As the world is gradually resulting in telecommuting or remote jobs, it’s very important to share some working from home security tips with you.
No rocket science is involved.
What you will learn in this guide are mere things you don’t take seriously while accessing sensitive information on your devices.
In fact, the moment you connect your computer or mobile phone to the internet, it becomes a minefield for cyber attacks.
Because of that, you can’t take cyber security with levity.
If you don’t protect your device properly while working from home, hackers are most likely going to accompany you into your company’s database and steal confidential data.
I don’t blame you if you don’t know how to maintain cyber security.
Due to the impact of Coronavirus on companies, many employees have lost their jobs as opportunities are now open online.
But if you’re lucky to remain in the organization, not knowing much about how to maintain cyber security isn’t an excuse to make your company or other members of staff you remotely work with vulnerable to cyber attacks.
For that reason, it’s important I share these working from home security tips with you.
This will guide you on what to do before someone uses your access keys to gain access into your office workstation and implicates you.
If you want to know how to secure your device and avoid damages that might occur as you solely rely on your home networks this time, this guide is for you.
We want to look at how to maintain security when employees work remotely.
Or better put, what are the best working from home safety tips you should know while taking a remote job?
You need to know some certain cyber security tips that can help you secure your information online.
And here are they.
Working from home during COVID-19 Lock Down
Security is not what you can take with levity. But unfortunately, most people don’t consider it necessary until they are hit by hackers.
As a result, health and safety receive less attention.
One of the greatest lessons which the Coronavirus has taught us is how to value security and maintain health and safety.
As a result of this, security at every point in human endeavors is more important now than ever.
Lately, we’ve seen the world in a state where no one could ever imagine.
We always expect change because it’s constant.
But despite our intelligence, it was surprising to see nature beating us to it this time around.
Did anyone ever think the entire world could be on hold for a second while we still breathe?
Due to how COVID-19 virus transmits through human contacts, the pandemic has led to an unimaginary disruption in the global economy.
All forms of movement – transportation through the borders, land, seas and air were restricted.
While offices and businesses were being shut down, people were locked down in their various homes all over the world.
As a result of this, working from home has become the only way to set the world back on motion.
To ensure business continued, firms have requested that their employees should work from home.
Since a big bulk of the work in the office now takes place on personal computers or mobile devices, it’s easier for workers to connect to remote workplaces from the convenience of their homes.
At the same time, the circumstance could be an avenue for hackers to steal vital information via your devices if you’re not securing them.
Ideally, personal computers shouldn’t be used for office work.
But now that much of your work is being done at home, you’re no longer in a secure environment.
Using your personal computer and internet service can be susceptible to different types of cyber threats.
Someone might hide behind the screen of your computer through a common application or virus, monitoring all your activities.
All the information you share can be stolen, distorted or used to cause you more harm.
For this reason, you need to know how to maintain cyber security while working from home as an employee or employer.
The following working from home security tips can prevent you from becoming a victim of cyber attacks during this lockdown and beyond.
What is a cyber security threat?
The term cyber security threat is commonly used to describe possible attacks where data or information is processed most importantly in cyberspace.
The way the computer processes data isn’t what someone can see.
So, there would be damages if you wait to see the attackers before taking actions.
The fact is there are some people who prey on everything that is shared from screen to screen.
A cyber or cybersecurity threat, however, is a malicious act that results in damaging or stealing data or causing a disruption in digital life.
You must have heard that computers too can contract viruses.
The types of viruses that are transmitted into the media are called cyber or cybersecurity threats.
A cyber threat can be life threatening, depending on its type and the intention of the person responsible for the attack.
When a system is infected, it opens the door for hackers to take over your device and do whatever they like with your company’s confidential information.
Your system can just freeze and crash all of a sudden.
Any difficulty you experience while trying to access your system and eventually end up formatting the system could be an attack.
This didn’t just happen without someone trying to force his way into your system.
More than 80% of such cases are due to cybersecurity threats.
Reasons for cyber attacks
Cyber attacks can come from government agencies, corporate organizations, employees who are unhappy with their employers, individuals or groups of organized criminals such as terrorists or internet scammers, etc.
So, depending on the attacks and the person or groups behind them, people launch cyber attacks for reasons which include:
- Financial gain
- Corporate espionage
- State espionage
Several cyberattacks have been recorded where victims or companies lose $400 Billion to hackers every year.
Small businesses alone lose $200,000 on average while those who don’t have a strong financial backing run out of business.
According to Consultancy, Deloitte which happens to be the world’s largest cybersecurity consultant, was sometime last year October hit by a sophisticated cyberattack.
Based on early reports gathered by the UK press, it was said that a hacker gained access to Deloitte’s global email server where more than 5 million clients’ sensitive emails and confidential documents were stolen.
