Over the past several months, many employees with office jobs have started to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes with changes and challenges, one of which is the lack of easy access to an IT team who can solve network issues and ensure home network security. The problem is compounded by reports that “hackers and scammers have been using the coronavirus pandemic plaguing the globe to carry out cyberattacks.” For those workers who have access to sensitive information and confidential data from their companies, home network security is all the more vital. Avoid becoming a victim of opportunistic hackers by using these tips to set up a secure network for your home office.
1. Install a network firewall.
Fortunately, this tip should be easy to implement for most, as wireless routers have a built in firewall for security. It’s not always turned on by default, so ensure yours is switched on. This, combined with the built-in firewalls provided by Windows (as well as your security software), is enough for most set-ups to offer thorough data protection.
2. Back up your data.
There are several options available to you for secure data back-up:
-Back up to an external drive such as a USB hard drive using Windows’ File History or Backup feature, or Apple’s Time Machine feature. This method has the advantage of being inexpensive, but it doesn’t eliminate vulnerability to physical danger such as fire or robbery.
-Back up data over the internet using a subscription service. Often this costs money, but it protects from hard drive failure, natural disaster, or any other cause for data loss.
-Use a cloud storage service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive. These services offer similar benefits to subscription services but also sync to multiple devices. Data storage is free up to a certain amount, or you can pay for more.
Ideally, you should use more than one method – for example, if you lose internet connectivity for any reason, an on-site copy will allow you to store and access your files while the online service is unavailable. Check into whether your company is willing to cover the minimal cost of an online data back-up while you’re working from home.
3. Keep an eye out for phishing sites.
The rules of email and website security in the time of COVID-19 are not much different than the best practices you’re already used to, but it never hurts to brush up:
-Be very skeptical of emails from senders you don’t recognize and pay close attention to the domain within the email address…senders can pair names you recognize with unrelated email addresses.
-Common tactics include sending emails claiming to be from the CDC or a “virus specialist” with advice.
-Whenever possible, don’t click links in an email even if it appears to be from a company you know and trust. Go to the known site on your own in your browser.
-Do not reply to requests for personal information without verifying the identity of the requester, especially when the request is unexpected.
-Don’t open suspicious attachments. For example, one of the many coronavirus-related scams is an email that claims to have an attached data file showing the latest statistics on the virus, but when opened, it installs malicious software. Cyber criminals could then access confidential company information or lock your computer and hold your access for ransom.
Norton has even more in-depth advice on coronavirus-specific scams: https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-online-scams-coronavirus-phishing-scams.html
4. Secure your home office Wi-Fi environment.
Again, these are best practices for home Wi-Fi use in general, but they are increasingly important for use with sensitive company information:
-Create a strong, unique Wi-Fi password. Many routers come with a default password which is easy for hackers to guess. Aim for at least 20 characters and include both capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
-Enable network encryption on the router – ideally the encryption type should be WPA2.
-Keep your router’s software updated.
Implementing these easy solutions will help you to ensure top-notch home network security and bring you a bit more peace of mind in these stressful times.