Working from home? Here’s how to stay safer

Welcome to work. At home.

Whether you’re in your living room, home office, or tucked in a corner of the garage, you may feel more comfortable than you did in your “outside” clothes, in your cubicle, surrounded by co-workers.

That’s part of the problem.

At home, we relax more, and it can show in our awareness and security.

First, remember that your data is sensitive, your systems may be vulnerable — and cyber crooks are pouncing on unsuspecting home workers.

They want your work data to steal money, bank account info, passwords, ideas, jobs and more. They also want to get a foothold into your work network so they can monitor, steal, launch ransomware and even control the business.

Ask your work if they have any protection plans, and try the following steps:

1) Put a password on everything

If you don’t have passwords on your devices, now is the time to do it.

(See “How long should my password be?”)

For example, if you did not change the password when you first got your router, change it now. If you changed it to something easy-to-guess, like “password123,” change it again.

Crooks use automation to check home router passwords. They can easily and quickly sniff out the default passwords that came on the device or simple ones you used instead.

Don’t use the same password again. Criminals swipe millions of passwords, then try them on other accounts. If you used the same password for your work email on other accounts, you are making it easy for attackers to get into your work data.

Use a password manager to store all these new, unique, long passwords. You can download passwords managers for your phone and laptop. Password managers store those unique and long phrases you created so you don’t have to remember them all.

2) Protect your data

You can use a virtual private network or VPN to protect your work information.

A VPN is like a private tunnel for your info to travel through until it reaches its destination.

You can find reviews about free and paid VPNs in reputable publications like PCMag, Consumer Reports and Tom’s Guide to help you choose one.

Download VPNs on your home computer and phone to keep work and banking info safe.

There may be few places where you can use public Wi-Fi right now, but if you do, you should use a VPN.

3) Make friends with your router

Now is a good time to get more comfortable with your router.

Look to see if there are any software updates for it.

Google is your friend. Check to see what version of software you have, and then check to see if there are updates.

If so, follow the steps to update.

Turn on encryption on your router, preferably WPA2 or WPA3. Encryption scrambles your data so that crooks can’t read it and steal it. If your router does not allow WPA2 or WPA3, check to see if it needs an update to allow it. If not, it might be time to buy a new router.

4) Turn on multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication is like a second lock on your account. You enter your password, but you also need to do an extra step to get in, like enter a code you get through text message, or use a physical “key.”

It can keep crooks out of your accounts. If they steal or guess your password, they still need that extra key.

Some experts warn that criminals can steal phones or SIM cards and intercept a text message with a multi-factor authentication code in it. They recommend that you still use multi-factor authentication, but look into other authentication options, too.

Multi-factor authentication may also be called two-factor authentication (or 2FA), two-step verification or similar names.

5) Watch for more phishing

Attackers will be stepping up their coronavirus-related fake email attacks, especially now that so many people will be working from home in more vulnerable environments — and with a more relaxed mindset.

Studies have shown that people are more likely to click on phishing emails at home and on their mobile phones.

That means we need to pay extra attention to emails and messages that come in.

Be wary of emails claiming to come from health organizations or asking for charity for coronavirus causes.

Instead of clicking on links — anything from news articles to resetting passwords — skip the email and go directly to the site itself.

Verify work emails before clicking on links or attachments. It is easy for crooks to hack co-workers’ accounts and send out legitimate-looking messages.

Stay the Course

It may be more difficult to focus while working now, with rapid-fire news, constantly-moving life guidelines, children at home and the sense that the world is changing dramatically, right before our eyes.

You can use this time to become more familiar with how your home cybersecurity works.

Google any questions you have. Even the experts do!

Ask your friends, family and co-workers for help and verification if you receive a strange message.

You don’t want to deal with a computer crisis inside your home while the health crisis rages outside.

We may be working from home for months to come. Let’s do it as safely as possible!


Main image: Front door. Image: TriggerPhoto/iStock

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