Working remotely is nothing new. However, since the outbreak of the COVID-19, companies have been forced to move their entire workforce to work from home overnight.
Fortunately for us though, the COVID-19 pandemic has come at a time when we are well-equipped with remote-working technology and can easily connect and interact with each other remotely through the latest technological tools. In fact, it is estimated that about 51% of the American workforce will start working from home over the long term.
Even though working remotely is very convenient, you also need to keep cybersecurity in mind. This means working in a secure environment and protecting your hardware and data just like you would at the office.
Use Company-Issued Laptops
People working from home may be tempted to use their personal computers, and companies may even let them, figuring it will help them avoid the cost of new devices. However, this is not a good idea.
The major drawback of this is that we don’t pay much attention to the security of our home computers. As a result, they may be susceptible to outside cyber threats like phishing, malware, and hacking
Company-issued laptops on the other hand can be equipped with security updates and patches. Work-authorized computers can also be accessed remotely by your IT team who can push security measures when they are needed.
Watch Out for Unsecured Networks
It may seem something so basic but a reliable and secure internet is not available to all remote workers. What’s even worse is working on public networks like the ones available in cafes and shops. In fact, according to iPass, about 62% of Wi-Fi related security threats took place when the person was using an unsecured public network.
When you are using your company’s Wi-Fi network, the IT team is constantly monitoring who is logging into the account and whether they are authorized or not. So when you are working remotely, it is also your company’s responsibility to check your home Wi-Fi by logging on to your Wi-Fi routers and finding out who is logging on to them.
If they find out devices that they cannot recognize, they can block them from using your network and hacking into your home system.
Turn On Your VPN
It is not always possible to provide laptops to all your employees who are working remotely. This can make them vulnerable to cybercriminals.
However, companies can install and encourage you to make use of tech tools that can keep you cyber safe when working remotely. These include firewalls, malware protection, 2-factor authentication, and, perhaps most importantly, a VPN.
A VPN can provide a safe and secure link between the company and its employers by encrypting data. It can hide your browsing history from cybercriminals and competitors and ensure your information stays hidden from unwanted eyes when you send or receive it.
If you are a small company that doesn’t use a VPN, it is important you use a VPN to protect yourself and then make it a constant part of your business security.
Beware of Downloading Unauthorized Tools
Since you will be working remotely, collaboration is now more important than ever. Most people working from home use video conferencing and instant messaging tools authorized by their employers. However, if a tool isn’t working right, they may be tempted to download a substitute — one which may have a security flaw.
This means that unauthorized people may be able to access not just your company’s data but your personal data as well.
Employers vet their collaboration tools to ensure they are free from cyber threats. So make sure you do not download an alternative program since you can never know if the new software has been properly vetted or not. For most companies, it is worth investing money to properly train your employees in cybersecurity so that they are aware of the best practices to protect their data.
Verify Emails From External Sources
For cybercriminals, it is the easiest thing in the world to impersonate an email from your company. Hackers are exploiting the COVID-19 outbreak by sending phishing emails with harmful links to unwary employees.
These emails may look like they come from your own company and may instruct you to click on an embedded link. Once you do this, it will download malicious software onto your computer.
Therefore, before you click on any such links, make sure you hover over the sender email and hyperlinks to view the full email address and URL to verify it comes from a reliable source. Also, check if it starts with a generic greeting like “Dear Sir/ Madam” rather than your full name. If it doesn’t, immediately let your employers know of the phishing attempt.
Back-Up Your Documents
When you are working from home, the most unexpected of things can happen, like your children spilling juice on your laptop or your computer crashing for no reason before you have had the chance to save a critical document.
If you do not want to lose valuable information as well as the time and effort it took you to create your documents, you should back them up on an external hard drive, your company’s cloud platform or even an external cloud storage service provider.
Your company cloud platform automatically saves your documents but also allows access and sharing amongst multiple users so that if one of the employees is out of commission for some reason, others in the team can access the document in the cloud.
Keep Contact With Your Employer
Working from home can be full of distractions so it is easy to overlook aspects of your digital hygiene. However, companies around the world are continuing to react to the developments surrounding the pandemic.
That is why it is important to stay in contact with your employer on a daily basis. You may get emails on your inbox discussing company-wide changes, coronavirus-related information, or new policies regarding cybersecurity.
It is important to stay on top of them so that you, your colleagues, and your business stay safe and secure.
As you can see, the steps above are pretty simple and it is easy to see why some employees may think they are not all that necessary. However, when all your staff is working from home and all of their activities are distributed, then your cybersecurity is only as good as the weakest link.
It is up to the employer to ensure that all the employees understand that these basic steps are what ensures a secure network and are what your whole team relies on to get the job done.