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Keeping Your Family Secure Online While Working from Home

Today, more people than ever are working from home–and many of those workers hope or play to stay remote once the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end. Making that shift to working from home, however, can mean that you bring the security challenges associated with an office environment home with you. Not only that, cyberattacks are on the rise in the midst of the pandemic. With these steps, however, you can increase the odds that your home and family will remain as safe as possible. 

1. Secure your home network.

Take a look at your home network. How many devices are currently connected to it?

Do you recognize all of them?

Unfamiliar devices connected to your network could be as simple as the neighbor “borrowing” your data. It could be the smart fridge or coffee maker that you forgot was connected to WiFi. In a worst-case scenario, however, that unfamiliar connection on your network could be a hacker attempting to gain access to your family’s data or devices. 

In order to protect yourself, make sure your home network is as secure as possible. You should:

Change the password from the default. Sure, that default password is hard to guess. That doesn’t mean, however, that no one is going to find it. In some cases, there are lists of default passwords for various routers on the internet–and often, if you haven’t taken the time to change your device password, you clearly display exactly what kind of device you’re using, too. Change your password from the default. 

Use a strong password. Choose a password that proves hard to guess. Do not use dictionary words, and try to use a mix of letters, numbers, and characters. The more varied your password, the harder it will be to simply guess. 

Keep an eye on your connections. Periodically, take a look at the devices connected to your network. If you don’t recognize one, you may want to do an audit of your system and determine where the unfamiliar access came from. 

Check your Internet of Things devices. Today, we have more devices than ever that are connected to the internet. That provides incredible convenience around the house, but it can also leave a vital opening for hackers. Disconnect unnecessary devices from your home network. If you never use the smart features on your coffee maker or you don’t actually control your fridge from your phone, you may not want to leave them connected to the network. 

If you’re particularly worried about your home network, you can also use separate networks for home and work use, which can help protect your private data even if the work network is compromised–and vice versa. You can also turn off name sharing on your home network, which will prevent the name from being broadcast to anyone who wants to see it. If you know the name of your network, you can search for it without needing it to show up generally, and both your personal devices and your work devices will continue to connect immediately even if it’s hidden.

2. Run updates on all of your home devices.

Many people get frustrated with updates. They take a long time, they prevent you from doing what you really want to do while they’re running, and they may leave you with new features that you don’t really want–not to mention the space they take up on your devices. Those updates, however, frequently contain vital security patches that can help protect your devices and keep your home and network safer. Run updates on all of your devices, including:

  • Gaming devices
  • IoT devices
  • Computers
  • Printers
  • Any other computer hardware
  • Phones 
  • Tablets

You should also update software when required. While those updates may slow down functionality immediately, they will also provide long-term security for your data.

3. Use a VPN to access the work network.

Instead of accessing your work network openly, use a VPN. A VPN extends a private network over a public network, allowing data to transmit more securely. This can help shield your browsing from anyone who might check it out on a private network or make it easier for you to smoothly access the work network even when you’re working from home. 

4. Update your antivirus software.

With viruses and cyberattacks on the rise, you can’t take the risk of using outdated antivirus software. Update your antivirus and make sure that you run regular scans of your system. If you do note a problem, remove the infected machine from the network and have the antivirus software remove the malware. If you aren’t running antivirus software, invest in a solid security solution that will help protect your private data. 

5. Be careful about what you share online.

Now, more than ever, you must be cautious about what you choose to share online. Pay attention to your social media profiles and what you share across all channels. Be aware when people ask for private information online. While you may feel safe sharing private information through an email, keep in mind that this information could compromise your security or that of your family. 

6. Become and remain aware of current phishing scams. 

In addition to the usual phishing scams that always make the rounds, many scammers are using the pandemic to profit. You may receive emails asking for private information or trying to track your activities or location. The scammer may claim that this attempt is an effort to trace contacts or to gain more information about COVID-19 transmission. You may also receive emails with links that claim to have the latest information about coronavirus and how it’s being transmitted around the world.

If you have not subscribed to emails from a particular location, you likely are not receiving email updates from them–including updates on coronavirus. You should also look for these signs of a potential scam:

  • The email is riddled with errors, including poor spelling and grammar.
  • The email does not appear to come from a reputable or familiar source. Always check directly where the email is coming from, not just the sender name that appears in the description. 
  • The email directs you to an unfamiliar website or asks you to open an attachment that you do not recognize.
  • The email asks you for personal information, including identifying information or login information that the company should have.

If you do receive a phishing email, ignore and/or delete it as quickly as possible. 

7. Use a separate device for work and home, when possible. 

Many employees came home with work devices in the midst of pandemic shutdowns. Others had little choice but to use their own devices whenever possible. If you have the option, use your private device for home use, then swap to your work device when you’re taking care of work responsibilities. By using separate devices, you can prevent information from one location from being compromised along with the other. 

8. Be careful about screen sharing.

Screen sharing can allow you to share the information on your screen with your coworkers and other associates. This can prove incredibly valuable when you’re getting support from IT or working with your coworkers on a project. It can be more of a problem, however, when you have private information on the screen–including information that you might not necessarily want to share with your coworkers. If you know that you’re going to be screen sharing, try to shut down anything that contains personal information. You can take care of those tasks when you’re not doing work–and when you’re not at risk for sharing private data with your coworkers. Also, if you take screenshots or recordings of your meetings, carefully consider all the information displayed on the screen before sharing with anyone outside your company.

9. Enable two-factor authentication. 

Many platforms and programs now allow for the use of two-factor authentication, which means that you will need to use two strategies to prove who you are–usually through your cell phone. Two-factor authentication isn’t just a fantastic tool for keeping your work devices more secure. It can also help protect your private devices, especially if you’re worried about the increase in network traffic or new potential threats.

10. Pay attention to what’s behind your camera.

Like your screen, the area behind your camera could potentially share sensitive personal information. As you remotely connect to your meetings or check in with a customer, make sure you know what’s behind you. Take a close look at what’s visible from your camera. Make sure that you aren’t displaying private login information, including usernames and passwords, and that there’s nothing in view of your camera that you don’t want to risk sharing.

Making the shift to working from home involves a number of changes and challenges to your normal routine. While you can’t perfectly ensure your security, you can significantly decrease security threats and make it easier to keep your home and your family safe. Need more help creating a secure environment as you work from home? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help. 

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About Jeff Collins

Experience and Expertise make the difference when searching for top cloud providers. Appliedi has provided managed cloud services since 1999.

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