Safeguarding your home workstation: Cybersecurity tips and best practices
Image courtesy of Thought Catalog
Working from home introduces new challenges into the workday, and even though daily commutes are no longer in the picture, a home office can be a cause to stress if you’re unfamiliar with best practices to set one up.
While there’s a learning curve in adjusting your daily schedule to reflect you being home all day, there are also new skills to adapt to ensure your work-from-home setup isn’t a security risk. The convenience of working from home brings the responsibility to safeguard your company’s information against fraud, but don’t fret. Below, we provide some actionable steps you can follow to reduce the risk of a data breach, as well as advice on keeping your home insurance policy current to protect the gear in your home office.
More Americans than ever before are working from home.
The trend toward remote work exploded after COVID-19 forced many workers out of their offices indefinitely. Nearly half of Americans reported working from home since the outset of the pandemic.
Many offices choose to forgo a concrete plan to re-open instead of allowing employees to work from home well into 2021 and beyond. Some companies have even announced that they choose to work from home permanently, indicating that home offices won’t phase out as a trend anytime soon.
10 tips to reduce cybersecurity threats to your home office
The societal shift to working from home hasn’t been without challenges. Human error causes 95% of cybersecurity breaches, and we’re now dialing in unsupervised on our home networks or personal devices.
Keeping this in mind, focus on these cybersecurity best practices to keep your work-from-home setup secure from any unwanted visitors who may be snooping around.
1. Use devices provided by your employer
If you’re newly transitioning to a home office setup, ask your employer about what technologies they’ll provide you with. It would be best if you were given everything you need to perform your role from home; instead of using your home computer or phone to check emails or browse secure documents, opt for devices provided by your employer.
Every company will maintain different policies about technology and cybersecurity with an at-home setup, but keeping your work on work-only devices reduces the liability to you personally in the event of a security breach.
2. Secure your online footprint with a VPN
Make sure to enquire with your company about their use of a virtual private network (VPN). This is a private server to manage your internet connection, making sure you stay anonymous and your data stays private. You’ll also want to remember to update your VPN regularly with a dependable password.
Image courtesy of Dan Nelson
3. Use tools and software approved by your employer
You should use devices provided by your employer to keep your work relegated to software that your employer installs or approves. Company-trusted software has been vetted to comply with cybersecurity protocols and will have extra safeguards that other third-party provided software may not.
4. Check for available updates
Keeping your software up to date will ensure you’re as protected as possible from malware, viruses, or other security threats that can impact out-of-date software. It’s important to remember to back up important files before a software update, though, in case you run into technical problems.
5. Only work over a private Wi-Fi connection
Public Wi-Fi is deceptively simple: it’s easy to use and free to access, but that means anyone can access a network and its users. Without a clear way of knowing who’s monitoring your activity on a public network, it’s safest to rely on private connections when you’re handling sensitive information or conducting any work on behalf of your company.
One workaround for when you’re on the go—use a mobile hotspot! This allows you to access your cellular network instead of a public Wi-Fi connection. Though it will use more data, your employer may be interested in compensating you for the expense in the name of security.
Image courtesy of XPS
6. Delete or ignore dubious emails
Nefarious actors are everywhere attempting to access your data, and often they’ll send you an email posing as a coworker to get access to your information. Sometimes, this could be subordinate, but they may even pose as your boss, asking you for a password or requesting that you complete a payment.
Phishing attacks and fraudulent emails are responsible for nearly $60 million in losses every year, and that number is only increasing. Be on the lookout for anyone asking you for personal information or private company data. If you’re not sure about an email, err on the side of caution and ask a reference at your company about an email to verify its authenticity.
7. Switch up your password quarterly
We know that keeping track of so many passwords is already a hassle. The extra effort you put into switching up your passwords—every 90 days, at a minimum—can be the right preventative measure to keep your accounts from getting compromised.
When it comes to keeping your passwords safe, it’s important to keep them private and stored in a safe location. Several password managers specialize in securely storing log-in information and keeping it from prying eyes, all while making sure you never lose it.
8. Protect your virtual meetings from intruders
Whenever you host a virtual meeting, you have tools at your disposal to ensure participants’ safety and security. You can prevent meeting guests from sharing their screens or sharing files, and a password can guard the meeting so no one crashes uninvited.
Especially in meetings, communication is key, so make sure everyone can prepare adequately if confidential or sensitive information is on the agenda, whether that means making sure they’re not in a public place or within earshot of members of their household.
Image courtesy of Luke Peters
9. Stay alert when sharing your screen
Sharing your screen is an easy way to convey added context when you can’t meet face-to-face, but be cautious that you don’t open any documents or files that might contain sensitive data. Make sure only tabs relevant to your meeting are accessible.
10. Brush up regularly on digital safety practices
As with any habit, keeping your online presence secure requires constant vigilance and regular maintenance. The more prepared you are, the less likely you’ll fall victim to a cybersecurity attack. Here are some habits to get into to keep your digital footprint clean:
Organize your inbox
Unsubscribe from spam emails
Utilize multi-factor authentication
Remove unused software
Train yourself in cybersecurity awareness
Protect your physical workstation
Cybersecurity isn’t the only threat to a home office. Security can be compromised by a break-in that could cost you if you’re not aware of your options and your liability. Check out these tips on protecting your new work-from-home setup:
Ensure you’re familiar with your telecommuting policy, if you signed one, so you don’t wind up financially responsible in a crisis.
Keep in mind that as a remote worker, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guarantees you the same rights as on-campus workers regarding workers’ compensation.
Ensure your home insurance policy is current, as it should protect you against losses if a burglary or natural disaster compromises your equipment.
See the infographic from The Zebra below for a list of their best remote work cybersecurity tips.