Working from home (WFH) has its benefits for both employees and employers, yet it also presents distinct challenges. One of those major challenges is cybersecurity and following security tips for working remotely. Keeping the computers and login credentials of employees safe as they view sensitive documents and open work emails on home internet connections is crucial for companies with remote work policies.
And many companies not only have remote policies now, but have even pushed to full remote in the crazy world of 2020 — some with plans to operate fully remote until mid-2021.
For instance, Google recently announced that all Google employees will work fully remote into June of next year. And while this may feel like a big move in a country desperately trying to return to normal, similar policies have already been adopted by other major Silicon Valley companies like Facebook and Intel.
With more and more companies moving to remote for the foreseeable future, IT departments are scrambling to ensure their employees embrace online security best practices.
Whether you’re an employer worried about website security or an employee trying to avoid trojans and other forms of malware while working at home, these seven cybersecurity tips for remote workers provide some actionable suggestions. Be proactive now so you can avoid embarrassing hacks and data breaches that could have been prevented with a bit of effort.
7 ways to stay protected while working remotely
Dave McKay, a 30-year IT veteran, defines cybersecurity as an “umbrella term for the suite of behaviors, controls, and technologies that make up an organization’s response to the risk of a cyberattack.”
In other words, it’s not just the tools you use, but the actions you take to prevent a potential cyberattack from happening to you.
Let’s start with the tools:
1. Get a VPN
There are many reasons remote workers should use a VPN, but the main one is that it encrypts their internet connection — regardless of the network they’re using. Whether an employee is on a private home network or the unsecured internet at their local cafe, VPN encryption adds an additional layer of security against malware and hacking attempts.
IT departments go to great lengths to ensure their company’s Wi-Fi is up-to-date and secure, but they usually don’t have the bandwidth to help every individual employee secure the internet of their home office.
Making sure every company computer is installed with a VPN and that employees understand the importance of turning the VPN on while working, however, is much more of a reasonable goal.
2. Implement two-factor authentication
The concept of verifying your identity each time you log onto a website might sound tiring, but it’s a powerful way of securing your various online logins.
With two-factor authentication, each time you try to log into an account, you’ll be asked to verify your identity with a unique PIN, which is generally sent to your secondary email address or phone number. Once you enter that PIN, you can log in.
Many platforms like GoDaddy already provide two-step authentication, but there are other two-factor authentication apps that help you secure logins for websites that don’t already provide this layer of security.
3. Use a password manager
Originally this section was titled “create secure logins across all devices.” While this is sound advice, it’s a lot easier said than done.
If you’re one of the few people who can memorize dozens of random, 20-character number-letter-symbol strings, more power to you.
For the rest of us, there are password managers.
Password managers like 1Password allow you to store an unlimited number of login credentials for the websites you use regularly (or rarely), and in the case of 1Password, those credentials are secured with the same technology used by governments and banks to safeguard their own data.
Just don’t forget your password, because most companies that provide password managers are extremely risk-averse, and do not store customer passwords as an extra security measure.
4. Install antivirus software that includes a software firewall
Most people with a basic understanding of computers know that antivirus software is important to keep their computer and data safe. However, antivirus technology is only one layer of protection from malware. For additional security, check if the antivirus software used by your company also includes a software firewall.
A software firewall helps keep a computer more secure, whether the user is at the office or a dining room table.
The benefit of using a software firewall for people working from home is that its settings and security measures go wherever their computer goes. Whether that’s the office or the dining room table, it helps keep employees working remotely securely.
5. Avoid public Wi-Fi on company devices
Although security issues with Wi-Fi are definitely a thing, the real danger zone is unsecured public Wi-Fi. Thankfully if you’re reading this article, you’re probably working from home on a password-secured internet connection.
However, as coffee shops and restaurants begin to open up and you feel like taking your remote work to the local watering hole, be careful.
A good alternative to using public Wi-Fi is to set up a password-secure hotspot on your phone and use your computer to connect to it. While this may drain your limited amount of data, your 4G network data is encrypted, making it a much safer choice than public Wi-Fi.
6. Don’t do work on your personal computer (and vice versa)
It may sound simple, but avoid the temptation of checking work emails or logging onto work apps on your personal computer.
Simply clicking the wrong link from a friend on Facebook whose been hacked can put all of the data stored on that computer at risk.
On the other hand, don’t use your work computer for personal reasons. Your company may have a policy in place that you’re violating, and you also increase the chances of encountering security issues.
7. Keep your operating system (and all apps) up to date
We all forget to do it, but when you receive a notification that it’s time to update your operating system, make it happen. There are a variety of reasons you should keep your software and OS updated, and a significant one is because they often fix recently discovered software vulnerabilities.
The longer you let these sit around, the more at risk you put your (and your company’s) data.
Final thoughts on security tips for working remotely securely
Maybe office culture will return to normal in the future, but the debate about whether remote or office work is better isn’t going to go away anytime soon. With so many employees around the U.S. pivoting to remote work in 2020, it’s important that people understand how to keep their computers safe, even if it’s just for the sake of their own personal information.
If you’re looking for one more layer of security in addition to the suggestions outlined in this article, GoDaddy’s website security package can help you secure your web properties with its own collection of cybersecurity tools.