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E-security a growing concern

Technology lowers cost, expands options for security

Technology innovations are giving businesses owners more choices, at less expense, to provide security to prevent theft, vandalism and the interception of sensitive e-mail messages.

Tony Webber, president of Protection Now, a security firm with offices in Gulfport and Hattiesburg and in five other states, says that interior motion detector devices are becoming very popular, as well as closed circuit television (CCT) monitoring.

“An owner can monitor offsite what is happening onsite at any time through a personal computer with a CCT system,” Webber said. “The prices of CCTs have come down considerably. Some companies go a step farther and send it into a monitoring system. A robbery in progess could be monitored, for example. Or the owner can be monitoring, and dispatching to authorities at the same time.”

Webber said there is a wide gamut of security concerns depending on the type and size of business. Protecting inventory is important, as well as expensive office equipment such as computers. The first concern is having a secure perimeter that prevents access by unauthorized individuals. That includes adequate doors and windows, and making sure other potential access points are controlled.

“The way we like to pursue it is like a doctor,” Webber said. “We need to know the symptoms before we can prescribe solutions. We have to find out the concerns or needs first. We would analyze the facts, and then give options for the peace of mind you are looking for.”

The first line of defense may be letting potential burglars know the business is protected by alarms and other security devices. A motion detector can be attached to a loud siren that goes off at the same time a signal is sent to the police station.

Leasing is a popular option now with many customers. Webber said they have systems that start at virtually zero down and a monthly fee of $29.95 per month.

“So it can be a very economical investment,” Webber said. “Leasing has made security more affordable as opposed to purchasing everything outright. With leasing, if you are having a problem with your system, someone will be there to work on it.”

Webber suggests care in hiring security firms in Mississippi since it is one of the few states in the U.S. that has no licensing requirements for alarm or security businesses. He said most states have very stringent qualifications, and require that employees be licensed and trained to install security equipment.

“Mississippi is unique in not requiring that,” said Webber, who suggests calling the Better Business Bureau or the Mississippi Alarm Association at (601) 352-4700 to check on the operating record of the business. Another precaution can include checking to see if the firm has a Yellow Page listing as ways of determining if you are dealing with a reputable firm.

Most modern businesses also have another type of security to deal with these days, and that is making sure that e-mail communications and e-commerce transactions are secure.

Stephen Edmonson, vice president of Internet Solutions, Inc. in Jackson, said concerns about e-mail security depend on the sensitivity of information being send. For example, law firms sending sensitive documents to another law firm would want to be more careful than businesses sending out more routine messages.

“E-mail security is not a great concern for most businesses,” Edmonson said. “It is a combination of people not realizing that e-mail is not the most secure method to send information, and that most messages are not real sensitive, anyhow. Some businesses need to be more aware than others. When e-mail is sent, it goes through different Internet routers. The worry is that someone would be trying to tap into the e-mail at any of those different stops.”

Brian Baggett, senior network administrator for Netdoor in Jackson, believes that it is a good idea to use a computer program that encrypts messages if sensitive information is being sent. Two programs that are readily available and not very expensive are PGP and GPG.

“Unfortunately, very few people are using encryption for e-mail,” Baggett said. “I tend to think people don’t realize the importance of encryption. They may not realize how many servers it may pass through on the way to its destination. Or, they may not realize that information that they consider mundane may be really important to someone else. The best way to think of e-mail is that if it is unencrypted, it is like writing a message on the back of a post card. Encryption is like putting a letter in an envelope.”

Although he recommends caution, Baggett doesn’t think e-mail spying is a widespread problem. He said it would take someone with a lot of time and resources to sift through the thousands of e-mails that can go through a server in a short period of time.

“But it is better not to take any chances especially with programs like PGP and GPG which are relatively inexpensive,” Baggett said. “Most e-mail programs do have an option to add this type of program.”

Baggett and Edmonson also advise people using e-mails to be careful what is said. E-mails sent from company equipment are owned by the company, and can be opened by supervisors. As a general rule, you may not want to say anything in an e-mail that you wouldn’t mind printed on the front page of a newspaper or posted on the company bulletin board.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com.

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