SoBig. Lovsan. Reka. Dumaru. Klez. Bugbear. Do these odd-sounding names seem familiar?
They aren't characters from the next Star Wars movie. But if that was your guess, then you're half right.
They are alien monsters, all right, but much more mischievous and even destructive than anything Hollywood could dream up.
The aforementioned names are a few of the estimated 80,000 computer viruses and worms that have been unleashed on the cyberworld.
Viruses are designed to attack computer networks, and maybe even the inner workings of that laptop you're carrying around.
As the latest rash of computer viruses show, securing your computer networks from malicious hacker attacks is absolutely critical to keeping your business up and running. Today, an automotive retail store is an integrated operation, knitted together with information technology. When the computers and networks shut down, business stops.
Have your network administrator or vendor brief you on computer security. Ask him or her to explain how your system is scanned for hacker attacks or viruses, and what preventive measures are in place and how often they are updated. For a real eye-opener, ask to see an activity log, which is a list of attempted intrusions. The frequency of these is shocking, if not downright scary.
Something else happened last summer, besides irritating computer viruses. If you live in the huge portions of the U.S. and Canada that were blacked out, you don't need reminding of the awesome affect on business and virtually all aspects of life.
We saw the pictures of thousands of commuters streaming out of Manhattan on foot. But it wasn't just the subways that stopped running.
Computer systems for some of the biggest companies in the country went down, some for days.
Even though these events have passed and life is back to normal, IT analysts tell us that computer viruses, hacker attacks and power outages are likely to become more frequent. Predicting these events is impossible, but protecting your business from these catastrophes is not.
EDS is spearheading an effort by a group of firms to upgrade the Pentagon's information-technology systems. All facets are being addressed, including survivability, redundancy, recoverability and security.
Efforts like this are revolutionizing the computer network and data storage business. The Pentagon upgrade covers networks, data storage and voice and messaging systems.
Certainly, the average automobile dealer isn't working with a computer system that comes anywhere near the size and scope of the Pentagon's.
But, all dealers have a lot riding on the integrity and consistency of their computer systems. It may not have an impact on the balance of power in the world if your system goes down, but it means a lot to you, your employees and your customers.
Clearly, computer security is one of the big issues facing us now and will remain so in the years to come.
Dealerships of all sizes must commit the time and resources to reinforce and upgrade security for their computer systems. Procrastination could mean disaster. Any dealer not making IT security a top priority is making a big mistake.
Matt Parsons is vice president of sales and marketing for EDS' Automotive Retail Group.