How To Make Sure Your Home Office is Cybersecure
The global coronavirus pandemic has to lead to substantial lifestyle shifts for all of us. From lockdowns and school closures, everyone has had to learn how to spend more time at home.
The workweek is no exception to that rule. The pandemic has seen the number of remote and telework employees skyrocket, with vast numbers of companies transitioning to a work-from-home format. From eCommerce platforms to virtual collaborative office spaces, the new home office essentially takes place online.
While this new remote working lifestyle may offer its employees plenty of benefits (no more lengthy commute, the convenience of working from wherever you are located, the freedom to set your schedule and working routine), there are also unexpected risks associated with remote work.
In this article, we will explore some of the potential risks associated with working from home. Then we will share some simple steps you can take today to make sure your home office is secure.
Cyberattacks On The Rise
Since the start of the pandemic, the percentage of cyberattacks has increased rapidly. Opportunistic hackers seeking to prey on unsuspecting victims have launched extensive malware, spam, and phishing campaigns, mainly targeting businesses that have recently transitioned to remote work formats.
While it may seem like a distant threat, consider the statistics: on average, a company that has been victim to a cyberattack will incur costs of around $1.6 million to repair the ensuing damages. In addition, over half of all small businesses that fall prey to a cyberattack are forced to close as a result; the entire global economy loses nearly $500 billion annually to cybercrime attacks.
Types of Cybercrime To Watch Out For
This type of threat has been around since well before the internet, but as we spend more time online, sharing increasing amounts of sensitive data through digital platforms, the gains for a prospective hacker are greater.
Since our work interactions now take place over home network servers, cybercriminals attempting to access company files and documents may try to impersonate specific employees to do so.
One important kind of cyberattack to look out for is malicious software. Generally, there are three main varieties of software that can be used to benefit cybercriminals- to your detriment.
If you have inadvertently installed a malware program on your computer and it reaches your hard drive, it can steal your data without your even knowing it.
Like malware, this software infects your computer with a digital “spy” that can track and record your online movements and activities.
Cybercriminals use ransomware to gain access to your computer and, essentially, kidnap your data. Like in a traditional kidnapping, they can threaten to hold your information and computer access hostage until you have paid them either in money or sensitive information.
Believe it or not, online threats and cybercrime can also lead to physical break-ins. For example, suppose you have installed a home security system that responds to a particular password or smartphone signal, and that information is comprised. In that case, it may be easier for thieves to access your home office physically.
These types of threats may seem frightening and intimidating, but fortunately, there are plenty of straightforward steps you can take to help make sure your home office (and home network) are secure. Let’s take a look at some things you can do to thwart hackers’ attempts at access.
Securing Your Home System? Start With The Core
The primary line of defense in ensuring that your home office is secure should be the heart of all your digital interactions. Where do your daily online interactions take place? The internet. And what directs and protects your internet? Your router.
At the core of your home network, your internet router is the key to ensuring that all your online interactions are protected. This connective hub links all the individual devices that sync to your home network and each other. Unfortunately, since the router directs all the network-based activity in your home office, this is often the main target of attempted cyber break-ins.
In the majority of home networks, all of your various devices for work and play and all of your family’s devices as well will be directed through the same router. So putting extra precautions in place here first can have a cybersecurity ripple effect.
Where should you go from there? And how can you begin? With your login details.
Secure Your Password
Your passwords are your first tool for defense in protecting your home office network. First, make sure that every device you use is password protected. Then, log in to your settings on each device and double-check that no adjustments to the settings can be made without administrative approval.
Choose strong passwords that include a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Ensure each password is unique; if you are afraid of losing track, invest in a password manager that can store all of your login information and is challenging to guess passcodes. Your system will be better protected if each device, software, app, and even website uses an entirely different unique password.
Never repeat your passwords across platforms, and avoid using anything that might be easy for hackers to guess. According to experts, your home WiFI password should be at least twelve characters long. Opt for the least sensible option. You will not, for example, want to use your birthday, your wedding anniversary, or your family’s last name.
Keep It Up To Date
Your cybersecurity protocols should be dynamic and active. You will want to get into the habit of updating your passwords frequently, making this a regular part of your workweek.
Run software updates as often as possible to ensure that the latest cybersecurity protocols are up to date. And frequently rotate your usernames, WiFi network name, and administrative login information. The less stable your access information is, the more difficult it will be for a cybercriminal to break in.
A further layer of protection you can quickly implement is installing a firewall on your internet router. A firewall is essentially a protective gateway that analyzes potential threats, determining whether or not certain websites or users can gain access to your network.
A good firewall system will serve as a filter, sifting through messages that pass between your devices and the internet and automatically blocking messages that seem suspicious. This can hugely cut down on attempted malware or phishing attacks, and it runs automatically in the background as you get on with your regular work.
Your firewall can block potentially malicious websites from appearing in your online traffic and can thwart malicious software users from accessing your private data, even if you have accidentally installed malicious programs.
Anonymize Your Internet
Another simple solution that can have huge benefits towards securing your home office is to install a VPN. A VPN, a Virtual Private Network, masks your activities and geolocation as you browse the web by encrypting the information, making it seem like you are accessing the web from somewhere other than your actual location.
With a VPN installed, hackers can no longer access your physical location, and they are unable to see what you do on the web or what information you may communicate across the web. As a result, this method of private browsing can hugely benefit your home office security.
Suppose you are new to working from home. In that case, you may want to check your company’s work from home policies: plenty of companies, especially larger-scale operations, will require all remote employees to use a VPN. At the same time, they conduct business from their personal computers.
If your wireless router is not equipped to run VPN software, you may want to consider investing in a newer model that is VPN-compatible. Or investigate the many free VPN trials available for downloading online.
The Most Important Tool
The most important tool you can draw upon when securing your home office will be your common sense. Maintain an awareness of potential threats, and if some online activity, website page, or message seems suspicious, take extra precautions to protect yourself before engaging.
Seek a second opinion, or do a simple internet search to confirm whether someone is who they say they are. Trusting your judgment will be extremely important as you look out for possible threats and act with care.
Please keep your details secure by refusing to share them with a site that may not seem entirely legitimate. And consult with your colleagues, manager, and IT team; the more familiar you all are with the precautions you can take at home, the more your entire remote office will be protected.