Work from Home (WFH) has been a boon during the pandemic and will be a popular option even when it’s safe to return to the office. That’s good for employees and companies looking for continued flexibility.
But it’s even better for cyber criminals, who will continue to prey on the weak security of the WFH environment.
Don’t want to be a victim? Follow these 10 tips when working in your home office or a public space:
- Reset that router! Quick, what’s the password on your home router? If you have no clue, you’re like 95+ percent of the population. But drive-by cyber thieves know to try the default “linksys” or “admin” log-ins to jump onto your network and hijack the system. Change the password, and while you’re at it, update the firmware, too to patch security holes.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on public WiFi networks. We all enjoy the convenience of hopping on the free WiFi at the local café or park. And that includes hackers, who crave the opportunity to join a network where multiple users (aka sitting ducks) are already connected. Use a virtual private network like ProtonVPN or ExpressVPN to encrypt your data and keep it private.
- Say goodbye to Alexa and Siri. Your Amazon Echo is always listening. Ditto for your Google Nest or Apple HomePod. Maybe you trust the big tech companies not to record your conversations or to delete the files if they do. Even if so, these devices are hackable by cyber criminals and certainly by foreign governments. OK Google, you’ve been warned! Is this overkill? It depends on your line of work.
- Use work computers for work tasks only. Personal email, file sharing sites like Dropbox, and social media belong only on your personal machines. Avoid the temptation to visit them from your office computer. Otherwise, hackers may find their way into your work account and onto corporate networks.
- Keep work files away from personal devices. Once your files move off your work device, they escape the corporate-level security that’s protecting them. Don’t place work files on your personal device, and keep them off of your home network drives and personal online storage accounts as well. Not only are the files vulnerable in the short term, but you’ll probably forget to delete them later, opening up the likelihood that they’ll be exposed months or years from now.
- The (company) cloud is your friend. Your company may entrust you with sensitive data such as personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), financial data, and trade secrets. Keep it in the company data vault or cloud service. Don’t be that person who ruins it for everyone by leaving it on the laptop where it can be compromised. For one thing, your employer won’t look kindly on the hefty fine for GDPR or HIPAA violations!
- Shred printouts of work files and emails. For many of us, the paperless office is still in the future. As cyber defenses have gotten stronger, some hackers have turned back to old-school tactics like rooting through the trash to find secrets. If you must print, shred when you’re done. Good quality shredders are available for under $100.
- Keep it away from family and friends. We love our family –and friends, too. But if you’re not using your work device for personal tasks (see tip #4) why on earth would you let someone else? Once you unlock your device its defenses are down. Don’t do it!
- Lock that screen. Your phone is probably set to lock the screen when you’re not using it for a few minutes. Laptop and desktop computers work the same way, but you may have to enable the setting. After that it’s just a matter of entering your password or using the fingerprint or retina scanner to bring it back to life.
- Keep your eyes on the prize(s). It’s unsafe to let a toddler wander around alone –in many places you can be arrested if you do. It’s equally dangerous to leave a laptop or mobile device unattended in a public space or unlocked at home. Keep an eye on it at all times.
Fundamental Cyber is dedicated to protecting companies and employees from cyber criminals and to enabling compliance with privacy and security regulations including GDPR and HIPAA. Our user-friendly, affordable software tools enable people to work safely at home or in the office. Learn the fundamentals at https://fundamentalcyber.com.