COVID-19 has led to a swift and dramatic rise in remote working. And while some will eventually return to an office environment, a large percentage will continue to work remotely even after the pandemic ends. This leads to serious concerns over online safety and security.
How can remote workers stay safe online and continue to maximize their productivity and efficiency? We’ll explore this question and more.
4 Timely Security Tips
Research shows there’s a hacker attack every 39 seconds – affecting one in three Americans every single year. More than two in every five cyber attacks target small businesses, and the global average cost for a data breach hovers around $3.9 million for SMBs – a number that’s crippling (monetarily and reputationally).
Alarmingly, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FBI has reported a 300 percent increase in reported cybercrimes. This is likely the direct result of hackers taking advantage of vulnerable remote workers and weak home networks.
If you’ve never been personally or professionally involved in a cyber attack situation, it’s easy to remain aloof to the harsh realities of online criminal mischief. But the reality is that your online activity isn’t as safe as you think (by default). If you want to enhance your privacy and avoid being compromised, you have to make smarter and more strategic choices.
Here are a few powerful tips:
- Stay Updated
Let’s begin with something we all despise: updates. While annoying, updates to software and applications are extremely important in terms of protecting your devices from hackers who seek to expose outdated versions with known loopholes and deficiencies.
Since updates can be disruptive and will slow down your productivity if you run them in the middle of a workday, it’s best to take an afternoon on the weekend, or an evening after you finish up work, and knock them all out. This includes antivirus software, as well as privacy tools, add-ons for browsers, and any web applications that you may use.
- Avoid Public WiFi
Public WiFi is so convenient, yet simultaneously very risky. It should be avoided at all costs – meaning your remote work setup should really be from home (or anywhere else there’s a private and secure network connection).
If you must use public WiFi, you have to be smart about how and where. There are two primary issues with connecting to public WiFi to conduct business work:
- First, other people have direct access to the same network and can, theoretically, tap into your computer from just across the room.
- Second, anyone who is interested – either on the current network or any other public networks between you and your company’s network – can monitor your traffic as it passes by.
One safe and effective option is to use your own personal hotspot (sourced from either your smartphone or another dedicated device). Yes, web traffic still remains unencrypted between your hotspot and its final destination, but the hotspot eliminates the issue of getting hacked by other people across the coffee shop.
- Use a VPN
Whether you’re on a public network, or you’re at home on your own personal network, using a VPN is considered a smart practice for insulating your online activity and data from onlookers. They provide flexible connections to a variety of services (internet pages, email, etc.) and protect your traffic.
“Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are a better way to make a secure connection and are now -recommended for home and business use. But they are not without their faults,” Invision KC explains. “If a hacker gains access to your company’s network via VPN, they have access to everything on that network.”
In other words, even if you have advanced security tools and safety nets in place, you still have to be smart about how you use them. There’s no replacement for intelligent decision making.
- Physically Protect Your Devices
There’s also something to be said for physically protecting your devices. While hackers prefer to gain access virtually, some do their dirty work by physically stealing devices and then entering. Here are a few quick pointers:
- Never leave your laptop or devices unattended in a public place (even to grab a coffee refill or use the restroom).
- Never leave your laptop or devices in a car unattended.
- Avoid using random USB drives.
- If charging your phone at a public phone charging station (like in an airport), use a USB data blocker to prevent any sort of data exchange and to protect against malware.
Smart behaviors like these can prevent unfortunate situations where a stolen device leads to your business being compromised and/or ends up costing your money, reputation, or job security.
Keep Security Top of Mind
Online and network security is something that should always be top of mind for every employee. But now more than ever, it’s a critically important topic that deserves focus and attention from both remote workers and their employers. By applying some of the suggestions outlined in this article, you can dramatically reduce your chances of becoming the next victim.