Work-From-Home Security Tips

COVID-19 has forced you, and millions of workers around the globe, to work from home (WFH).

And if you are like most people, this is a welcome development. 

But do you want to know who else is excited about millions of people working from home? Cybercriminals, hackers and crooks. 

A cyberattack against you at home is much easier given the layers of protection and knowledgeable IT staff protecting your data and work habits at your office. 

The reality is that the overall security profile of your home office is only as strong as its weakest link, and most home offices have multiple vulnerabilities. 

So, here is a list of things you can do to improve the cybersecurity of your home office. 

Start With Basic Physical Security

Before you started full-time WFH, the physical security of computing devices in your home was not important unless you were living with non-family roommates. 

But now that you have a work computer at home or are accessing sensitive company data and systems from your PC, you need to lock things down. 

Here are some tips for securing your home hardware. 

  1. Add strong passwords and passcodes to all devices. This includes home PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. The more portable a device, the more important it is to lock it down and prevent unauthorized access. Plus, depending on the capabilities of the device, you may be able to use biometric authentication.
  2. Enable a lock screen / screen saver after a short timeout. When you worked in the office, you had to manually lock down your computer whenever you walked away, whether you have roommates, a nosy spouse or kids, the same rule applies at home.
  3. Consider buying a paper shredder for home. Depending on the nature of your work (and your appetite for reading large documents on the screen), you may need to print and read sensitive files regularly. A paper shredder will make the printouts unsalvageable when you are finished with them.
  4. Physically lock your work laptop to the workspace. Alternatively, you can lock it away in a cabinet or safe at the end of the day or when it is no longer in use. 

Improve Your Home Network Security

The WiFi network is the hub for all your home devices and their communication with the internet. This makes it one of the highest risk areas. 

While criminals driving around a neighbourhood looking for unsecured home networks in no longer a common attack method, email attacks, phishing, malware and remote hacking are more effective and easier to scale. 

So here are some steps to lock down your home network. 

  1. Change the default admin password for the Router. If you do nothing else from this list, you must do this. Some home network routers even have admin authentication turned off by default. You must enable authentication on your router and add a strong password.
  2. Keep your Router’s software up to date. Good hardware vendors are always improving the embedded software on their devices to fix bugs and patch security flaws. If possible, try and keep your router’s firmware up to date. Sometimes this is done automatically, sometimes it is painfully manual.
  3. Change the default name of your home network. Hardware vendors and service providers use similar Service Set Identifiers (SSIDs) on their wireless routers. They may also use a very short list of admin usernames and passwords to access router settings. So, when someone tries to hack into a home network and sees a recognizable SSID, it allows them to focus on the shortlist of usernames and passwords to gain illegitimate admin access.
  4. Do not include anything personally identifiable in the SSID. This is a bit more esoteric, but if you are going in to change the SSID anyway, keep this in mind. An easily identifiable home network (i.e. TheSmiths) can make it easier to use social engineering (child’s birthday) to figure out the WiFi network password.
  5. Turn on Network Encryption. You have a few options, but you want to make your network as secure as your endpoints and devices can handle. Do not use WEP if you can avoid it, and if possible, use WPA2 which is more secure than WPA. 

Include Data & Device Security

recent article explained how important it was for Enterprise IT to give WFH employees access to all the tools they need to do their job. It also explained how important it was to use a VPN to secure all data moving from the home office to the real office. 

Some other data and device security tips include: 

  1. Turn on or install a home firewall. A firewall is a hardware or software device that protects your home computer against cyber-attacks and unauthorized access. They are free on most operating systems and can easily be configured to block questionable data and websites while allowing authorized data through.
  2. Use antivirus software and keep it up to date. Malware that makes it past your firewall can be stopped by quarantined by your antivirus software, but only if it is always running and up to date with the latest threat tables. Newer antivirus software also protects your email and detects spyware on your computer.
  3. Only use known USB Storage devices (thumb drives). That high capacity thumb drive you found at the coffee shop may be a trojan horse containing malware to compromise your work PC.
  4. Perform regular data backups. Backing up your files was probably something you didn’t know was happening at your office. Now that you are working from home, you are responsible for regular data backups and you should follow your company protocol to do this. 

During your transition to working from home, your company’s IT staff are probably going to be extremely busy as they get you and your co-workers up and running. 

This likely means that when you are working from home, you are your own IT department and first-line support. 

In addition to the network, physical and data security tips listed above, it is a good idea to change your online behaviour when you work from home. 

Cybercriminals are smart and know your triggers. Be cautious with emails and files received from unknown senders, especially if it seems like a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Don’t open unknown attachments or click on any embedded links in the emails. Even a .docx file can contain dangerous malware. If your lucky, your antivirus might catch it, but then again it might not. 

And even when you are communicating with known senders and are being asked to open an attachment, download a document, enter a password or make any kind of financial transfer, it is a good idea to pick up the phone and speak to the person directly before taking any action.

Remember, proper cyber-security is everyone’s responsibility. If you want to maintain the privilege of working from home after the pandemic you need to do your part to prevent unauthorized network access, data leaks and ransomware. We all need to work together when Keeping Your Business UP

Need help setting up your work-from-home securely? Drop us an email today.

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