Fully managed point of sale software can do wonders for your business operations, but you may want to rethink running your entire storefront from just one single computer. McAfee, one of the most trusted names in virus and malware protection for computers, recently forced Australian supermarket chains to shut down 10% of their registers when it inadvertently labeled certain system components as harmful files.
While the mistake was quickly fixed by McAfee, the glitch occurred long enough to bring up the point that hardware systems can still be prone to hacks and malfunctions despite strong efforts to prevent them. Security issues can still run rampant, especially if you need to remain connected to either a widely dispersed internal network or the World Wide Web.
Here are a few quick and general tips that many businesses and storefronts tend to skip over.
Back up your System Securely
Google’s cloud network – which is essentially a live server that houses secure information, shared documents, and usage statistics for millions of users – is a good example of a secure system that can still leave your important files vulnerable.
When Google’s Gaia program was cracked by Chinese hackers in early January, the system recovered quickly, and the search engine company declared that passwords and other sensitive information were luckily untouched. However, news of the break-in alarmed many of the millions of users who currently store their data on Google’s network.
A secure network server is a good place to back up all of your information, especially if you operate daily. However, like Google’s Cloud and Gaia password systems, having all of your information packaged neatly is actually an invitation for anyone looking to gain access to your vital data. Keep your secure server away from online poachers, and make sure you know everyone who has and who will access the information every day.
Restrict access to your Server
Keep your POS systems away from your server and reserve access for yourself, or only those who need the information on a regular basis. Use your POS systems like registers, instead of do-it-all machines just because they are capable of it. POS systems are usually set up to do one thing extremely efficiently, and that is process point of sale transactions.
Save all of your other operations for your secure computer, either in your office behind firewalls or on a portable laptop that you can take with you. Making sure that all of your secure information is sent one-way, and not processed through every register in your store, will help to eliminate the amount of spyware, malware, and even simple tracking software from gaining access to anything you want to keep private.
In a case like the McAfee malfunction, you can prevent the problem from spreading to all your machines and forcing a potentially damaging shut-down of your resources.
The problem is that even with systems that can recover quickly, large databases will still look like enticingly huge piggy banks filled with sensitive property for the hacking-capable. Point of sale systems, which will undoubtedly house all of your inventory and day-to-day transaction history, still involve relatively standard computer systems, and many of these are treated like standard desktop computers by their owners.
In an environment where large numbers of employees, and even members of the public, are able to come in contact with all of your sensitive information, it can be helpful to implement different types of safeguards into your systems.
Talk to your POS vendors when you are making a purchase, or if you are already utilizing them, bring up security issues with your vendors the next time they come around. Make sure that they understand which computer should be restricted, and which computers are all-employee accessible, and do the same with your staff.
David Liu is a writer and comedian based in San Diego, California. He writes extensively on point of sale software resources for small business owners and entrepreneurs. He provides expert advice on purchasing and outsourcing decisions from telemarketing services to point of sale systems. You can find him online at Resource Nation.