The hacker compromised the firm’s global email server through an “administrator’s account” that, in theory, gave them privileged, unrestricted “access to all areas.
This indicates that cyber attacks might not be directly aimed at the company.
The attackers can find loopholes in the connection of any of the employees and from there penetrate the main server.
So, while working from home, it’s possible you lead the attackers to your employer or the company’s main workstation.
Once you have a connection with your company, attackers can hit your company through you.
Don’t say you’re exempted because your work is not account related. The phone call you put through to your boss can be the cause of his loss.
It’s only the attackers that can decide which data to prey on and which employee to use to get across to their target.
For that reason, cybersecurity attacks can be done serially.
When one company is trying to know what is happening in the other, it uses different means to spy and steal confidential information regarding the other.
Sometimes, most companies don’t take legal routes to acquire competitive intelligence. So, they steal it.
Any employee from the target organization can be used to gain access. This practice is what is called corporate or industrial espionage.
In the act, a firm can lose its top account information or intellectual property including business plans, product designs, production techniques, processes, and formulas to competitors.
One of the major reasons why most businesses crash is information leakages.
A company whose trade secret is hijacked might not be able to survive the damage.
Cyber espionage also takes place between nation-states where one steals the other’s military intelligence and weakens its economic and political power or relationship with the other states.
In modern warfare, cyber espionage among nation-states is very dramatic.
According to Rana Rubenstein, while all nations of the world pose cyber threats to one another, the United States, Russia and China are the major perpetrators of nation-state espionage.
They use the tactic to destroy or maneuver a normal computer operating system and gain access to classified information.
So, whatever cybersecurity threats plunged into the media falls under any of the above reasons.
Keeping your eyes on those areas and ensuring you don’t give chances for attackers, working from home as an employee or employer can be secure.
Cyber attacks can come from corporate organizations, employees who are unhappy with their employers, individuals or groups of organised criminals such as terrorists or internet scammers etc.
Types of cyber security threats
There are various types of cyber security threats. The more people consume technology and do all sorts of things online, the more threats to deal with.
The worst part of it is that attackers create more sophisticated threats as the technology advances.
On top of this, these are the common types of cyber attacks you can possibly face while working from home.
- Man in the middle (MitM) attacks
- IoT device attacks
- Instant download attacks
Malware can be referred to as malicious software or applications which include spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms.
They get into a network when you click a malicious link on a web page or download an email attachment that contains a malicious script.
The moment your system contracts malware, it begins malfunctioning.
As a result of this malware are capable of:
- Making you have limited access to specific applications on the system or network;
- Transmitting data from the hard drive and stealing confidential information.
Phishing is fraudulent communication initiated by scammers via email which seems to come from a genuine source to steal your personal information such as login or credit card information.
This is one of the most important working from home security tips you should know.
You need to be aware of the danger of opening every email and committing yourself to the information contained thereof.
The sender might be pretending to be a stakeholder in your organization.
And if care isn’t taken, he would succeed with his motive.
Man in the middle (MitM) attacks
MiTM cyber attacks occur when a hacker disturbs the flow of data from a server to intercept online traffic coming from a device to server and vice versa.
The major points of entry for MiTM attacks are mostly public Wi-Fi networks and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications.
As a remote worker, hackers understand that you are most likely going to use public or personal Wi-Fi networks to upload large files and connect to your workplace remotely.
Meanwhile, unsecured Wi-Fi networks and file storage systems infected with malware can help hackers establish MiTM attacks between your device and the company’s networks.
One of the worst things about this kind of attack is you’ll have no idea when it’s happening.
Trojans are malicious codes or software that seem to be normal and genuine software.
Trojans are different from viruses and very deceptive in nature.
Viruses can infect your system without your input but trojans can’t. What they do is to trick you into taking an action as the attackers intended.
That makes trojans to be installed on your computer before they can be active.
Once you mistakenly install them on your system, they’ll take over your computer from you.
Examples of trojan attacks
- Backdoor trojan – This allows attackers to access your computer and steal sensitive data or insert more sophisticated malware to your system.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) trojan – This attack can be used to slow down the network by flooding it with malicious traffic.
- Downloader trojan – It causes additional attacks for a system that is already suffering from one trojan or the other by downloading and installing more new trojans on the system.
- Ransom trojan – This is used to request money or ransom from you to undo the damages caused by the same trojan.
- Rookit trojan – Attackers use this trojan to hide some components on your system in order to prolong the time a malicious code or script spends on the system.
IoT device attacks
These are the cyber attacks launched through the internet to compromise the operations of internet enabled devices such as webcams, smart TVs, phones, printers, faxes, speakers, homes and so on.
Just like every other medium we use to facilitate work, the internet could be dangerous for remote workers in these times.
During the lockdown most importantly, there was an increase in the use of the internet.
