Working from home has become commonplace in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and it looks like it will be here to stay. Google’s Chief Executive Sundar Pichai has announced that the company will embrace homeworking and look for flexible solutions for the 62% of its staff who said they would like to return to the office part-time. Doubtless many other companies will follow suit in a move which will change the landscape of work forever.
While there are many advantages to both companies and employees of the new homeworking boom, it does leave us all with a major headache concerning cybersecurity. Already there is evidence of cybercriminals exploiting the hasty pivot to homeworking to target victims. In July 2020 CNBC reported an increase in data breaches of 273% in the first quarter of 2020, in part due to enforced security shortcuts taken by companies keen to get their employees back working as quickly as possible.
Common Covid-related cyber scams include phishing emails masquerading as official information about the coronavirus encouraging users to click on malicious links and ransomware which installs malware on a device, blocking access to data on it until a ransom demand is paid. Not to mention the estimated 100,000 new Covid-19 web domains, many of which are not legitimate and pose a cyber threat.
The scammers know only too well that the security we employ on our home networks is far more easily breached than the stricter protection measures found in a corporate environment and are exploiting the fact. Companies have not had time to secure corporate-owned devices as they might have done if they were rolling out homeworking over a longer timeframe.
The upshot is that both businesses and employees need to up their security game to avoid compounding any problems posed by a work environment already in upheaval as a result of the pandemic. Here are some simple measures you can take.
Seven ways homeworkers can protect against cyberattack
Keep systems and software updated
Updating can be a pain but those updates include patches specifically designed to reduce vulnerability to constantly evolving threats. Make sure you regularly update systems and software on all your devices, including tablets, smartphones and other personal devices which share a wifi network with your work devices.
Be meticulous with password hygiene
There’s a reason we are told to use strong passwords. If you use your birthdate as the password for all your devices as well as websites you visit regularly you are a prime target for a cyberattack. Follow the established advice to use complex passwords, change them regularly and, where possible, use multi-factor authentication.
Look out for Covid-related scams
Cybercriminals are adept at exploiting our real-world fears to carry out their scams so extra vigilance is required while we ride out the pandemic. If you receive unsolicited emails containing Covid-19 warnings, avoid clicking on links and delete.
Secure your wifi
Wifi networks and smart technology have weak, sometimes non-existent, protection and keeping default settings and passwords is like leaving your front door wide open for a burglar. The more connected devices you have the more points of entry there are for a hacker. Strengthen your defences and lessen the possibility of scammers gaining access to work data via other connected devices by changing any default settings.
Use a VPN
A virtual private network or VPN adds a layer of additional protection against malware and phishing attacks, a bit like a corporate firewall will, although they are certainly not infallible. According to thefintechtimes.com ‘While VPNs cannot prevent viruses or malware from attacking systems, they can protect users from hackers attempting to steal their records during transit. This accounts for a significant portion of the overall threat attacks carried out in the United States and abroad.’
Keep work and home tech separate
If you wouldn’t install something on your computer at work, you shouldn’t do it at home either. Personal business should be carried out on personal devices keeping work devices for work business.
Unfortunately, cybercriminals are nimble and their methods are constantly evolving while individuals and companies struggle to keep up with potential threats. Stay healthily suspicious of any unsolicited messages you receive and if in doubt contact your company’s IT department for advice.
I have over 20 years of experience in the financial services industry and hold a Chartered FCSI qualification. I ensure that our operations are fully compliant with the rules of our most stringent regulators.