Working at Home (WAH) poses careful considerations in general. Many companies allow their employees to work from home instead of going into an office. If this is a normal established routine, then the companies most likely have online security procedures that are established in order to keep data secure. In the recent COVID-19 shutdowns, many companies have also allowed employees to work from home. Many of these companies are attempting this for the first time and have been ‘reinventing the wheel’. As such, issues are arising that are causing security problems that could be avoided. Below is a list of some of these issues, and suggestions how to correct them before problems arise.
1. Create a comfortable & secure working space – You should find an area that is comfortable, private, and clean in order to work efficiently. Because you will be working long hours in front of a computer, be sure that your seat height and keyboard placement is as ergonomic as possible.This will help to reduce strain on the back and help to prevent conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. You should keep the work are clean, to help to prevent accidental injuries to yourself and to prevent damage to your computer equipment. Your ideal home office should be private as possible to maintain professionalism and avoid security issues like shoulder surfing, that could cause data loss of privileged company data. Because you may be working at home with other family members, you will want to prevent home noises from being a distraction when you are in online meetings. Remember, your employer is being very gracious to allow you to work from home and your employer is assuming risks. There may be some cute videos online of pets and children doing things in the background, but that cuteness runs thin when the professionalism of a company becomes challenged.
2. Create Secure Online Accessibility – Most companies either have an IT department or contract with an IT company to secure network safety. Working at home requires you to manage many of these security issues yourself. We will discuss some of these issues from outside in. These issues should be taken in consideration even if it is just for your personal home environment.
Modem Passwords – You should always change the admin name and password. Most modems have default passwords assigned to them per brand and model. Lists of default passwords to these devices are readily available to hackers and viruses programmed to get into networks. Changing the password and admin name will help to prevent this from happening. Use a complex password with upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers and characters. Be sure to securely store this information where you won’t forget, such as in a password safe.
Routers and WiFi – The same way intruders and malware can get into your system through the router with default admin names and passwords, routers also come with standard, well known admin names and passwords. These must be changed in order to maintain security. If your system is set up with a WiFi router, then you must lock it as private, and not wide open to the world. Use different admin name and password from the router and keep it in a safe location. Enable WiFi encryption. WPA2 is available on most routers and is a very good encryption to utilize.
Antivirus Software – Always utilize an antivirus software to protect your system. Virus attacks don’t always get to your system uninvited. When you receive email messages and attachments from friends and coworkers, you must also rely that they are not sending malware to you unknowingly. Up to date antivirus software can greatly assist to prevent loss of data and damage to your computer system. There are many good free and paid antivirus solutions available.
System and Software Updates – Be sure to update your computer operating system and software installed on your computer. Most software companies create ‘patches’ and security updates to make their functionality more efficient and secure. While it can be a hassle to find time during your day for updates, most updates are critical for preventing data loss.
3. Lock your screen – Whenever you walk away from your computer, be sure to lock your screen. This will prevent unauthorized people from possibly reading, altering, taking pictures, or damaging your work. If there is a need for something to run on the system while you are gone, locking your screen does not necessarily mean that this cannot happen. You may still be able to be productive as you step away for a few moments and have data protected.
4. Be aware of scams – Use extra caution when you receive a message that you need to fill out a form or give information in order to do anything. Phishing exploits can be very convincing that you are corresponding to the government, a client, or even within your own business. Because unemployment is so high at this point with the COVID-19 shutdowns, there has been a great increase in job scams that look very legitimate but require you to send some sort of payment to process your new application process. No job should ever require that you give money or buy something in order to be hired. If a recruiter wants to send you a check and have you return part of the funds, know that it is a common scam. Scams can be reported to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center. https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
Remember all employees, whether working from home, traveling, or working in office should always be aware of company polices such as the Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). These policies guide HR on employment decisions in investigations and are meant to protect the company, employees, and stakeholders. While many employees review these types of policies yearly, many companies update AUP and other policies throughout the year as different situations arise for the safety of the company and their employees. Most employers will expect their employees to be up-to-date with all changes. It is good practice, to set aside time to review these policies changes often. These are just a few of many security tips for working at home. Stay tune for more tips on working at home and data security!