Cyber Security Risks: Best Practices for Working from Home and Remotely

Remote work has recently become a new reality, especially for those working in the IT industry. Employees value the flexibility and freedom of the digital-first work model and emphasize its invaluable influence on maintaining a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives.  

At Tidio, we also operate on a remote working model and believe it benefits both our organization and our team members (read more about our approach here: Flexibility Flexibility – the key to the way we work).

Combining travel with professional development or working from the balcony of your apartment - remote work opens up a wealth of possibilities. However, before you enjoy this freedom to the fullest, it is worth ensuring you are as secure as working from an office. Over the past few years, cybercriminals observing the rise in popularity of remote work have directed their attention to employees who, working from home or abroad, become an easy target of cybersecurity attacks. 

How to protect your data? What does "secure network" mean? And how to create indecipherable passwords that are easy to remember? This article covers everything you need to know to improve your cyber security while working remotely. Happy reading!

Encrypt your hard drive and password to protect your computer

Think for a moment about what would happen if someone stole your laptop. Access to all essential apps, data, and projects you are working on - everything at a stranger's fingertips. It doesn't sound like the scenario anyone would like to be in. Fortunately, there is some simple advice that will protect you from this horror story. 
Most of all - secure your computer with a strong password. And your birthday or pet's name doesn't fall into this category. ;) Fortunately, computers with biometric options, where you unlock the laptop with your fingerprint or a scan of your face, are becoming increasingly popular on the market. Yet, simply securing access to the computer is still not enough.

Have you heard of hard-drive encryption? Hard-drive encryption is a technology that encrypts the data stored on a hard drive and makes anyone unable to read them unless they have access to the appropriate key or password. Whether you're running Windows or macOS, you'll find built-in disk encryption mechanisms in these systems that will easily guide you through this process. Thanks to that, encryption will keep your data safe from prying eyes every time you lock your computer.

Make sure your wireless network is secure

Working remotely, you will most likely use wifi - a simple and convenient solution for connecting your computer to the network. The first security rule - your network should be password protected. This password should, above all, be long. Moreover, make sure you have WPA2/WPA3 encryption enabled. 

Another good option is to hide your SSID (Service Set Identifier). SSID is the name of your network broadcasted by the router to help users find, select and connect to a nearby source. By hiding an SSID, only you will know the name of your network, so a potential attacker may choose to attack a more obvious, in this case, non-hidden, network instead.

Additionally, as each network device has a unique MAC address that identifies it on the network, you can restrict network access for specific MAC addresses in your router's settings. It's a very good option to make sure that only devices that are under your exclusive control can connect to your network.

Another essential aspect is network separation. Nowadays, we host in our homes more and more Internet-of-Things devices. Smart vacuum cleaners, washing machines, or refrigerators are nothing else but computers. To ensure your smart helper doesn't try to mess with your wifi network, connect it to a separate wireless network you don't use for work.

Enable antivirus and firewall

It's probably one of the essential points. Good antivirus software will effectively help you protect yourself from malicious files that will try to run on your computer. For Windows Users, the built-in free Windows Defender is a great piece of software. The applications you use daily at work use the Internet to exchange masses of data. A firewall protects you from unwanted network traffic. With the firewall enabled, you will have control over which applications can and cannot connect to the Internet.

Use password managers

You may constantly hear the phrases "use long and complicated passwords." Even I have raised this issue several times. You may wonder how to remember all these complicated and long passwords for all the services you use? The answer is - a password manager. 
Password managers are services that hold your passwords most often in a more strongly encrypted cloud. So the only password you need to remember is the password for the password manager. The rest of the passwords are usually generated by the manager during registration, creating very long and complicated phrases. This solution is not only extremely convenient but also guarantees that you will never again have to think about what password you have in service.

Use 2FA

While a long and strong password is essential, you can do one more thing to protect your account. Add an extra layer of security - use 2FA. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a mechanism that will ask you to rewrite an additional code, for example, from your phone while logging into the service. If a password is hacked or guessed, that's no longer enough to give an intruder access - without having the code, a password alone is useless.

Connect to the computer accessories that you fully trust

This advice is especially useful for people who work and travel at the same time. Often in airports, hotels, or shared workspaces, you may see cables with which you charge your computer, phone, etc. Never connect them to your computer! Such cables may have a specially sewn-in microchip that will take control of your computer. In recent years, criminals have been increasingly bold in replacing such cables with malicious ones in public places. Sound like a scenario from a spy movie? Well, it's, unfortunately, the new reality we should prepare for. 

Other important tips

  • If you often work from public places, buy a screen privatization filter. It will make it harder to peep at what is happening on your screen.
  • Use a webcam cap - it costs pennies and can protect you from an invasion of your privacy.
  • Connect only to password-protected wifi networks. If you don't have access to such a network, share the Internet from your phone.
  • Regularly create a backup of your data, e.g., in the cloud. In case you lose your device, you can quickly recover lost data.
  • Update regularly the software you use. Remember that vendors make mistakes too, and security patches prevent them.

If, after reading this article, you feel overwhelmed by the number of security elements to think about - don't worry! The most important thing is to start with the simplest steps. Turn on 2FA in your Google account, find a password manager you would like to start using, take a look at the instructions to encrypt your hard drive. With these few simple moves, you'll enjoy your work from all over the world and with total security for you and your data. 

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