Work from Home Jobs Have Cyber Security Risks – Be Careful What You Download as You Start Working Remotely
Work from home jobs are no longer viewed as a luxury by employers. Work from home jobs have suddenly become a necessity or even mandated by the government due to the coronavirus outbreak spreading across the globe. You may have found yourself in a work at home situation with little time to set your workspace up. One of the worst things you could do right now is to rush to download sketchy apps to remotely connect from home with your job and get back on the payroll. Any software or app, especially those that are free to use, can make your phone slow or leave your computer vulnerable to hackers.
If your phone or laptop gets hacked, you may not be able to work at all. To make matters worse, you could put your employer’s entire IT network, email service, and file sharing services at risk for phishing emails or a malware attack. If you’re not working at all because your copmany is shuttered, read our post on Quick to Learn Online Jobs So You Can Work from Home
If you have not been given any guidelines on what apps and hardware, you’ll need for your home office turned work from home job there are several basic apps you’ll need for communication and security. Afterall, you don’t want your computer getting hacked or your employer’s data being exposed to the public. You may also find yourself submitting your timesheet online from home rather than from an office computer. Exposing any of your personal data can leave you open to various forms of tax fraud including W-9 fraud and other income tax scams.
Useful apps for work from home jobs include secure messaging apps, video conferencing, file sharing sites, antivirus protection, a virtual private network (VPN) to log in to your network. Although many people manage to work entirely from their phone, a decent laptop is often faster and can support most communications and file-sharing apps.
Here are some tips to keep you safe, your computer, and boss happy.
Get a Reliable Communication App
Get a reliable communication app. Actually, get two. You probably already have one video conferencing like Facetime or can video call using your cellular provider’s phone app. But to work with a team you may need something where you can share links, files, and screenshare.
I use Signal for SMS texts. Signal encrypts messages, but it only works if the other person is using Signal as well Other secure messaging apps I use include WhatsApp, Telegram, and WeChat. Although I do use WhatsApp for work video calls, it is not convenient for team calls.
For group conferences I prefer uberconference. A lot of people prefer Zoom for video conferences, but the company has already stated they are dealing with being overloaded with so many more people at work from home jobs now.
Cisco is offering WebEx for free for new users and teams of up to 100.
No matter what video conference app you use, secure your conference app by enabling two-factor authentication and a unique PIN for each call. Don’t allow the participants to start the meeting without the host.
Stay Away from Non-Secure WiFi
Public WiFi, like that found at coffee shops, is not secure to use, ever. Anyone using the same WiFi network, can intercept the information your phone or computer is sending. Every time you read or send emails, messages, or log into social media, your device is sending your username and password, even if you don’t enter it each time you send a message.
If you must use public WiFi, then use a VPN, every time.
Upgrade Your Hardware
The average person can get away with a low-cost laptop at home because they really only use it for surfing the web or writing an occasional MS Word Document. Both of those tasks are light and therefore you don’t really need a beefy laptop.
However, if you are on day one of working at home, then you may quickly find that you need a more robust laptop. Video conferencing can suck up a lot of RAM making your computer or your phone slow. On top of that you may keep multiple tabs open in a web browser, read email, use MS Excel, all while using the security apps discussed below which tax system resources more.
If you have an older laptop that is still using Windows 7 Operating system it is definitely time to upgrade. Microsoft, no longer supports Windows 7. That means there are no more security bug fixes which leaves your messages and personal information as well as that of your employers vulnerable to hackers. Upgrade to a laptop that protects your data with facial recognistion or fingerprint scans.
Pay for a Reputable VPN App
A VPN, or virtual private network, is software that can be used on your phone or computer. A VPN encrypts all of the information your device is sending whenever the VPN is turned on. That means all of your messages, emails, photos, and passwords are encrypted so they cannot be read by hackers or other prying eyes.
VPNS protect others from seeing your messages, emails, photos, and the websites you’ve been looking at by encrypting data sent from the device. Consumers use a VPN to connect to the internet securely. This is especially useful when you want to shop online or are anytime you are using a public WiFi network like those found in coffee shops.
Corporate VPNs, like Perimeter 81, are more robust and protect your computer, the corporate IT servers, cloud computing resources and office resources. From hackers.
The VPNs I recommended cost money, but they are inexpensive. For about five USD per month, depending on which one you select and how long you subscribe for. I pay for IPVanish quarterly.
NordVPN has more servers to connect than IPVanish. Since VPNs can cause a noticeable slowdown, a large selection of servers is an advantage as you can choose the server nearest to you and change any time if it’s not working out. This is a feature that can really help increase connection speed which is a top reason why people choose NOT to protect themselves a VPN. I use IPVanish as it was recommended by afraid and it has worked well for me even when I traveled to Taiwan.
I’ve also used TunnelBear VPN. This app has a free version that is easy and even sort of fun to use. Another free VPN is VPNhub, but I haven’t tried it myself.
Free Isn’t Always Better
Free VPNs have data limits though and sometimes security risks. Free VPNs do not let you choose what server to connect to.
Paying for VPN subscription can ensure your privacy and remove data caps. One perk, VPNs can be used to circumvent government censorship or for watching blocked movies, sports and shows online. Read our post about watching blocked content with a VPN.
Use a Spell Checker
Like most work from home jobs, you may find that you are writing more and talking less. Although MS Word and Google docs have spell checkers, Grammarly can really improve your writing with tips for better sentence structure. I use Grammarly to help write blog posts and my cyber security guides.
Download and Use an Antivirus App
Scammers are already using the novel Coronavirus to prey upon people looking for health information. Several email phishing scams have been spotted posing as legitimate World Health Organization updates or notices from governments. These emails offer helpful information about the Coronavirus and even data on number of infected people or locations. But the phishing emails are weaponized with malware. The content of the email tries to trick the reader into opening an email attachment which launches a malware download and infects the computer.
A good antivirus app can protect your computer form phishing emails, malicious attachments, and malware like those sent by hackers. An app like McAffee has up to date malware information that means your antivirus app can defend against the most recent malware attacks and phishing emails to protect your money and data.
Paid antivirus apps are usually better than free apps. Czech based Avast, a developer of an antivirus app, was caught collecting and selling the personal data of people using its products to its subsidiary Jumpshot, Inc which is now out of business. Try McAfee antivirus app
Beware of Phone Scams
If you are contacted by voice call, email, or messaging app by someone claiming to be from an IT department, don’t believe it. Verify that the person is a legitimate representative of your company before cooperating with anything. Do not give them access to your computer. Do open emails from someone you don’t know. Do not click on links in emails or open email attachments. The fake IT department is a common scam.
If you are contacted by telephone, and want to call back to verify the request, don’t use the phone number given to you by the caller .Look it up yourself. You may have to be transferred a few times but that the only way you’ll know the caller is legitimate.
Backup Your Data
Backup your data to a USB flash drive or removable hard drive. That way if your computer does get hacked, or infected with malware, you will be able to get back online easily.