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When the outbreak of coronavirus hit in the first quarter of 2020, workplaces across the globe were forced to suddenly pivot to working from home.
Employers had to ensure their staff had the necessary tools in place to be able to carry out their jobs and everything happened in such a rush that several things were massively overlooked.
One of these oversights was cybersecurity and the importance of protecting both workers while they are online as well as the sensitive company data that your business holds. Once workers were settled into a new working routine, I.T. managers across the globe were given the duty of securing every workers’ safety online – as well as that of their firms.
If you’re unsure of what to do to protect yourself and haven’t received an awful lot of advice from your employer, then fear not. Fortunately, we have a host of cybersecurity tips to ensure you stay safe online while working remotely. In turn, this will also reduce the chance of you accidentally becoming susceptible to the loss of sensitive company data.
What is Cybersecurity?
Firstly, let’s clarify exactly what we mean by cybersecurity. Securing your internet-connected devices from cyber threats is how you become cyber secure. This includes your hardware, such as your laptop or computer; your software, such as the Microsoft Office suite of applications; and your file data that are stored on your computer or laptop.
The latter is particularly pertinent for a large organization that operates in a niche industry, as the work files on your computer could contain intellectual property that would be valuable to your competitors or any potential hackers. In a world of flexible working and a wealth of internet-connected devices, cybersecurity has become even more prevalent and is a major challenge for businesses in the modern world, looking to protect both their staff and secrets.
1. Keep Your Operating System Updated
While it can be a bit of a pain to constantly update your computer’s operating system, this is an important cybersecurity prevention tip. Software updates often include vital security measures that have been created by developers to patch up potential ways into your system. While you might be without your computer for a few minutes whilst it updates, you’ll no longer have to constantly dismiss those daily reminders to update your system!
Furthermore, operating system updates are almost always free and serve as a great way to protect yourself from cyber attacks at no additional cost. If you’re an employer, ensure that your entire team have updated to the latest version to make sure that your business isn’t exposed to any potential hackers. It may be possible for your I.T. to manage this process.
2. Install Antivirus Software
Installing antivirus software onto your devices is a smart way to avoid being susceptible to cyber attacks. Designed with cybersecurity in mind, antivirus software can protect your machine from any harmful malware that could cause your business’ sensitive data to become compromised.
Most devices come with a form of antivirus protection nowadays but it’s good practice to find a more secure and thorough solution to protect your PC. This should be able to be expensed with your employer as it is in their best interests for their information and data to be secured.
Whatever you choose, just make sure you keep your antivirus software up-to-date as new cyber threats are always cropping up out of nowhere and being fixed regularly. It’s a bit of a pain but like your operating system, it’s just as vital to keep things updated to ensure you’re 100% protected from cyber threats.
3. Keep Your Work & Personal Devices Separate
While it may be tempting to just join a video conference from your smartphone as opposed to signing in on your laptop, this is misguided. It’s unwise to mix your work and personal devices as cybersecurity lapses can take place when you do so.
Often your personal devices – while far less likely to be targeted – aren’t as secure as your work equipment. For that reason, you shouldn’t use personal devices for work purposes. Keep the two separate to ensure that no sensitive work information is compromised.
For example, should one device become infected with a virus, you will then also have a back-up to rely on and use in the event of an emergency. However, this should just be considered as an emergency contingency plan as using your personal device for work could expose sensitive company data if your personal laptop doesn’t have the proper cybersecurity measures in place.
4. Use A VPN
There are plenty of reasons why you need a VPN but cybersecurity is by far the most important one. If you’re unsure of what a VPN is, it is a virtual private network that enables a user to browse the web securely and anonymously from anywhere in the world. While you think your home Wi-Fi network may be secure and requires a password to get into it, you could still be susceptible to cyber attacks as standard router security isn’t all that thorough.
Using a VPN will add an additional layer of security for you while working from home. Most VPNs are encrypted too, meaning that your browsing data is scrambled making it unreadable to potential hackers trying to snoop on your personal or professional data. Just be sure to opt for a VPN provider with a no-log policy to ensure your data remains entirely your own.
5. Be Wary Of Phishing Scams
Cybercriminals have been in luck during lockdown as so many people have had to pivot to working from home. This has meant many people’s security levels have lapsed. However, you needn’t be susceptible to this by simply learning how to spot and avoid phishing scams.
Several scams are COVID-19 related as this tends to pique people’s interest. Normally in email form, these scams use manipulative language to try and attract people to click through to malicious sites or download insecure files.
These emails typically come from the allusion of a leader within your company such as a CEO or senior manager. However, make sure to double-check the email address these scams are coming from as it can be quite easy to spot that they are fake. Once you get into the habit of this, then you are less likely to become susceptible to phishing scams.
6. Use A Password Manager
Using a password manager is always a sensible idea but it is especially important if you’re working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re still using your router’s default password to secure your home Wi-Fi network, then you ought to really change this.
Yes, it can be tricky to remember a whole host of different passwords but this is where your password manager comes into play. A password manager can generate several different super secure passwords for each of your various log-ins, all of which can then be unlocked with a master password, leaving you with just one super-secure code to remember. Easy!
This helps you to keep your company’s data more secure and under better lock and key whilst working from home. Plus, there’s no more need for sticky notes everywhere with passwords written all over them, which isn’t the most secure idea anyway…
7. Turn On Two-Factor Authentication
Our final tip for cybersecurity safety is to turn on two-factor authentication for your various accounts. If you’re not sure what this is, then you may not have noticed the many notifications or emails you will have received encouraging you to turn this on.
Don’t ignore these as two-factor authentication is one of the best ways to prevent yourself from cyber attacks as it means potential hackers have an additional hoop to jump through to get hold of your private or any company-sensitive data.
For example, you may be asked to set a biometric identification security layer, such as a fingerprint or Face ID to further secure your personal devices, and thereby reduce the risk of you accidentally risking company info. These metrics are much harder for cybercriminals to break through and can massively reduce your chance of being susceptible to a cyber attack.
In summary, there are a whole host of cybersecurity tips that you can implement to ensure that your personal information and your firm’s sensitive intellectual property remain safe. Whether it’s software updates, going out of your way to set-up additional security walls, or simply just being aware of the multitude of phishing scams that have come to fruition owing to COVID-19, there is plenty that you can do as an employee working from home.
Ultimately, this sort of guidance should come from your employer, however, if you haven’t necessarily received the advice you think you ought to, then hopefully these tips help you go some way to protecting yourself online. If you think your colleagues could also benefit from our advice, then be sure to share this article with them and help them to remain cyber secure.