How to work securely from home

Cybersecurity at Siemens

At this time, millions of people around the world are working from home to avoid contact with the rampant disease Covid-19. However, risks are also lurking within their own four walls. Because computers at home aren’t generally as well protected as those on company premises, hackers are sensing an opportunity. Here’s how you can protect yourself against cyber risks. 

Covid-19 is not only endangering the health of billions of people, but is also – indirectly – threatening the Cybersecurity of many companies and their employees. To reduce the risk of infection, a large part of the workforce has relocated to work from home. From a technological point of view, this creates special cybersecurity risks that need to be minimized. As a matter of fact, the level of Cybersecurity in the home is generally not as high as it is in a company. Furthermore, many employees have turned to performing literally all their activities virtually, hence they’re going to have to digitally transfer more sensitive data from home to keep businesses from grinding to a halt.

 

In addition, cybercriminals are already hitching a ride on the Covid-19 pandemic and exploiting the situation for their own purposes. They can take advantage of this new situation to gain easier access to secret information or to incapacitate a company’s IT systems and demand a ransom. 

This makes your role as guarantor for cybersecurity even more important. You can help put an end to these attacks by following these eight tips for cybersecurity in the home office:

  1. Bring home only the devices and information that are absolutely necessary
    The best way to protect information or devices against loss is by not removing them from their accustomed company environment in the first place. This way, they won’t get lost in transit or in your home. So make sure you take home only the devices and information that you really need.
  2. Safeguard your home network and communicate via secure connections
    Because you’ll be using your private network at home, you’ll have to protect it accordingly, with strong WLAN encryption, a unique and complex password, and regular updates. Always work via a secure connection established by VPN, especially if you’re also exchanging sensitive information or are accessing the Intranet.
  3. Keep the software on all your devices up to date
    Working from home, company and personal devices use the same network. Data traffic passes through that same router that’s connected many other devices including various smart home appliances which, in the worst case, may not have any up-to-date protection. All these are potential gateways for hackers, which is why it’s recommended that you allow all your devices, whether company or personal, to update automatically.
  4. Switch off voice controlled smart devices at your home workstation and cover the webcam when you’re not using it.
    Voice assistants like Alexa and Siri listen to what’s being said in the room and transmit it to the provider. The possibility of these recordings falling into the wrong hands can’t be ruled out. So such devices have no business being in rooms where you discuss important matters, or should at least be switched off. And be sure to cover the webcam on your PC when you’re not using it and be careful what you share via the video function.
  5. Don’t mix personal and business use of devices
    Make a clear distinction between devices and information for business and personal use, and don’t transfer any work data to personal devices. This will prevent any unintended outflow of information. As a side effect, it also helps to psychologically separate the time you are “at work” from the time you are “at home".
  6. Proactively identify all participants in online meetings 
    Teleconferences and video conferences are an excellent substitute for in-person meetings. At the same time, however, it’s more difficult to verify whether everyone on the line has actually been invited. It’s especially easy for unauthorized persons who have acquired the dial-in data to sneak into large online meetings with lots of participants. That’s why everyone displayed in the meeting software needs to briefly identify themselves, particularly if you’re discussing sensitive topics and sharing presentations on the screen.                                                                                                        
  7. Log off when you stop using your devices and store them securely
    Even if you’re only taking a short break, lock the screen of your PC and mobile devices just as you would at work so that they aren’t accessible during your absence. And, of course, you also need to safeguard the devices themselves against unauthorized use or even theft when they’re in your home.
  8. Be extremely wary of suspicious e-mails or attachments, particularly if you don’t know the sender 
    Especially in the familiar environment of your home office, you need to be wary of suspicious e-mails. Studies show that the likelihood of falling victim to malicious intentions is particularly high in the home. In addition, do not be pressured by emails asking for immediate action or referring for example to the current Covid-19 crisis. Take your time and examine each e-mail thoroughly before you open it. 

For more information on phishing e-mails, and Covid-19 scams, for example visit:

 

https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2020/03/06/defending-against-covid-19-cyber-scams

 

https://www.who.int/about/communications/cyber-security

 

For more tips on cybersecurity at the workplace, visit this article:

Targeting the ego 10 tips for more cybersecurity

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