Hence several non-tech savvy who have no ideas about how to maintain security while working from home are being targeted.
With lots of tech newbies connecting to remote workplaces, the internet has become a minefield of several cyber attacks.
Instant download attacks
Instant download attacks occur when an individual visits a website.
If a malicious code is placed on the website, the device being used for accessing the website will be infected.
This type of attack is used to collect information from as many internet users as possible.
The website link could be sent by email or could be placed on pop-up windows.
This type of malware could be controlled remotely by a hacker to get your workplace login details.
Emerging cyber threats
Apart from the common cyber threats discussed above, there are millions of new threats being created everyday to disrupt cyberspace.
According to Preproject, new cyber threats continually emerge with more potential damages to their victims.
Examples of these emerging cyber threats include:
- Zero-day threats – These types of threats are undetectable because they have no digital signatures.
- Advanced persistent threats (APTs) – These threats are too persistent in nature. If they infect a system or network, you can’t scrape them by a mere system rebooting or software updating. Hackers use them to hide and maintain persistence in a network.
How to maintain security working from home
Maintaining cyber security concerns every internet user not just the individual remote workers and their employers. People connected to them can open ways for hackers to gain access to them.
As a result of this, it’s a collective effort of the entire stakeholders in every organization to protect their personal devices most especially the ones connected remotely to the company’s workplace.
In that case, here are few ways to maintain cyber security and minimize attacks where employees work remotely in an organization.
Use very strong passwords
Despite knowing the importance of a password, it’s one of the cyber security measures users are less serious about.
Because most want to remember their passwords easily, they use their names or date of birth as their passwords.
This practice can make hackers have easy access to sensitive information on your devices.
If you’re the type that forget passwords easily, you can write and keep them somewhere safe in your home.
So, if you want to create a very strong password, ensure:
- It’s a 12-character long or above.
- It is a mix of alphabet (upper and lowercase letters), numbers, symbols such as #, $, %, ^, & and so on.
Above all, ensure you don’t share your password with anybody.
Avoid insecure websites
Always avoid insecure websites, most especially where you need to fill a form that requires your personal information.
This is important because all sensitive information you share on an insecure website can be accessed by hackers.
How do you identify insecure websites?
Anytime you launch a website in your browser, let’s say Chrome, before you engage on the site, check the URL address bar of the website in your browser.
If the URL of the website has HTTP (eg. https://example.com), it shows that the site is not run on a secured protocol.
Meanwhile, the URL of a secured website must contain HTTPS (eg. https://example.com).
Effective use of antivirus software
Chances are your personal devices have been infected with malware in the past. Since you’ll be using them instead of your work computers which are likely protected with several security solutions, you’ll need an antivirus.
An antivirus as the name implies serves to clear out all forms of viruses and malware on your device.
Some antiviruses can even act as firewalls, detecting malware from websites before they even get installed on your system.
Use a VPN
Have no idea what a VPN is?
It is an acronym for Virtual Private Network which encrypts the data flowing between your device and the server it is connected to.
A VPN can also be used to hide your location as shown on the internet and greatly enhance your privacy.
A VPN’s level of protection is so high that if you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi subjected to a Man-in-the-middle (MiTM) hack, the cybercriminal wouldn’t be able to use your information.
This is because your online activity would show up as a series of characters, which would make no sense to the hacker at all.
Making use of a paid VPN would give you access to cool features like accessing geo-blocked content on the internet.
Regularly update your device and its components
Outdated computer software or applications can easily host a lot of malware and viruses on your devices.
Cybercriminals know most people hardly update their software including your antivirus software.
So, they target systems running on out-of-date programs because they make inserting malware into the system stress-free.
Software updates usually come with improved security.
If you’re not mindful of the updates, your device will be vulnerable to serious attacks.
As a result of this, make it a duty to regularly update your web browsers and other frequently used applications which are mostly connected to the internet to secure your information.
Using an up-to-date operating system would be sure to boost your security, so don’t ignore it when the system prompts you. You can set your device to automatically install updates over the network.
The emergence of the coronavirus had led the world to rely more on remote workplaces.
While all offices closed doors to reduce the spread of COVID-19, employees needed to engage themselves in remote works to make ends meet.
But unfortunately, cybercriminals took advantage of the circumstance and caused more damages in cyberspace.
Although cyber-attacks are not new.
They have been in existence since the emergence of the computer itself.
As the use of the internet has drastically increased in the last couple of months, hackers have also become more sophisticated.
So, what can you do in this circumstance as a remote worker?
With the five working from home security tips shared in this guide, you can make all your devices immune to common cyber attacks.
Use a very strong password, secured websites, antivirus software, quality VPN, and update your devices regularly.
If this guide has taught you something, please help us share the good work with your friends and colleagues at work.
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