How to Protect Your Data When Working from Home?

Because of the current health crisis, there’s a paradigm shift happening in the modern-day workplace.

Companies are now allowing their employees to adapt to the work from home setup. In this setup, both parties can benefit.

While workers become more productive as they can enjoy a work-life balance, employers, on the other hand, reduce overhead costs from utilities and rent. 

Yes, it’s indeed a win-win situation, but there is one thing that employers may tend to overlook when adapting to this setup: data security.

When employees are in an office, everything related to work is protected because security measures are implemented accordingly. This means employers have nothing to worry about.

When in a WFH setup, on the other hand, employees will have to access remote servers to carry out tasks that use confidential information. This is why data security measures must be implemented. 

Here’s a look at what employees and employers are currently doing to reduce the risk of a data breach when working from home. 

For Employers 

1. Set up 2FA. 

Many websites are now implementing two-factor authentication or 2FA. It would be great to adapt to this, too. Also, make sure that you have set up accounts that do not just rely on passwords alone because passwords are prone to hacking and being stolen.

You may consider using facial recognition or fingerprint detection features when it comes to logging into accounts. 

2. Have clear WFH guidelines. 

Evaluate your current security measures and set clear guidelines on remote working. Make sure they’re aligned with your company policies.

If possible, provide your employees with equipment or software that protects them against data theft or loss. If your company can provide laptops that have been pre-configured for the WFH setup, the better.  

3. Back up important data. 

When backing up data, it is important to follow the 3-2-1 rule. Have at least three copies of your data in two different storage formats. Also, have at least one backup stored off-site, such as external drives. 

4. Use licensed VPN services. 

Sure, you may have provided your employees with VPN licenses, but are they enough? Due to the sudden increase of employees who are working from home, companies need to have enough VPN licenses and sufficient network bandwidth to accommodate all users.

Be sure that all their licenses are genuine to avoid data breach and identity theft. 

5. Regulate VPN access. 

While it is essential for employees to use VPNs, as an employer, you need to limit their use.

For example, allow only a maximum of 10 hours of access to each user and automatically log off users from the service when they exceed the limit.

This way, you can prevent any activities that are not relevant for work. 

For Employees 

1. Use a company laptop or a separate laptop when doing remote work. 

Do not use your personal computer when doing work. This is because it has fewer security measures compared to company-owned hardware.

Laptops and machines that have been approved by your company for work must be for remote work only. They must not be used by other family members as crucial information and data are at stake. 

2. Log off your personal computer when not in use. 

If your company did not provide you with WFH equipment and machines, and you need to use your personal device, close them when not needed. Also, install security programs recommended by your company and follow data protection measures while working. 

3. Avoid the use of free, public WiFi networks. 

If your company provided you with VPN access, use it, especially when connecting to free, public WiFi networks. But still, be careful of possible phishing and other malicious attacks that aim to steal VPN-related credentials.

If VPN access is not available, make sure that communication is done via encrypted networks or mail. 

4. Create guest networks. 

To ensure network security, split your home network. If you have a switch or router with a VLAN functionality, set it for office work only. 

5. Be mindful of online scams. 

Scammers nowadays take advantage of the current situation for their fraudulent activities.

They perform scams via emails, fake apps, social media, and malicious domains, claiming to provide COVID-19 information, shipping notifications, and other packages, where in truth, they only want you to click or download the attachments that contain malware entities. Read news about the latest scams so you know what to do. 

6. Have a backup solution at home. 

With a backup in handy, you will be at ease in case something goes wrong, such as server problems or connectivity issues. Ask your employer for recommended backup solutions.

For Windows devices, there are plenty of backup software programs you can download online. For Mac users, simply activate Time Machine to create backups. 

General Data Safety and Protection Measures 

1. Secure your gateway. 

Your router is the gateway to all internet-connected devices. That is the reason cybercriminals attack these devices. They often target those home routers that still use default credentials.

If you have full access to your router, change the password regularly as it may have been shared with other users before. Also, use strong passwords with a mix of special characters, numbers, and letters. Moreover, update your router’s firmware to the latest version.

Generally, routers provided by ISPs update automatically. However, due diligence can still be done via the router’s web console. If you don’t know how to configure it, ask your ISP or read online guides. 

2. Work with a proxy server. 

If you are familiar with proxy servers, then use it. This will allow you to protect your device from unwanted content and malicious ads. You may also configure your network-attached systems to block ads. 

3. Update your software. 

Update all software programs that you use. Install security patches right away to prevent malware attacks that may result in irreversible damage. Update your operating system as well.

If an update is available, install it as soon as possible. This will allow you to take advantage of new security features for your device. 

4. Strengthen your passwords. 

You may use a password manager to make it easier for you to handle all your website and service accounts. Most password managers today already have password generators that help create a strong and unique password, and at the same time, keep you from reusing the same password across different services. 

5. Secure other devices in use. 

If there are other family members who may be working remotely, you need to adapt to home network security basics. This includes creating backups and setting a proxy service.

By implementing home network security measures, not only will you be able to block unwanted sites, but it can also protect your devices and network against threats.  

6. Protect your smartphones, too. 

Like desktops and laptops, be sure your smartphones are protected as well.

They should be updated with the most recent firmware versions. Download apps from official stores and check app permissions before installing them.

It would be great to have a mobile security app installed as well to prevent malicious entities from infecting your devices. 

7. Save bandwidth. 

If many family members are staying and working from home, then bandwidth is considered a critical resource. Keep yourself productive by reducing bandwidth consumption. Avoid streaming videos and other activities that affect the bandwidth, especially within work hours. 

8. Make sure you know the dangers that await online. 

Help your family members understand the dangers of the internet. Always remind them that they are responsible for keeping their internet activities safe. Teach them how to protect their privacy while surfing the web.  

9. Be familiar with basic PC repair tips and tricks. 

In the unfortunate event of a malware attack, being familiar with basic PC repair tips and tricks can save the day. Visit websites that teach you how to repair common Mac error codes or offer PC repair guides.  

10. Install PC repair software and tools. 

Aside from having an anti-malware program installed on your PC, be sure to have PC repair software and tools, too. These programs will come in handy when you encounter technical issues that you don’t know how to deal with. 

Summary 

At the moment, it seems that the work from home fad isn’t going away soon, especially that new variants of the coronavirus are being identified.

Therefore, it is important that employers make sure their employees aren’t allowing confidential data to fall into the wrong hands. And the good news is that there are many ways to improve data security when working from home.

But the question is, “Is your organization or company doing what’s needed?” 

If you are an employee, do your part, too. Do not just rely on your employer’s recommendations. Take preventive measures and implement the recommended network and data security measures.

If you encounter issues, seek professional help right away. Ask your network administrators what to do in case of a problem so as not to worsen the situation.  

What other tips can you share to protect your data when working from home? Let us know in the comments. 

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