Remote Work – Six Ways to Keep Your Data Safe When Working Remotely to Secure All of Your Information
In the past working from home or other remote work location was often considered by employers to be a luxury. Sometimes, in the case of a family emergency or power outage or natural disaster you could find yourself working from home unexpectedly albeit temporarily. However, there are times where you may have to be prepared to work remotely for an extended period – like in the aftermath of a natural disaster or possibly now with the COVID-19 outbreak. Workers may find themselves working remotely because COVID-19 has caused their workplace to close. It’s also possible that you could be quarantined to your local area and unable to get to work, even if it is open. Worse yet, you could become ill. But accessing work emails, files, and accessing sensitive corporate information exposes private corporate data and electronic devices to an increased risk of a data breach.
So how can you protect your phone, laptop, computers, and all the information these devices access to get the job done during remote work?
If you can’t go into your office for whatever reason, one of the best ways to protect your private work information is to connect from your home internet connection using a secured router. The important part is that it is indeed secured.
Here’s how to keep your data safe when working remotely.
Ensure All Internet Connections Are Secure
To secure your home router for remote work, access your router settings and change the username and password. Many people never bother to reset the login credentials set by the manufacturer each time they buy a new router. Internet routers are shipped from the manufacturers with stock usernames (like admin) and passwords. Those login credentials can be found online by Googling the router manufacturer and model name. That’s because they all have the same setup.
So, you need to set and remember a unique password for your router. If you can, create a new username too. This will help keep hackers out. Anyone who gains access to your router can read all of the data sent to and from your home network. They just have to be in range and not even in your house.
You can also use your home WiFi as long as it is properly secured with a strong username and password and up-to-date hardware.
Most newer routers come with two frequencies (networks) plus possibly a guest network. All frequencies should also have their own unique passwords or be disabled. Protect all of your WiFi connections with strong, hard to guess passwords. Never reuse passwords used for your email account or other apps.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Your employer may require that you connect to email and all corporate resources using a VPN. If you need a change of scenery and want to get out for a little while and work at a coffee shop or other public space, you’re definitely going to need a VPN to protect your laptop, phone, and online accounts from hackers.
A virtual private network, referred to as a VPN, is an app that you can install on your phone, laptop, or computer. A VPN encrypts data, messages, emails, images, and everything else sent from your device over the internet. If you’re working at a coffee shop and using WiFi connection, then anyone else using the coffee shop’s WiFi can read all of the information sent from your phone or laptop. If you use a VPN your information is protected.
We reviewed some free and paid VPN apps. Free VPN apps usually have data limits and cannot handle streaming media. Paid VPNs like Norton or IPVanish VPN are good options.
If your company has a lot of devices or contractors, Perimeter 81 is a more robust solution.
Use Unique Passwords – Always
Use unique passwords for all of your online accounts and apps. People commonly use the same password across multiple accounts. If you work somewhere using a non-secure WiFi connection, like that found in a hotel, retail store, or coffee shop you can get hacked pretty easily. If you use the same password for your Instagram account as you do for your bank account, hackers can use that password to break into everything and steal money.
When you log in to read an email or post on social media, your username and password is transmitted automatically whether you enter it or not. Using cheap software and hardware found for sale online for under fifty bucks, can easily steal information sent across WiFi networks that are not protected by a strong password. That means if you’re using the same password for your Instagram as you for other online accounts, then a hacker can use that password to hack into more valuable accounts like your banking app.
If you read your email using unsecured WiFi, a hacker will be able to access your email and use it to send password reset requests for any other account that also uses that email address.
Use a Password Vault for Remote Work Security
Stop writing your passwords on sticky notes. Use a password vault to create and store unique and hard-to-guess passwords for every single online account and app you use. A password vault, also called a password keeper, is an app that you install on your phone or laptop. It creates a strong and random password for each online account and keeps all login credentials in one place.
A password vault can be synced across all your devices and help make your accounts more secure. It’s convenient too. No more remembering all those passwords.
Shopping online will be more secure too.
Use Facial Recognition
If you’re going to work remotely from public spaces, you should consider upgrading to a new laptop or newer phone that uses biometric authentication. Now that you protected your apps and online accounts strong login credentials, you need to protect the device that all your work information is stored on too.
Anyone who finds your misplaced laptop or phone has access to all of your private photos, emails, and messages. Let’s just say you have a good table at a busy Starbucks, and you don’t want to unplug from the power outlet to use the lav. So, you leave your laptop at the table (NOTE – you should NEVER do this) unless your good friend is guarding your stuff to step away. If your laptop is not protected with facial recognition or fingerprint scans, anyone can quickly access your device – upgrade to a more secure laptop.
Use Malware Protection
Get malware protection before you need it. If you and a lot of people from your office are working remotely because of COVID-19, or any other reason, then there’s an increased chance that malware being introduced into your corporate network. When people use their own computers and phones for work uses, there is no guarantee those devices or the apps on them are patched and secure.
Phishing emails are often sent using information stolen from social media accounts. A recent increase in Emotet malware has cost some companies up to $1M to remediate the damage. There are three different types of Coronavirus themed phishing email campaigns disguised as public health messages. These supposedly helpful emails download malware when the email attachments are opened.
Quality antivirus software and malware protection can help stop phishing emails from infecting your laptop. Malware apps can help you clean up your device and regain control if it becomes infected. But the best plan is to prevent and malware downloads and block suspicious emails.
Michelle writes about cyber security, data privacy focusing on social media privacy as well as how to protect your IoT devices. She has worked in internet technology for over 20 years and owns METRONY, LLC. Michelle earned a B.S. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Michelle published a guide to Cyber Security for Business Travelers