Working from home has become an alternative for many people because of the Covid-19 pandemic. These professionals, however, need to take extra care with online security. IT departments of large companies often take serious steps to avoid corporate information leaks, but small businesses and liberal professionals should also take precautions when adopting remote work. The following are 10 tips that will increase the security of your data while working at home during the coronavirus isolation.
1. Change and protect your passwords
It must be assumed that the home network is less secure than corporate. The recommendation of security companies such as ESET and Panda Security is to adopt strong passwords and activate two-step verification in all online services. Exchange weak or very old passwords for 12-digit sequences mixing numbers, letters and symbols. Experts also indicate that long phrases can even have more effect against possible invasion attempts.
Do not write down passwords on paper or common notepads. Instead, opt for digital safes that specialize in saving sensitive information, such as LastPass and 1Password, both with a mobile app and browser extension. Another option is to save your logins in Chrome’s password manager. Also, it is important to put a password and configure the computer’s fingerprint reader.
2. Install a good antivirus
It is essential to scan the computer with a good antivirus before you start working, especially if the computer is personal. Malwarebytes is one of the best for this kind of task, while software like AVG and BitDefender are good free alternatives to complement Windows Defender, which comes pre-installed on Windows 10.
It is important to note that Mac users should also look for extra protection: Apple’s platform has been increasingly targeted by hackers, among other factors, because users think the system is safer than it is. AVG is one of the popular options with a macOS version.
3. Change default router password
Before using Wi-Fi from home for work, make sure your router is no longer configured with the manufacturer’s default password. This type of code is widely known, which ultimately eliminates an important security layer on the network: if an intruder accesses your Wi-Fi, they can quickly control the main port on the network and infect other devices.
The procedure for changing the password can be performed on the PC or mobile phone and usually varies according to the model. In general, you need to enter the router’s IP address in your browser, enter the default login data and change the data in the security option.
4. Use a VPN
Even improving home network security, the use of a VPN is still the best way to protect company data when working from home. Virtual networking technology creates a kind of tunnel between your computer and the company’s server, preventing potential intruders from having access to information traffic. The solution is suitable for those who work at home and need access to documents that will remain on the company’s computers.
Do not use free VPN on your computer. Instead, use a VPN with a paid plan, which offers more security guarantees and, mainly, data privacy. ExpressVPN, Surfshark, and IPVanish are some good options. NordVPN is also very popular, but you have to take into account that the service was hacked in 2018. If you’re using a free option to handle documents that don’t require such a high level of security, opt for the integrated VPN in your Opera browser and CloudFare’s VPN 1.1.1 for mobile.
5. Update computer and applications
Before you start working at home, it is also important to update all equipment and programs to ensure the latest security packages. On Windows 10, the recommendation is to leave Windows Update on automatic and install all available items for download. Also update your browser and Office, which always has many updates pending on the Mac version.
It is important to remember that Microsoft no longer supports Windows 7 and Windows XP, which makes systems too dangerous to handle sensitive files. If your PC is still running one of this software, the recommendation is to buy and install Windows 10 as soon as possible or change your computer.
6. Use virtual machines
Users who are more afraid of working with sensitive information on a personal computer can use virtual machines for greater security. The virtualization technology offered by Windows or software like Parallels, which isolates activities performed within a protected environment and prevents, for example, malware installed on the machine from coming into contact with company documents.
The solution is also suitable for small businesses that need to free up employees from home, but do not trust their personal PCs to have the security necessary to directly access the corporate network.
7. Avoid using external pen drives and hard drives
Pendrives, external HDs, and other storage devices are gateways to infections and should be avoided in the home office. Caution is the same as that normally adopted within companies: even if the network is secure, it is difficult to protect yourself from malware that has direct access to the victim’s computer through the USB port. Antivirus with active monitoring can help block possible threats, but not using this type of disk is always more suitable to keep yourself safer.
8. Make constant backups in the cloud
The simplest way to avoid losing jobs is to save everything in the cloud constantly. If your company doesn’t have its solution, you can use free or low monthly fee services to keep your documents always saved online. OneDrive is the most convenient tool for Windows 10 users: instead of saving the files in the common document folder, just save everything in the directory of the same name inside OneDrive in Windows Explorer.
The service offers 5 GB of free storage and 1 TB in an Office 365 plan for starting at $59.99 yearly. Another option is Google Drive, which offers 15 GB free and an option of 100 GB for $1.99 and 200 GB for $2.99 monthly. The Dropbox costs $ 9.99 per month with 2 TB. The Box Drive is one of the few with unlimited space for a monthly fee of $13.50.
9. Be extra careful with spam and phishing
Hackers will have to adapt to the new home office scenario and adapt attack strategies with smarter spam. Wait for more and more attempts to trick victims by email and messages. Call the alert when you receive a message from your boss or colleague asking for something unusual, such as your password to access the system. It’s also important to keep an eye out for classic phishing with email addresses that try to mimic the real thing. When in doubt, try to confirm requests with the person on the phone.
10. Enable computer encryption
Enabling encryption is a more drastic measure to ensure that data stored on the computer is not read even in the event of device theft. In MacBook, make sure FileVault is active in the Security and Privacy settings menu. On the PC, go to “Device Encryption” in the “Update and Security” menu if it is Windows 10, or look for “BitLocker” in older versions, such as Windows 7.
It is important to remember that encryption impacts computer performance. Regardless of the operating system, activate the feature only if the machine has enough processing power to handle the encryption of the files.