When you work from home, your biggest goal is to get the job done well and get it done on time. We often forget a critical element of remote work: cybersecurity. Office workers usually don’t have to worry about it since their company’s IT department establishes security systems. When you work from home, especially if you run your own business or are a freelancer, you are likely to be on your own.
You need to get informed and implement a few policies that will keep your device and your work safe.
Why Is Security Important for Remote Workers?
A report from Alliance Virtual Offices shows that cyber criminals primarily target home workers. Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the number of people working from home has greatly increased and there has been a 238% increase in cyberattacks. The remote work environment is more vulnerable because it’s away from the secured corporate network.
Those who lack an understanding of security risks may fall for phishing scams, which often start as a request to click on an innocuous link, that lets a virus into your system which can often read and distort software and documents. You could also unknowingly expose sensitive login credentials through a public network. With a bit of knowledge and a few steps of precaution, you can increase your cyber resilience significantly. Let’s get started.
Main Security Threats and Risks for Remote Workers
The first step towards prevention is becoming aware of all the different threats you could face while working from home:
- Sharing sensitive data through unsecured channels, such as files or email without encryption
- Weak-security home networks and unsecured public Wi-Fi
- Unsecured hardware, without high-quality cybersecurity programs that are properly updated
- Phishing attacks, especially through offers from unknown “clients” that seem legit at first
- Webcam hacking during video conferences
Now, the question is: how can you prevent these threats?
8 Tips to Make Remote Work More Secure
- Install a Security App and Always Update It
There’s a popular opinion that you don’t need anti-malware software on your computer, especially if it’s a Mac. But when you use the device for work, you cannot act casually. If your computer starts running slowly or performing tasks you didn’t initiate, it probably has a virus.
Anti-malware protection is one of the most important steps towards a more secure remote working environment. Regular malware check-ups will take care of cleaning Mac of viruses and also those on Windows based PCs and will prevent corporate data breaches.
- Use a VPN to Access Company Systems
If you are required to access enterprise systems during your work, using a virtual public network is a good idea. The VPN acts similarly to a firewall, extending a private network across a public network through an encrypted connection. With this, you can safely work while using public hotspots.
A VPN prevents websites from discovering your real location. Your Internet provider won’t be able to monitor your activity, and hackers will have difficulty intercepting what you’re doing.
- Have a Strictly Work-Related Device
When you use the same device for work and pleasure, your productivity is not the only thing that’s affected. By visiting all sorts of websites that aren’t required for your job, you invite security threats. Your personal device may also lack security apps and software updates. In addition, the passwords may be weak. Get a reliable computer, follow all security recommendations, and keep it strictly for work.
As for family members, you must keep them away from your work devices, always!
- Use a Good Password Manager
Every single account you use for remote work needs a secure password. A good password manager will auto-generate a key that’s difficult to guess. Plus, it will keep all your passwords safe. You’ll be able to access the login details with your fingerprint and/or a unique password (the only one you’ll need to remember).
If you have a Mac, Apple Keychain is already installed on it. Other options include Keeper, Bitwarden, and Zoho Vault.
- Ensure Secure Video Conferences
Do you use Zoom or a similar app for video meetings? The first thing you need to do is invest in a paid account. It will give you access to advanced security features. You should also create a waiting room, which will prevent the wrong people from accidentally joining an important call.
Get into the settings, too! Make sure only the host can share their screen and lock a meeting as soon as it starts, so nobody will enter from that point on. Here’s another important thing to keep in mind: the ID and password you use for Zoom meetings have to be unique.
- Ensure Secure Online Banking
Freelancers don’t usually get a regular paycheck on a certain date. They get a random flow of money, depending on their project completion deadlines. Their clients pay through eWallets or use online banking to transfer money. A security breach in your online banking platforms is the last thing you need.
Handle your funds with accredited services and software, and never share your login details with anyone! You can add an extra layer of security by changing your passwords from time to time.
- Strengthen Your Wi-Fi Network’s Security
When you work from home, changing the password to your network is the first thing you should do. You can do that by typing the address “192.168.1.1” into your browser. Your password should be difficult to guess, and you should always change it after sharing it with guests.
Network encryption is also important. You’ll need to access the security setting on your wireless configuration page. There, you’ll be able to choose between a few security methods. WPA2 is the strongest and recommended one.
- Stick to Secure Email Practices
Email is a popular medium for spreading all kinds of malware, ransomware, and social engineering attacks. The first rule to remember is to never send sensitive data (such as passwords) in email messages. You shouldn’t open any unexpected attachments, as they may contain viruses. When you open a message from an unknown sender and it contains a link, do not click on it!
Remote workers have to be constantly aware of security threats. You don’t have to become obsessed or paranoid, though. All it takes are a few simple practices that can prevent malware, phishing attacks, or data exposure from occurring. If you haven’t installed a security app and a VPN service, that’s where you can start!