With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, an increasing amount of people and organizations have now transitioned to working (online) from home. People are now using computers to attend school, meetings, or handle business affairs online. Despite our transition to an online lifestyle, the road to it has indeed been a difficult journey for most. Regardless of whether you are the most tech-savvy or the least, it is always a good idea to keep your data safe when working from home (especially for businesses).
Why is it important to protect my data while working from home?
Most homes are not specially-designed to protect sensitive, business-related data. For example, there is an increased lack of privacy when dealing with confidential business information when you work from home if you share your residence with other roommates and/or family members. These people are probably not affiliated with your job or business, and can now view or even access sensitive business data. Most business offices also tend to have more advanced hardware and/or software (e.g. advanced router encryption or antivirus software). This is to better defend against hackers, and these commercial defense systems are likely better than personal use ones that people utilize at home.
Here are some steps you can take to better your data when working from home:
1. Invest in a good, trustworthy antivirus program.
This will be your first line of defense in warding off phishing scams, malware, worms, trojans, and more.
2. Keep business laptops and other business devices safe and secure.
Do not leave them in your car, or out around your household where other people can access them. Also, do not share work devices with household members, as it may compromise sensitive business data.
3. Get a sliding webcam cover for your webcam.
Now that everyone is required to use Zoom for work, you should consider getting a sliding webcam cover to cover your webcam when it’s not in use. This is so that, in the event that a hacker hijacks your webcam, they will not be able to see through the webcam cover. Alternatively, you can simply unplug your webcam if it’s a USB plug-in to prevent hackers from being able to use your webcam and see into your home.
4. Use VPN services.
These can be used to safely access your company’s online services, as they use encryption services to allow employees to access business data from an offsite location (i.e. your home). Not using a VPN can create a less-secured path that hackers can exploit to get into business data.
5. Use stronger authentication methods when accessing business data or logging onto business servers.
Consider using multi-factor authentication (click here for more info) or company-supplied, verified smart cards to clock into work. Logins offer a backdoor for hackers to get in through, but using a secure login method can deter potential hackers.
6. Log onto only secure networks.
Look for websites that begin with “https” in the URL bar. This means that the information between the browser and your internet browsing device has been encrypted; therefore, this website is safe to browse on. Furthermore, antivirus and browser alerts (assuming they’re authentic and not scareware ads) will occasionally tell you that a website is dangerous to browse on, and warn you against accessing the website. It is best to avoid these sites that trigger an antivirus or browser warning, but exercise cautious if you still choose to continue. Tip: legitimate antivirus warnings will never ask for your money to deal with a cybersecurity threat.
7. Make sure passwords are secure, strong, and changed regularly.
8. Use cloud storage services to store business-related data.
Using a cloud storage service means all your business data can be placed in one secure place and be easily shared with other employees. Also, in the event that an employee loses or corrupts a data file on their computer, an undamaged copy of that data file can be recovered from the cloud service.
9. Secure your Wi-Fi router.
Many people do not change the default password on their Wi-Fi routers, and hackers can easily crack these default passwords if they’re not changed into stronger, more secure passwords. Also consider activating network encryption on your router. This can usually be done under the security settings in your Wi-Fi control panel. WPA2 encryption is currently the strongest encryption method, and is available on most routers that were manufactured on or after 2006.