Yes, working from home is risky – here’s how to counter that

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The Australian workforce is changing. As much as a third of us worked remotely during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns and a recent US study by Morphisec showed 49 per cent of employees now working remotely had never done so before.

The last few months have seen the Australian Government increase warnings about risks from cybercrime and working from home has made us all more vulnerable. The Morphisec study found 56 per cent of employees were using their own personal devices for work. On top of that, 23 per cent were unsure of the basic security protocols on their own devices.

Luckily, there are some straightforward ways you can protect yourself, your co-workers and your company from cyber threats while working remotely.

1. Secure your router

Your router is your devices’ connection to the outside internet and while many come with pre-set security information, this can be easily accessed by criminals. It’s best practice to change your default settings and update your password. You can also take the additional step of encrypting your router.

2. Bring in a firewall

A firewall will protect your network and devices from malicious internet traffic. Your devices may already have a built-in firewall which case you simply need to turn it on, but it’s worth reviewing whether your firewall is Network-Based or Host-Based. Network-Based will protect the network, while Host-Based is focused on devices and ideally, you should have both.

3. Automatically update your software and back up your data

We’re all guilty of hitting the “remind me later” button on software updates but updating your operating system and computer software is the best way to ensure your software is secure.

Ransomware attacks occur when criminals gain access to your data and hold it ransom. Regularly backing up your data will reduce the impact of these attacks on your business, which take on average 51 days to resolve.

4. Manage your passwords

If you’re guilty of sharing two or three passwords across your entire network (or even just one) then you’re opening yourself up to security issues. Use a strong and unique password for all your logins and change them frequently. The addition of a password manager will ensure you can operate seamlessly even with multiple passwords. Where Multi-Factor Authentication is available – USE IT!

5. Use a VPN

Using a VPN is an essential best practice when it comes to security. When you connect to public Wi-Fi, you open yourself up to others who are on the same network, especially if there is no password (security is shaky at best if there is a publicly available password). If you’re working from a cafe or public place, a VPN will ensure your device isn’t accessible over public networks.

A lot of VPNs offer a free option, but if you’re regularly working from locations other than the office or home, it’s worth upgrading to the base paid package.

6. Encrypt your email

Encrypting your email is key to protecting your communications, especially when they are business confidential or customer sensitive. It is business best practice to implement email encryption so that the content or data is not openly visible to external players.

7. Employee online security training

Your team is the weakest link and it only takes one mistake to create a hugely disruptive cyber event. As more and more offices consider the option of long-term remote working options, let’s do it smartly and securely. Don’t let the bad guys win.

Terry Roberts, Founder, Whitehawk