As COVID-19 swept across the world, many industries have seen a shift toward telecommuting. In fact, The Brookings Institution estimated that in April 2020, nearly half of the workers in the United States had made the switch. Working from home is a great way to guard your health; it also comes with new data security risks. With these simple steps, you can stay connected and protect your proprietary personal and professional information.
Secure Your Wi-Fi Network
Do you remember the last time you adjusted the security settings on your home Wi-Fi network? If not, it’s a good idea to secure the network and protect your professional data while you’re telecommuting. Start by changing the passwords for the Wi-Fi network and the router-management settings. This is particularly important if you still have the factory default passwords in place; they’re easy for hackers to guess. Make sure to use complex passwords that include letters, numbers, and special characters. Then, go into your router settings and update its firmware to ensure that you have all of the latest security patches. Finally, go into the router settings and make sure that it’s encrypted.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is a great access management solution. It adds an additional layer of security on top of just having a username and password login. Passwords can be compromised, so having two layers of authentication makes it harder for hackers to access your information.
Install Antivirus Software
Antivirus software is a crucial way to protect your data, especially if you’re using a personal computer to work from home. The easiest option is to purchase a subscription for a program like Norton AntiVirus or Kaspersky Antivirus. If your company has an IT department, ask them to recommend a product that works best for your setup and the types of files you handle. Once you’ve installed, enable it to update automatically to ensure consistent protection.
Set Up Auto-Lock on Your Devices
When you’re working from home, your phone and computer are loaded with proprietary information, saved login credentials, and contact details. If you live with anyone — including kids, roommates, and pets — it’s a good idea to set up an auto-lock on every device you use for work. This setting locks the screen automatically when you’re inactive for a set period of time. That way, you don’t risk accidentally exposing trade secrets to a roommate or allowing your child to delete the report you’re working on.
Use Corporate Resources Whenever Possible
Chances are, your company uses a set of programs for email, document storage, and communication. When you’re at home, it’s important to work within these environments — they’re usually protected and encrypted to protect company and client data. Although it’s more convenient to work on a draft in your personal Google Drive or to send a file from your computer’s default mail program, doing so can expose sensitive information to the internet as a whole.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your data when you’re telecommuting. A VPN is essentially a secure tunnel that enables you to access company resources without being tracked or hacked. Once you log in, you can access secure files, send emails, and complete other tasks without exposing data to the outside world. VPNs are particularly useful if you’re working on the go, using a public Wi-Fi network, or getting online at a hotel. Use your company’s existing VPN or buy a subscription to one of the many options on the market.
Stick to Agreed-Upon Communication Practices
When you’re in the office, it’s easy to pop over to a colleague’s office to ask a question or request information. If everyone is telecommuting, email is a more convenient method of communication — which places you at increased risk for Business Email Compromise, or BEC, attacks. During a BEC attack, a scammer hacks an email account or sends messages from an address that’s nearly identical to one of your professional contacts. Then, they trick you into revealing proprietary data, making unauthorized transactions, providing your password, or allowing access to a secure network.
To prevent these scams, it’s helpful to agree on a set of communication best practices as a company. You might agree to make all sensitive requests by phone, for example, or decide not to send confidential documents over email. Any time you receive an external request to reveal sensitive information, including login credentials or account numbers, make sure to do your due diligence. Inspect the email address and links carefully and avoid downloading unsolicited documents. If you’re uncertain, it never hurts to call the sender to make sure that the request is valid.
As COVID-19 continues to impact everyday life, telecommuting is likely to remain a popular option for employees around the world. Whether you’re working from home or the road, security is a big concern. By taking steps to protect your personal devices and professional data, you can work from home with confidence knowing that each task is safe and secure.