Many workers are still working from home, at least part-time. Moving your “office” to your kitchen has conveniences and challenges — cybersecurity being one of them. Many people don’t have proper knowledge and preparation for potential security threats. Working remotely presents a lot of opportunity for someone’s personal or business data to be compromised or stolen.
The good news is that remote workers can take steps to protect their information and information from their employers. Here are some simple ways to keep your data safe while working from home.
Use an antivirus solution to keep devices safe.
When using a computer in the workplace, the computer is usually protected against malware and other issues. That protection might be in the form of specialized software or limited employee capabilities. When someone works remotely, the situation looks different.
It’s never smart to leave a computer vulnerable to theft or damage. Just because someone may not achieve the same protection level working remotely, it doesn’t mean remote devices should go without any.
Remote workers can install security solutions (free or paid) to help protect data. Even free antivirus software can present a roadblock between would-be hackers and sensitive information. You should also check with your employer to see if they can offer you a subscription to a paid antivirus program or a reimbursement.
Always use business devices for email, messaging, etc.
This one is simple: if someone is doing company work, they should be on a company device.
It’s an easy way to keep ducks in a row and separate work from home. It’s also a smart security boost. Plus, if something goes awry on a company device, it’s much easier (and less embarrassing) to have it fixed when it only houses a small collection of work-related information.
Sticking to company devices for company work also minimizes the risk of mistakes (like sending a personal picture or link instead of a business one). The further away someone’s work and personal lives are from each other, the easier it is to give them ample protection.
Create strong passwords.
Passwords are like fortress gatekeepers that control who accesses internet data. Passwords are the front-line defenders against mounting cyber attacks. Passwords keep your online accounts walled off from invading hackers who want to seize your private data. Without strong passwords, your accounts are left vulnerable and exposed to the enemy. Hackers can have a field day ransacking your most confidential information.
Gone are the days of easy passwords like “12345.” Hackers are mighty foes you can’t be underestimated. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 14.4 million Americans were victimized by identity thieves in 2018. Identify theft cost U.S. consumers a devastating $1.48 billion.
Here is some advice for creating strong password protection:
1. Diversify Your Online Passwords
Repeatedly using the same password over again puts you at risk. When hacking occurs, cybercriminals can gain entry to every account with that password. In 2019, Google warned that 65 percent of internet users have the same password for multiple accounts. In this instance, recycling is a bad idea. Bolster your security by picking different passwords for every personal and professional login. Each password-locked account demands a unique key code.
2. Choose Creative Password Combos
Secure passwords are complex and alphanumeric. It’s harder for hackers to guess random combinations of letters and numbers. Sewing together nonsense strings of letters and digits is best. Avoid using common words, such as “football” or “beach.” Instead, mash passwords into soup like “j28ml45sw9.” Blend lowercase and capitalized letters to make it even more challenging. If allowed by the website, add symbols too. Haphazardly placed punctuation, including # and &, can help.
3. Keep Passwords Completely Impersonal
In today’s digital age, everyone makes so much private information public online. A quick social media search could probably turn up your birthday, hometown, age, and family’s names. You likely love posting about your lovable pet on Instagram. Therefore, making that pet’s name a password would be a recipe for disaster. Picking personalized passwords is an invitation for cybercriminals to hack you. Hack-proof passwords must have no connection to your life.
4. Remember That Bigger is Better
Size does matter when it comes to internet passwords. Imagine you’ve set your password as “CAT. No offense to feline fanatics, but this password is extremely weak. Even a beginner hacker could guess that password in seconds. Typing in popular three-letter words would crack the account open. Safeguard your online data with much longer passwords. The recommended password length is 10-18 characters. Lengthy passwords make an identity thief’s task harder.
5. Scrap Stale Online Passwords
For internet security, passwords should have an expiration date. Keeping the same password long-term isn’t safe. Hackers who’ve cracked your passcode will get free reign to return. Cybercriminals could read your emails or monitor your credit card activity daily. Don’t let them become digital squatters in your accounts. Change your passwords every three months, like clockwork. If you receive a breach alert, pick a fresh password immediately. Also, ensure that old and new passwords are entirely different.
6. Classify Your Passwords as Top Secret
Many people share passwords to accounts like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Co-workers often share the same password to access internet software. Yet, you never know when your sharing circle will get an uninvited member. Break this internet security habit by keeping your password info secret. Don’t share your passwords with anyone. Avoid typing passwords when others are in plain sight. Keep any written passwords in a safe, locked place and hide typed password lists in secure files with obscure names.
7. Select Two-Factor Authentication
Many websites are offering two-factor authentication. Choosing 2FA is a smart, simple way to secure hack-proof passwords. Two-factor authentications add another step to the sign-in process. After typing in your password, you’ll need to confirm your identity. The website will send a verification code to your email or text your mobile phone. You’ll input the random digits to gain account access. Implementing 2FA security reduces the chance of hackers logging in as you.
8. Only Visit Encrypted Websites
Even the strongest passwords are defenseless on unencrypted websites. Hackers can invade your network and seize passwords for recently visited accounts, making poorly coded websites with little encryption a hacker’s dream come true. Therefore, be cautious about which sites you visit. Double-check that the URL starts with HTTPS rather than HTTP. Download security software that triggers a warning about unsafe websites. Keep your operating system and browser updated to fix security bugs too.
Now, you’re likely wondering how you can remember all these ultra-unique passwords. The human brain isn’t incapable of remembering long and strong passwords for dozens of accounts. What is the best solution? Use password manager software. Top password manager apps safely store login credentials for you. Some offer free random password generator tools to confuse hackers. Following these internet security tips to pick hack-proof passwords will make sure your accounts are shielded.
There’s no doubt about it: millions more people are working at home now than they were just a few months ago. There are lots of benefits to working remotely, but it requires some risk assessment, too. Don’t forget to use your industry-leading Credit Union “Current Scams” portal to stay a step ahead of the scammers. It has the latest news and advice on what to look for and how to stay safe online.
Follow the steps listed above to help keep work and personal information private while working remotely. A few simple changes to a basic routine or workspace setup can make the difference between public and secure information.
This article was developed in partnership with Balance Pro.