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How to Stay Safe Online While Working from Home

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Working from home has become the new normal for many people across the world. While you can attend meetings in your pajamas and the commute is about 30 seconds, there are challenges and downsides to setting up your office or workstation at home. One of the biggest challenges for remote workers so far has been staying secure online. Cybercriminals know more people are accessing work files over home WiFi networks, so they’re exploiting increased vulnerability.

When it comes to staying safe online while working from home, the two biggest steps you can take are:

  1. Securing your network
  2. Strengthening your VPN

Secure your network

The most important cybersecurity step you can take when working from home is securing your network. But what exactly does “securing your network,” mean? There are several steps to making your home network safer for you to work on. But first — why would your home WiFi network be unsafe?

If you use a wireless network at home, your router can broadcast your signal over radio waves, so anyone with a laptop or smartphone nearby can see your network’s signal. If you haven’t implemented measures to make it difficult for others to join your network, anyone can gain access to it. Once they’re on your home WiFi network, it’s not a huge step to more nefarious activities like infecting your computer with a virus or deleting your files.

To prevent anyone from accessing it, you need a secure home WiFi network. Make your network safer with these tips:

  • Change your router password: Go to your router settings (which you can access from your browser), enter your current username and password, then choose a new password. Ideally, it will be a random string of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and punctuation.
  • Change the name of your wireless network: Your SSID, or the name of your wireless network, can give a lot of information away. Make sure your SSID doesn’t contain any words related to your name, address, or identifiable information.
  • Turn on network encryption: On your wireless configuration page, you should be able to choose between encryption methods such as WEP, WPA, and WPA2. The strongest is usually WPA2.
  • Limit MAC addresses: Every time a new device connects to your network, your network will recognize its unique MAC address. If you can find the MAC address of each device you use at home, such as your laptop, tablet, phone, and those of your family, you can add these addresses to your router’s settings so that it will only recognize these addresses. Any other random devices won’t be able to connect.
  • Stay updated: Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may release new software or patches from time to time. Check your router setting page to ensure you’re running the latest version of your firmware so you’re not vulnerable to security threats.

Strengthen your VPN

Your company may have you use a VPN when accessing their network remotely, as an extra layer of protection. If your company doesn’t require you to use a VPN when you log on remotely, then you should consider using one yourself. A VPN alone isn’t enough to keep you completely safe. You should take extra security measures to make your VPN as secure as possible.

Follow the below tips to get the most out of your company VPN:

  • Use a strong authentication method: Signing into your company VPN should require at least two-factor authentication. Receiving an SMS is a common method, but an even more secure option is a smart card.
  • Only use the VPN when you need it: Don’t have your company VPN on when you’re doing personal business. The best way to avoid this is by using a separate laptop for your work, but not all businesses have the resources to provide their employees with individual devices.
  • Update your VPN password regularly: Your company may use a strong VPN but if your password is compromised, hackers can access the network all too easily.
  • Increase encryption: The standard encryption level for VPNs is AES-128, but AES-256 is preferable. Ask your boss about encryption methods and check which methods a commercial VPN uses if you’re going to purchase one yourself.

A few more cybersecurity tips for working from home

Online security while working remotely isn’t only about securing your network and using your VPN wisely. There are a few more habits you should adopt to stay safe online:

  • Pay more attention to your work emails to avoid phishing scams
  • Use a password manager
  • Download antivirus software
  • Speak on password-protected video calls
  • Avoid using websites that use http:// instead of https://
  • Be more vigilant around online banking

Cybersecurity for remote working

The precautions you have to take when working from home might seem like a lot to undertake, but your employer can help you understand your cybersecurity responsibilities. It only takes a little more attention to ensure you can work online safely from home.

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