4 tips to help you and your co-workers to stay secure during this unfamiliar work-from-home physical distancing that is going on. It’s tough enough when you’re in a business environment to remember the security tips that your IT team keeps talking about but, when you’re at home with kids running around and dogs barking, it’s probably the last thing on your mind. The hackers know this too which is why we’ve seen a been a big increase in ransomware attacks and very clever phishing emails going around. Now more than ever you need to be vigilant about cybersecurity and team up with your co-workers to figure out creative ways to securely communicate.
- Don’t trust anyone
If you receive an unexpected email, text or social media request from someone, treat it as suspicious unless you can validate it through known good methods. Now is the time to be overly cautious and take a zero-trust approach to everything. If you get an email from someone that you haven’t heard from in a while, reach out to them on Facebook messenger or text to make sure they did send you the email. Don’t assume that just because you know the “sender” or an email at first glance looks OK that it is good. The phishing emails are getting very difficult to detect so start out assuming its bad until you prove it’s good.
- Don’t click on links
Malware typically needs you to execute something to trigger the bad stuff. Sometimes it’s just an email with a malicious attachment disguised as a document or picture that they want you to open. Other times it is an emailed link to an infected or bad website that will trick you into disclosing information or downloading “updated drivers’ for your computer. These emails will also use time sensitivity to get you to rush your decision and perhaps bypass your verification process because you “must act now!”. If your bank sends you an email asking you to update your security information immediately or risk getting locked out of your bank account, phoning them would be an appropriate response NOT clicking the link and filling in the form!
- Get creative to stay in touch
Most people are used to being near the people they interact with daily. With everyone working from home, they can’t lean over and tap them on the shoulder or see when they are off the phone. Technology that has been around for a while that is getting close to offering that in-person experience while being physically distant. Zoom has become very popular lately for video web conferences as well as Microsoft Teams (and many others). We’ve seen full classrooms going online, professional sports teams doing group workout sessions and bands practicing online from different cities. It can be a lot of fun and helps to bring people much closer together than just emails or daily conference calls. There are several Chat tools available as well to replace some of the watercooler talk and if you are collaborating on documents start getting familiar with SharePoint Online. With any new technology there is a new protocol on how and when to use them so be courteous and have fun exploring new ways of working together.
- Secure your home network
Typically, your home network isn’t as secure as it should be. After all, it was only designed to surf the internet, watch movies and play Fortnite. Now you have work information being transmitted to and from your home network and you don’t have your IT team monitoring and protecting it. You probably share home computers with other family members that really don’t care much about what is going on in the office. What should you do? That’s a whole article on its own but you should at a minimum: patch all your computers, firewalls, printers and wireless access points. The owner’s manuals will help you with this (they can usually be found online). Make sure you have a good antivirus/end-point protection software that is updated automatically. Something like Sophos is great for both Mac and Windows. If in doubt, ask your IT team or a cybersecurity expert (not your neighbor – unless they happen to be a certified cyber expert! 😊).
Working from home has always been a desirable option for employees but a nightmare for IT managers. The days of the IT team securing your corporate network by locking down access to keep the bad guys out are over. Cybersecurity these days has no borders and requires everyone to own the responsibility of keeping your business safe. IT managers must adjust to a new way of securing company data and employees/contractors need to be active members of the cybersecurity team. This COVID-19 Pandemic has accelerated this shift to a flexible workforce, and I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t stick around after life returns to “normal”. You might as well get used to it and start doing your part as an active member of the cybersecurity team if you want to keep it this way.