Has the COVID-19 pandemic found you making the sudden switch to working from home? Clearly, you’re not alone. But if home working wasn’t something you – or your employer – were thoughtfully set up for beforehand, then a sudden shift to this new way of working can introduce some serious security challenges. Keeping your devices and data protected from malicious cybercrime – or simple human error – is critical, but it might not have been top of your list of priorities when these new working practices first came into play.
Here are our top tips for ensuring that home working keeps you and your organisation protected.
Install up-to-date antivirus software
This is a foundational principle of cybersecurity. Antivirus software prevents a substantial proportion of malware from ever touching your computer, and it must be continually kept up-to-date in order to ensure it offers dynamic protection against the latest threats. Your corporate IT team should take care of this on organisational computers, but if you are now working from a personal computer, it is like to be your responsibility.
Ensure systems and applications are up-to-date
The up-to-date point applies to all your applications and software, not just antivirus. Out-of-date version of applications and operating systems typically become more and more vulnerable over time, with new weaknesses identified by cybercriminals and no support and patches available. Make sure you are running the most up-to-date operating system you can, and ensure automatic updates are enabled.
Change your router login and password
- If your router is still using the default username and password it arrived with, change it now. Not only are the default passwords often weak and of themselves, but many are easily searchable by malicious parties. Attackers are able to write these passwords directly into their malware, which can enable them to capture your router and make it part of a bot, as well as spying on everything that travels through your router.
Encrypt your WiFi
Securing your home internet network does not stop there. Make sure your connection is encrypted, ideally with the WPA2 standard. You can use your router settings to do this – and to check whether it is working, try connecting a new device to the WiFi. It should ask you to enter a password.
Use a VPN, especially over public WiFi
Whilst home working typically takes place over a personal WiFi network, if you intend to use public WiFi in, say, cafes and other public places once they have reopened, then you need to think about ensuring more secure connectivity. A computer provided by your employer should include virtual private network (VPN) access – on a personal computer, you should set it up yourself. Once connected via a WPN, all of your data is encrypted regardless of your network settings.
Don’t share personal information
With social media and video chat tools taking on ever greater significance during the pandemic, it can be easy to let your guard slip in regard to sharing personal information. The same old standards of vigilance still apply. You should never send personal information over social media, instant message or email.
Avoid oversharing your screen
Screen sharing is often a core part of virtual meetings and can be hugely useful, but just be careful about what else is on your screen at the point of sharing. Have you been accessing your internet banking on another tab, for example? Take the same care when taking photos of your home working setup and sharing them online.
Use business-approved tools
If your employer has asked you to use specific applications to, say, run your remote meetings, then stick to them. Your IT team needs to know that everyone is using the most secure and protected systems, and it needs visibility over how everyone is working in order to keep you safe.
It might not sound like a security point but keeping your home working environment comfortable and stimulating can actually be really valuable. A great many data breaches and security incidents are due to human error rather than malicious intervention, so it makes sense to keep as alert and vigilant as possible whilst working from home – which could well mean thinking carefully about your desk, your seating and your lighting.
Beware specialist COVID-19 scams
The pandemic has seen a dramatic uplift in cybercriminals tailoring their phishing emails and malware to capitalise on uncertainty and fear. Beware any emails or social media messages which purport to offer brand-new advice or updates on the pandemics, and don’t click on links or open attachments unless you are absolutely confident of the source.