Working from home is more common than ever. Unlike working from office, it exposes us to additional online threats. Stay at home employees are no longer safe behind the multiple firewalls and enterprise-grade network security that our office environments usually provide. Instead of our employers, now each of us is responsible for our online safety. At a time when we rely heavily on our devices, one data security mistake can spell game over for our livelihoods. Online vigilance is like parenting. Is a 24/7 responsibility, as many of us have come to realize the hard way. Most often security breaches occur not because of the vulnerabilities in a system, but because of the actions of one or more internal stakeholders. Digital security is not particularly complex, it simply requires diligence. The following ideas can prove to be helpful.
Protect your devices
Make sure to lock your phone with a swipe pattern, password, or numerical code. Device security is extra important because our devices are extremely personal. So are the apps installed on them. Many of us do our online banking, merchant payments, and other transactions using apps. One great example of enhanced digital security is the Ria money transfer app which is used by millions of customers for international remittance transfers. Ria’s app features an in-built extra layer of security in the form of fingerprint recognition and face recognition for identity verification.
Protection is not just for phones. It is important to set passwords to access your computers’ user accounts. Always lock your screen when you walk away, even if it is only for a minute. This is a highly advisable practice at work as well as at home, and worth embedding in your muscle memory. Set the screen timeout to one minute or less, after which the device should automatically lock itself. Don’t leave devices unattended, unless they are powered down. Secure all your external storage devices with strong passwords as well.
Keep an eye out for social engineering
Be very mindful of what you post and share on social media. Our social media profiles and info are extremely public. They live on redundant multi-billion dollar server farms forever. Avoid discussing work outside a communication channel that your employer endorses. Never respond to emails or messages from untrusted senders. Banking and ecommerce sites rarely if ever send you unsolicited email attachments. They never ask for personal or account information from verified customers. Emails asking for your personal or bank information may come from scammers with the intention of stealing your identity or money. They can be very creative with their ways to misguide or lure their victims. Before sharing any information always verify the purpose for which it is being requested.
Make copies of all your important documents and data. Back them up regularly. In the event of a system crash you’re only as good as your last backup. Making copies does not mean you must buy stacks of hard drives or data servers. Most free online storage accounts for non-business users come with a few gigabytes of space. If you need something bigger, you can find cost-effective cloud data solutions for business needs of all sizes. These come with enterprise-grade encryption and access control. In addition to a fail-safe backed-up data makes it easier to migrate to a new system when you decide to upgrade. After a system migration make sure to comprehensively wipe the old machine’s hard drives.
Download with prejudice
Cybercriminals are very creative. They can make surprisingly convincing imitations of legitimate sites. Downloading stuff from untrusted sites is bad enough. Malicious attachments in emails are a real threat too. Never open an email file attachment unless you trust the sender, and the intent and purpose of the file is abundantly clear. This also applies to phones and other mobile devices, and to social media accounts. In the time of ‘social distancing’ we completely rely on our computers and phones. The availability of tech support is severely limited. One malware download can crash our systems and leave us helpless. Don’t click on links from untrusted senders. Think twice before plugging unfamiliar USB devices into your machines.
Use strong passwords
This one is too obvious, yet not so common. It is a bad idea to use names, birthdays, familiar words, and strings of numbers as passwords. Most banking and ecommerce sites mandate users to have passwords that are a combination of numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and special characters. Make sure to follow this best practice for all your digital accounts including email, social media, cloud storage, and others. It is also a good security habit to change your passwords once every 90 days or less. Avoid recycling old passwords. Doing so defeats the purpose.
Secure the Wi-Fi
An interesting but less-known fact is that in networking terms Wi-Fi technology is a step backwards. By design Wi-Fi is slower and less secure than wired connections. Your Wi-Fi connection is an integral part of your network. Be sure to secure with a strong password. In case you have to use public Wi-Fi, use it only through a VPN service. Many employers make using VPNs mandatory, and can provide help on setting one up. Online security is no longer just for geeks and engineers; it’s for everyone.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.
Tags: home office