FCC to release free protection tool for small businesses

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced this week plans to release a free online tool that will aid small businesses in crafting a plan to defend against cyberthreats.

The "Small Biz Cyber Planner," scheduled for release next month, will help small organizations create a security strategy amid a threat landscape in which they are an increasing target, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said Monday at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event meant to coincide with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

Genachowski cited a new study from Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance, which found that 48 percent of small businesses lack a security strategy, and 60 percent don't have a plan in place for responding to a breach of personal information.

The news hasn't gotten much better since February, when another survey from Symantec revealed that, of 1,425 respondents worldwide, small and midsize businesses are facing a “security gap” because they often lack basic security measures -- 59 percent of respondents do not have endpoint protection, 47 percent lack desktop backup recovery and 42 percent are not running an anti-spam solution.

"Small businesses that don't take protective measures are particularly vulnerable targets for cybercriminals," Genachowski said. "With larger companies increasing their protections, small businesses are now the low-hanging fruit for cybercriminals."

The tool, which requires users to answer a set of questions, was created in concert with government experts and private security firms. The questions that will help users tailor a plan that works for them include: "Does your business use credit cards" and "Does your business have a public website?"

The tool takes into account the fact that most mom-and-pop shops, which are leveraging the internet more than ever before thanks to broadband connectivity sweeping even the most rural parts of the country, are at a significant disadvantage when fighting cybercrime.

"We know that hiring cybersecurity experts is costly," Genachowski said. "This tool will be of particular value for businesses that lack the resources to hire a dedicated staff member to protect themselves from cyberthreats. Even a business with one computer or one credit card swiper can benefit from this important guidance."

The announcement of the new tool comes five months after the FCC unveiled a website designed to help small businesses protect against cyberattack.

As part of Tuesday's announcement, the FCC revealed four tips that small businesses can immediately apply to to solve some of their security challenges. They are protecting Wi-Fi connections, encrypting data on computers, installing security software such as anti-virus and training employees on basic protection methods.

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