The World Health Organization has officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a “pandemic”. This is causing several schools to close and businesses to re-evaluate their policies. One way some companies are trying to prevent spreading of illness is by allowing, or requiring, employees to work from home. With the switch to more remote workers, we put together a list of five ways you can increase cybersecurity while away from the office.
1. Communicate with IT
When working remote you should always plan ahead before leaving the office for an extended period of time. One important consideration is to check in with your company’s IT staff for any security protocol you should be following. Be sure to ask about company policies for routine connection to the company network. This allows IT staff to perform security updates, check for vulnerabilities, and keep your system in good working order. Not connecting to the company network for long periods of time may leave your device at risk. Talk with the IT staff about their recommended connection schedule.
2. Lock Your Computer
If you’re working from home, you may not consider the dangers of leaving your computer unlocked. If you have children, pets, spouses, or roommates wandering around, they may unknowingly click on something that causes issues. Having a cat or toddler accidentally delete important files while you step away from an unprotected device could be bad news. Instead, just follow the same practices you should be doing at the office by locking your computer any time you need to step away.
3. Keep Work Files on Work Computers
While it may be tempting to use your favorite computer or tablet when working from home or other remote locations, it’s not the best security practice. If you work for an organization with a diligent IT staff, they will be continually updating software and security measures on your company devices and networks. The same cannot always be said about your personal devices. You may not follow the same, strict protocols as professional, technical staff would. You also may not be able to afford the same level of technical controls that your company can.
These are all good reasons to keep your company data on company devices. By connecting a personal device to private information, you are potentially putting your company at risk. You’re also putting yourself at risk of being liable if something were to cause damage to the organization.
4. Avoid Public WIFI
The idea of sitting at home during Coronavirus prevention may seem daunting to some people who need human interaction. That’s why several people take their work to local coffee shops or restaurants. In addition to the need for social distancing, the problem with that is the threat of hackers sitting at the table next to you, or even the building next door. Using public WIFI opens you up to a number of security risks.
Even if you trust the network of the company you’re visiting, you may unknowingly sign onto a WIFI connection that is just one character different than the one you intended to sing onto. It may even have the same password as the legitimate WIFI network, but this one was set up to trick you!
You will also want to consider a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. This allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the internet, while shielding your activity from cybercriminals on public WIFI. A VPN will transmit your information through the protected pathway, rather than directly from your computer.
Using the same network as everyone else in the vicinity, without a firewall between you, could allow others to access your computer without you even realizing it. That leaves your private data and company information vulnerable if you’re working remote.
There’s also the threat of any communication shared with clients or back at the office being visible to others on the network you’re using. That traffic back and forth could contain information you do not want a threat actor seeing and taking advantage of. That leads to the next point.
5. Block Sight Lines
Taking the time to find the perfect seat while working remote can be tricky in crowded coffee shops. Just make sure that ideal spot won’t be ideal for someone trying to watch what you’re doing on your computer. If a cybercriminal can read sensitive data you type into your laptop, or spot some documents not intended for public viewing, it may be detrimental to your business.
Another great way to help reduce shoulder surfing is to add privacy filters or screens to your laptop. These can be attached to your monitor for extra security. Filters or screens create a black-out effect for anyone looking at your screen from the side. Unless you are sitting directly in front of the monitor, the screen will appear darker the more of an angle you look at it. You can find these at most stores that sell computers or online.
Also, never leave your phone or laptop alone. Even a quick restroom break is enough time for hackers to compromise your devices.
Whether you are taking precautions when it comes to physical health, or simply work remote on a regular basis, it’s important to keep up with cybersecurity practices. Be sure to communicate with your employer and find out what cybersecurity protocols you should be following while you’re away from the office. This will help keep yourself, and your organization, more secure!