Business advice
    23 March 2020

    James Francis

    Working from home? Here’s how to keep data safe

    Covid-19 has changed the world in the blink of an eye, sending many of us packing to our homes. Here are a few things you can do at home to keep yourself safer and help protect your work data.

    Covid-19 has changed the world in the blink of an eye, sending many of us packing to our homes. But as the late Freddie Mercury sang, the show must go on. Fortunately, we live in a time where it’s not difficult to work remotely.

    Working from home is not only a lifestyle adjustment. It’s also a security risk. Online criminals look for opportunities during times of confusion, and the epidemic has created plenty of that. Companies are more vulnerable because remote employees aren’t necessarily covered by many of their internal protections.

    Yet there are a few things you can do at home to keep yourself safer and help protect your work data.

    Ask what your employer is doing

    Security is a joint responsibility. While you should be personally aware and careful, using the advice following below, your company has to ensure you have the right security precautions in place. This includes ‘endpoint’ protection, such as antivirus and malware detectors, backups and IT support. Even if you use your personal device, if it has work files and apps on it, your employer has a right to put security measures on there. So ask about what they are doing about security for devices that are going home with you.

    Watch out for COVID-19 phishing attacks

    Cybercriminals love using confusion and panic to their advantage. Covid-19 is perfect, because people might click on an email or install an app that offers help with the pandemic. But these are fake, hiding software that can infect your devices and steal crucial information such as your login details. Watch out for emails from sources you don’t know, or messages from people you do know yet sound strange or unusual. Also, be careful of any message that has a very urgent tone. Phishing attacks often rely on emotion and concern. The more determined it sounds, the more likely it is a con.

    Update everything

    You should, as a general rule, always update your devices and their various apps. Patches often contain security improvements, and when you don’t patch, you leave a hole that criminals are now aware of. Office systems are more likely to be part of a strict patching process, but your home devices are probably not as up to date. Run the updates for your operating system, as well as your apps. If you have something you don’t want to update, consider uninstalling it.

    Keep a backup

    Your office might have a backup system in place. If it’s possible, you should use that for the work files on your home system. Alternatively, you should copy work files on your home system to an external hard drive or cloud backup service. This is something your company should have a plan for, so ask them what to do about file backups. Your home machine might seem fine, but anything could happen, and the work files you stored locally could be lost.

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    Know where to get IT and incident support

    You may be working from home, but that hasn’t suddenly made you a technology expert. Computers and other devices are going to have problems - perhaps even more so now that you aren’t working in the managed confines of a workplace. You still need IT support, both for when things don’t work right and if there is some kind of security incident. Your company must make clear how this will work, such as who to contact when something isn’t working. If they haven’t, ask about it.

    Take authentication seriously

    Good login security is, unfortunately, essential. Without those, you have doors with no locks and criminals can just walk right in. Good login security can have several features, but two of them are essential: a proper password and two-factor authentication. You can also use a password manager. Two-factor authentication is just like a one-time pin. It’s sent to your phone to check you are the one logging in. Such defences can be hoodwinked by malware (hence why you have to watch for those phishing emails), but together they make it very hard for criminals. So if you are being urged to take login security seriously, do so.

    James Francis