Everywhere across the country, you can hear people murmuring “Happy Birthday” as they thoroughly scrub their hands to combat the spread of COVID-19. However, though many people are practicing good personal hygiene to protect themselves from the coronavirus, many are not taking the proper steps toward cybersecurity hygiene to protect their work-from-home computer from its own outbreak.
To help protect your most immediate and important technology, here are eight steps you can take to work from home safely.
Beware of scammers
Security company RiskIQ recently issued a report predicting increases in ransomware attacks. Ransomware and other forms of malware are generally delivered as links or attachments in emails. Many of the phishing and more specifically tailored spear phishing emails appear to provide important information about the coronavirus, luring people into downloading the malware onto their computers and also providing a means for sending the ransomware to their employers’ computers.
Don’t use your company-issued laptop at home for purposes unrelated to work. Scammers have set up many phony websites that appear to provide information about the coronavirus, but instead download malware through one site visit. Scammers can then steal personal and business information from your laptop.
Never click on a link or download an attachment unless you have absolutely confirmed that it is legitimate.
Use company-approved software—and keep it updated
If possible, use a computer, laptop, or cellphone issued by your employer, which will likely have company-approved security software, a VPN, and multi-factor authentication. Remember to keep that security software updated with the latest security patches.
If you must use your own devices for work, make sure that you are using security software approved by your employer.
Use a virtual private network (VPN) that will encrypt all of your electronic communications. Security and privacy are always concerns, but they are particularly important when working from home with sensitive information. Using a VPN is simple and easy. VPN hides information about your IP address and encrypts all of your communications, thereby protecting your work from being hacked.
Confirm IT requests with the source
Be particularly wary of emails that purport to be from your company’s IT department asking for remote access to your computer. Cybercriminals are adept at finding out the names and email addresses of people in your IT department to make an email appear legitimate. If you receive such an email, you should confirm that it is legitimate by calling your IT department before allowing remote access.
Always use multifactor authentication
Use dual-factor authentication whenever possible to provide better security. It can act as a safeguard when your password becomes compromised. This is also a good time to consider changing your password to make it stronger and more secure.
Keep kids away from your machines
Teach your children about proper technology hygiene, and don’t allow them to use your work laptop. Keeping a separate computer, which is not networked to the computer you use for work or family finances ,can take away the risk of a child unwittingly downloading malware.
The best thing you can do to teach your children about proper computer use is to instruct them to avoid clicking on email links, unless they have absolutely confirmed the email is legitimate.
Links contaminated in spear phishing emails have been specifically tailored to lure people into clicking, which is the primary way that malware is downloaded onto work and home computers.
Avoid the porn
Pornographic websites have long been a target for cybercriminals to insert malware. While viewing websites at work is common, it is even more common in the home and presents a significant cybersecurity threat either way. While it shouldn’t need to be said, don’t use your company laptop to access pornography.
Secure your router
Your home router is a critical part of your cybersecurity. If your router is compromised, the security of all of your devices that use the router is in jeopardy.
In 2018 the FBI issued a warning about the hacking of routers. To protect yourself you should disable remote management settings on your router and make sure you have changed your router’s default password to a strong password.
Furthermore, turn on your router’s encryption. Older routers also may not automatically update with the latest security patches, so if yours does not automatically update, you should check with your router company for the latest updates. As an added precaution, make sure your router’s firewall is set appropriately for your needs.
If you follow these basic steps, working from home can be a safe place to avoid the coronavirus, along with destructive computer viruses.
Steve Weisman is a senior lecturer in Law, Taxation, and Financial Planning at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He is also the author and creator of www.scamicide.com.