It wasn’t long ago that the status quo was to work from an office, and the idea of working remotely was a pipedream. 2020 changed things, and with the arrival of COVID-19 and social distancing, many businesses turned to remote work. Since it seems to be working out pretty well, it’s possible that this new way of life is here to stay.
There are pros and cons to working from home — on one side, you get to design your ideal workspace and be closer to your family during your workday. On the other, you will be mostly on your own, and if you work using your own equipment, this means that you may have less support when it comes to protecting yourself from cybercriminals. But don’t fret; there are simple measures that you can take to keep your information safe from these common threats.
Think About Security in Everything You Do
Any stolen data can be useful for a hacker. Stolen social security numbers can be used to take out loans under another person’s name. Email addresses can lead a criminal into a victim’s email account, where they can send malicious messages. The point is that you need to think about security at all times.
It starts with good passwords. All systems should have a detailed password that includes a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. For extra security, use two-factor authentication that requires a code sent by phone or a fingerprint scanner in addition to the password. Your company should also consider encrypting all data, so even if it is stolen, it cannot be read or used easily.
With more people working from home, hackers now have new opportunities to break into our systems. Remote work has required us to change how we communicate with one another, with many companies turning to online meeting tools. However, hackers have learned that they can figure out a user's credentials and then listen in on private conversations or steal data that they see when the user is sharing their screen. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to secure your video conferencing software. Complicated passwords are essential, as is having all attendees approved by management before they are allowed to participate.
Avoid Common Scams
The new world of remote work is a hacker’s paradise. They know that many employees are unaware of the precautions they should be taking to protect company data. These criminals are still relying on tried-and-true methods that have worked for years, which can be modified to fit with the times. For instance, the frequency of phishing attacks has grown since the height of COVID-19, as hackers play on a victim’s emotions by sending emails with false information about the disease and fake government emails pretending to have info on stimulus checks.
Phishing emails also typically contain an attachment or a link that, when clicked or opened, can unleash malware onto the victim’s computer. It’s important you do not click on these attachments unless you know the sender and are expecting the communication. Common signs of a phishing email include:
An “official message” but it comes from a Google or Yahoo email address.
Multiple misspelled words in the subject and body of the email.
Emails with a generic greeting like “Dear Sir or Madam.”
Another great benefit of working remotely is that you can often work from anywhere, including public places. However, you must remain vigilant, especially when it comes to public wi-fi networks. Discuss network protections with the owner. You don’t want to fall into the trap of a man-in-the-middle attack where a hacker sets up a fake network, and when you connect, they have direct access to your data.
Maintain Systems and Software
There are many basic tips that you can use at home to maintain your systems and keep them safe and secure. Start by installing antivirus software and updating it regularly — the newest versions will have protections against the most recent threats. Your home computer should also have a firewall installed that will block unwanted access while you are working online.
If they do not have one yet, your company should install a Virtual Private Network on your system, which hides your true location and encrypts your data, making it more difficult for hackers to get to you. It’s also vital that you backup all data on your system on a regular basis so you can recover that information if your device is infected with a virus. When you are working, stick to company websites and avoid personal browsing, so you don’t accidentally stumble onto a dangerous site.
If you feel that your computer has been compromised, you need to report it to your company immediately. They will take the proper steps to ensure that the damage is minimized, determine what was stolen, and, most importantly, update their security protocols so it can’t happen again. A company can be destroyed by a single cyber attack, so always keep an eye out for the sake of your employer.
Yes, working from home certainly has its benefits, but increased attention by hackers is not one of them. Take a few simple precautions now, and you won’t be sorry in the future.