As millions around the globe continue to work from home, it’s important to remain vigilant when it comes to staying safe online. Cases of identity theft, phishing, and ransomware continue growing at an alarming rate and are becoming more and more challenging to identify and avoid. While this advice does not replace guidance from your employer or regulatory requirements in your particular industry or profession, here are nine cybersecurity tips that you might want to consider utilizing today if you’re not doing so already.
Tip #1: Encrypt Sensitive Data in Your Emails
If your position at work requires you to send sensitive information, it’s important to encrypt data that’s been attached to your emails.1 In the event that a third-party is able to intercept an email, encrypted information is much less likely to be compromised. In fact, sending non-public or sensitive information over email is discouraged in your personal email as well. Use only an encrypted email platform or document sharing service to transmit sensitive information.
Tip #2: Use Public Wi-Fi With Caution
While most of us have been keeping our distance, there’s a chance that coffee shops and coworking spaces will be opening up again soon. If you decide to relocate your virtual office to a public space, it’s crucial that you still utilize a secure internet connection. Public Wi-Fi, especially that which is not password protected, is not secure and can easily be infiltrated. If you wouldn't access your own banking apps on public Wi-Fi, why risk work-related transmissions over public Wi-Fi, either?
Some options when using Wi-Fi outside of your home or office include:
- Activating a personal hotspot from your phone or personal computer. This way, you use cellular data instead of public Wi-Fi.
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which provides a secure connection to different services (web pages, email, a SQL server, etc.). If your employer doesn't offer a VPN for remote employees, consider suggesting it to your supervisors. There are options available for free or a small monthly fee as well.
- Establish encrypted remote connections to a remote desktop or other individual servers.
Tip #3: Ensure Your Own Home's Wi-Fi is Secure
Does your home's Wi-Fi network require a password, and is that password sufficiently complex? If not, change this setting right away. It might be more convenient for you and your guests to not need to enter a password, but you could be exposing all of your personal data (as well as all of your work-related data) to a breach. You may also adjust the settings on your router to disable broadcasting the network name as well.
Does your router also offer and broadcast a public network which doesn't require a password? Even if your main network requires credentials, an unsecured network on the same Wi-Fi router could expose the devices on your secure network to a breach.
Tip #4: Keep Work Data on Your Work Computer
It may not seem like a big deal if you do some work on your personal computer, but in some cases, it can be. If your company has a dedicated IT person or team, it’s likely they’re sending important updates to your computer, regularly running antivirus scans and blocking malicious sites. In other words, your work computer may have the preventative work and maintenance done on it to help keep you safe and protected online. Unless you’re diligently doing the same at home, your personal computer may not be as well protected.
If antivirus scans and software are not running regularly in the background, then what you’re doing online could be intercepted by a third party. Depending on what you’re doing, accessing work documents or back-end sites on your home computer could be putting your company and its network at risk.
Tip #5: Avoid Becoming a Victim of Email Scams and Phishing
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, remain vigilant of potential scam emails, either by unknown addresses or by scammers posing as people/businesses you know. Once a scammer gains your trust or injects an undetected virus, they may try to steal important information such as passwords, account numbers or your Social Security number.2 Avoid the "unsubscribe" link in any suspicious emails, and instead mark them as "junk," block the sender, and move on.
Tip #6: Don’t Leave Your Laptop Unattended
It may be inconvenient to always do so, but never leave your laptop out in the open when working somewhere other than home. This could include keeping it in the car, on a table or anywhere unattended. You never know who may be watching and waiting to take your belongings when you walk away.
Tip #7: Be Selective When Using USB Flash Drives
You may have various thumb drives sitting around the house that you’ve acquired over the years. If you can’t remember where it came from, think twice before using it. Do not continue to use one if you have plugged it into a system for whose safety you can’t vouch for.
Tip #8: Use a USB Data Blocker When Charging at a Public Station
The time for people to begin working at shared working spaces again is drawing nearer. If you find yourself somewhere where you have access to a public charger, consider using a USB Data Blocker to prevent data exchange and guard against malware.
Tip #9: Keep your Passwords Safe
Make sure that you keep your computer, email and important documents safe and secure. In order to do so, you may want to consider using a password-saving tool, such as LastPass or Dashlane. These third-party tools allow you to safely store passwords that you typically use online, saving you the headache of having to remember multiple passwords across various sites.
In regards to password creation and maintenance, there are few tips you can follow to help keep your accounts secure. These include:
- Don’t use real words
- Don’t use personal information
- Create long passwords
- Change passwords regularly
- Don’t use the same password on multiple sites/accounts
- Don’t type them on public devices3
As states start to reopen in phases, many people will be heading back to work or their favorite virtual office spot. Whether you’re at-home, in a coffee shop or visiting a coworking space, continue to utilize these cybersecurity tips to keep yourself and your company’s information safe.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Strategic Financial Planning, Inc. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.