There has been a shift in the global workforce mindset and more and more employees prefer working from home or remotely even if they are under contract with an organization.
While working remotely or from home has a plethora of benefits from greater focus, flexibility with work hours, improved health, and convenience, it is essential to address the considerable cyber security risk that exists.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more employees have shifted to full-time from-home work hours so cyber security measures have become more prudent than ever.
1. Home Routers & Physical Security
When working from home or remotely, the security of your home router or the internet connection you are using is of paramount importance. Avoid using public Wi-Fi whenever you can because that is one of the easiest ways a hacker can gain access to your personal information or sensitive information you may be sharing through the connection. Use a portable Wi-Fi device or opt for a home router that you have fitted with a tough password.
Default passwords or easy, short passwords are a cyber-criminal’s dream when it comes to a private internet connection. Depending on your connection you may want to look into any firmware or device updates that are pending so that you can ensure maximum protection from hacking attempts. Physical security is a highly underrated part of cyber security and remote workers need to ensure their phones, tablets, laptops, hard drives, and other physical devices are protected from thieves who can gain access to their property. Extracting passwords, financial information, and accessing cloud data is notoriously easy if you have access to the device itself.
2. Device Protection & A Strong Antivirus
Do not underestimate setting a password on your phone, laptop, and tablet. As with your account passwords, make it as complicated as possible. Investing in a subscription to a powerful and quality antivirus software can pay immense dividends every day you are using your computer. Antivirus software protects not just from webpage or browser related threats but also those from pop up advertisements and emails.
Premium subscriptions do more than just monitoring and elimination of malware attacks, but they also hide your location and IP address making it all the harder to track your computer system and infiltrate it from outside. The most common viruses and hacking attempts to watch out for are spyware, Trojan horses, rootkits, malicious browser installations, and malware. Bear in mind that viruses are continuously evolving as hackers are becoming more sophisticated and working out new channels of gaining access and intercepting information. For that reason, antivirus software updates should be carried out periodically.
3. Find My Device Mechanisms
For employees that work from home or remotely from different locations, device theft, damage or misplacement is always a possibility. For obvious reasons losing one’s work laptop can be catastrophic not just for personal data but also for company data and in some cases financial information. Look into installing ‘find my device’ software or apps (they work for phones, laptops, and tablets including Linux, Android, and iOS.
This can help mitigate some of your loss and help you find your device should an unfortunate event occur. Remote wiping of data is also a good safety net to consider because it allows you to delete all your data and saved passwords etc should your device get stolen or irretrievably lost.
4. Password Managers
Many companies give their employees access to a password manager that can help keep sensitive data safe and will also help you come up with better passwords. As a remote employee, you can also purchase one if your employer has not provided you with one in the interests of cyber security. Password managers are particularly useful in the case of data breaches because they keep saved passwords and information safe.
Password managers also protect data you may be unknowingly sharing on websites as well as credit card transactions you are carrying out online. Certain password managers are also a backup step for multi factor authentication which is a major protective tool for any remote worker.
5. Awareness And Auditing
Cyber security awareness can often make the difference between a data breach and preventing financial loss. As a remote worker, educate yourself on the new versions of phishing attacks being utilized by hackers along with being more careful regarding emails, calls, and shared links. Identity theft is also a hacker’s favorite as they can pretend to be the bank or a financial institution in order to get sensitive data out of you. Avoid downloading the software you have not safely purchased and never download suspicious browser add-ons or software from emails. Learn more about domain hijacking especially if you work via your company’s website and discuss webpage security with your employer.
Timely audits can also help identify cracks in your cyber security measures as well as gaps that could be manipulated by a hacker for their benefit. SOC 2 is a framework of rules and best practices that outlines how personal and customer data is to be used and shared by businesses. There is a trust services criteria with five broad areas and SOC 2 has become more important as social media platforms are routinely accused of orchestrating customer data leaks for the benefit of advertisers among other parties. SOC 2 audit firms determine how well your employer’s business is following the SOC 2 protocol and suggest changes if needed.
6. Make Use of Security Ratings
For project heads and managers working remotely or specialists that outsource a part of their work to remote workers in other areas, cyber security can be a real concern. Make use of security ratings before hiring or partnering with someone online or someone who has never before been used by the company. Wherever possible keep outsourcing to independent contractors that have been recommended by someone in the industry. While the online world is incredibly lucrative, it is also where spam, malware, and identity fraud or theft are rampant and such instances can damage a business’s credibility as well as cause serious data and financial loss.
Navigating vendor risk is also part of the remote worker’s portfolio of required skills since whenever external parties and other businesses are used in the supply chain, their cyber security practices or lack thereof begin to affect your company too. Ask your employer to share their cyber security policy with vendors that are used frequently so that your data and credit card information is not leaked or breached.
7. Cyber Hygiene Is Preventative
Remote workers should implement cyber hygiene as part of their daily work schedule. Running virus scans, securely saving and backing up important data, reviewing unapproved log-in attempts, and isolating infected files along with monitoring email correspondence and new cyber threats that have emerged are all best practices to prevent a hacking attempt and mitigate the effects of malware. Always contact your employer or manager immediately if you feel any company data is at risk or if there is any attempt at hacking as the IT team can benefit from anticipating an attack rather than dealing with one that has already been active for some time.