With COVID-19 deemed a global pandemic, many companies, including several Silicon Valley tech giants, have asked their employees to work from home to avoid spreading the virus. Here are 6 tips to help remote workers stay cyber safe.
It’s all around us. No matter where you are in America, what you do for a living, or where you were intending to travel, you can’t escape the news.
Companies, schools, and entire countries are taking precautionary measures to flatten the COVID-19. Tech titans Twitter, Google, Apple, Amazon, and many others are responding by asking employees to work from home, avoiding communal office spaces and public transportation. This dramatic and sudden increase in telecommuting, without lead-time for employee cybersecurity awareness training, introduces many security risks. Businessinsurance.com recently reports that more employees working from home leads to greater vulnerability to hacking, phishing and other criminal scams because they are working on unsecured or less secure networks.
One pandemic is enough. Here are 6 tips for telecommuters and businesses that can help us all stay cyber safe in this unsettling time:
1) Avoid hazardous use of WiFi: Many telecommuting employees may connect to a cafe WiFi, a neighbor’s WiFi, or any unsecured network identified when they open up their laptops. This presents a serious data risk for several reasons. First, communication and data sent through unsecured networks can be intercepted by third parties. This is known as a “man-in-the-middle” attack. Second, hackers may set up a rogue network with a misleading name specifically to entice people nearby to think they are on a known and reliable network. Finally, hackers can use unsecured WiFi networks to distribute malware and spyware. Such infected devices can result in significant risk to private and sensitive data.
2) Don’t leave devices in unsecured locations: You make a coffee run and accidentally leave your mobile phone on the counter with access to your work email and other sensitive information. You leave your laptop in your car and forget to lock it or someone breaks in. With more workers telecommuting, criminals may be on the lookout for laptops of telecommuting employees likely to house many gigabytes of sensitive information.
3) Keep your work devices to yourself and away from curious friends and family: Your office is your home, and your home may be filled with kids that like shiny, powerful laptops and tablets. In their innocence, they may hop on and browse the web or even download games. But who knows if the links they are clicking on or the software they are using can be trusted? When working from home, it’s always best to keep your work devices in a safe location and communicate to others that it is a work-only device.
4) Update system software regularly: Staying up-to-date with the latest system software and security patches is critical, especially with the increased risks posed by telecommuting and less secure network technologies such as consumer-grade home routers.
5) Turn up your skeptic meter. When working remotely, you may be more distracted and less diligent about potential phishing and social engineering attacks than you would be while at your desk in the office. If you have any doubt about incoming calls or messages, wait to act until you have a chance to look more closely and/or connect with your IT specialist to be sure it’s safe.
6) If you own a business, make sure you carry appropriate cyber insurance. Cyber insurance coverages may include customer and employee data loss, business interruption and extortion due to cyber attacks, third party lawsuits that may arise if your network is affected by a security incident, and payment fraud. Read more about these coverages.
The health risk of COVID-19 is enough for communities and companies to take on. Let’s all do our part by reducing contagion -- in both our physical and cyber spaces.