport is CEO at MotherG, an Itasca-based IT managed services provider that serves businesses with 10-150 users. Burton is president of Chicago (IL) Technology Consulting, where clients are more likely to have 10 users. Although I've divvied up their comments, both know how to protect business data -- and how to take advantage of IT power that will be affordable for even the smallest companies in the next year or so.

With the worldwide cyber attack less than a month behind us, security is the top-of-mind issue.

"As I've said before, the (IT) threats are real because people pay the ransom demanded," Davenport says. That's understandable: The amount data kidnappers demand may not look so daunting when compared to the potential of never seeing your IT data again.

Yet when it's time to spend money on security, there often is a reluctance. For example, "There's this feeling that 'I'm just a little accounting firm,'" Davenport says. "Or 'I just have a little job shop in Elk Grove Village. No one will find me.'"

But the bad guys "are not shooting at specific targets," Davenport explains. "They're searching for system vulnerabilities." The cyber attack earlier this month seemed to focus on Microsoft XP systems, which Microsoft hasn't supported in several years -- although the company did issue an emergency patch when the attack became known.

Writing in an early May MotherG blog, Davenport said that "Old systems harbor few mysteries for cyber criminals. Applications built on platforms dating back to the '90s or earlier sit around waiting for an attack with little more than a deadbolt and barking dog for protection.

"Cloud-based applications enjoy far superior security and could make the financial case to update ... on those merits alone."

Staff training also plays an IT security role. Davenport points out that employees need to know -- and be reminded -- when not to click on a message, because clicking may unleash an unpleasant series of events.

Cyber criminals, he adds "are looking for new ways to get people to click. Next time, maybe it's your family pictures."

Security isn't the only issue. Davenport says websites need to be mobile-friendly so customers and prospects can find us quickly on their phones and make sense of what appears on their smaller screens.

Next week: The exciting things your IT system will be able to do -- that you will be able to afford.

• © 2017 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. Listen to Jim's Business Owners' Pod Talk at www.kendallcom.com/podcast.

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