In this guest post, Daniel William Carter from IDStrong discusses how remote workers can protect themselves from cybersecurity issues during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged millions of employees to work from home, but what will happen if their employers don’t have a workable plan for cybersecurity issues?
Since the coronavirus pandemic spiraled out of control in January, companies have been scrambling to figure out how to operate amidst new social distancing and lockdown rules. Most nonessential businesses were shuttered, except for a handful of industries that remained open. When it was evident that everybody needed to stay home until COVID-19 infections lessened, employees who clamored for a more flexible work-at-home setup suddenly found themselves working their dream job scenario.
After all, jumping out of bed while still in your pajamas and going straight to work without a daily commute sounds like a great deal.
Now that working from home is the “new normal” due to the pandemic, issues have come to light about how safe remote work is, especially when employers don’t have a cybersecurity plan in place for employees to follow.
Cybersecurity Issues Remote Workers Need to Fix Right Now
If you find yourself working from home without a cyber safety net from your employer, take these steps to secure your home office and sensitive data while keeping the bad guys out.
Secure Your Network
Start by making sure your network is securely linked between your boss, co-workers, and files. To do this, disable your Wi-Fi connectivity and plug your computer directly to your router using an Ethernet cable. Or, set up a hidden Wi-Fi network with credentials only you know about. Go a step further and restrict router use via MAC addresses. This allows you to control who can connect. You should also change the generic username and password that came with the router and enable its built-in firewall and DDoS attack prevention capabilities.
Use a Clean Device
Ideally, you should only use a device that came from your employer. This ensures there aren’t any rogue programs installed, and that it’s appropriately configured—two vital parts of avoiding cybersecurity issues. But if you don’t have access to a company computer, feel free to use your own. Just make sure it’s a clean install of whatever operating system (OS) you are using. However, this is a tall order if you don’t have a spare device, but one of the best ways to keep your files secure. Make sure to run a full antivirus scan during startup if you’re using your personal computer. Finally, make sure you uninstall programs you don’t need.
Update Your OS and Software
Regularly update your OS and make sure that all software installed in your system gets updated or patched to the latest version to avoid vulnerability exploits.
Conduct a Password Audit
Use strong passwords and never use the same one twice. All your online accounts should have a unique password and username if possible. With a strong password, you make it harder for hackers to get into your account if the acquire another of your passwords.
Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Enable multi-factor authentication on all your accounts via an authenticator app, email, or text message. MFA adds an extra layer of security in case an attacker gains access to your username and password. Without the right code, nobody can gain access to your accounts.
Encrypt Your Traffic
Run your traffic through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for enhanced security. A VPN encrypts your connection so hackers can’t pinpoint your location or intercept information. Also, check if the website you’re visiting has a secure connection (HTTPS) to ensure secure network communication.
Create Redundancies and Daily Backups
Since you’re working from home, create daily backups using an external hard drive and other redundancies (cloud backups). By doing so, you can protect your device against failures and ransomware.
Install a Robust Antivirus and Firewall Program
Add an extra layer of security for your devices by installing robust antivirus and firewall programs. There are plenty of big names in the cybersecurity industry, and you can’t go wrong by choosing any of the top five based on performance, features, AV certifications, and professional reviews.
Keep Yourself Updated
Take a few minutes to stay updated on the latest cybersecurity news, including COVID-19 related scams. Cybercriminals and scammers are crawling out of the woodwork during this pandemic, targeting hospitals, the elderly, people looking for work, remote workers, and others. Get the latest on phishing emails, stimulus package scams, and World Health Organization (WHO) impersonators so you can see them coming a mile away.
Practice Good Online Hygiene
Good online hygiene is a necessity, especially with all the scams happening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Actionable aspects of good online hygiene include:
- Never respond to unknown senders
- Don’t click on any links from unsolicited emails
- Never download files from untrusted sources
- Put limits on what you share on social media
You should also never share sensitive information to anyone via email, even if they claim to be from a reputable organization.
In an ideal world, employers would have the singular responsibility of cybersecurity. But not all organizations have the capacity and resources to cover this scenario. As such, employees need to help out in any way they can during these trying times. By practicing these cybersecurity methods, new remote workers can mitigate the risk of company data falling into the wrong hands.
Daniel William Carter is Content Director and a Cyber Security Consultant at IDStrong. His great passion is to maintain the safety of the organization’s online systems and networks. He knows that both individuals and businesses face the constant challenge of cyber threats. Identifying and preventing these attacks is a priority for Daniel.
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