The novel coronavirus is changing the daily habits of millions of people globally, including where they work. Many employers are asking their employees — or offering them the option — to work from home.
Companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft have announced they are allowing staff to work remote to help protect against the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the name of the respiratory disease it causes. The idea: Protect health and help control the spread of the disease.
If you decide to work remote, it’s a good idea to keep cybersecurity in mind. That means protecting your devices and data, just like you would in the workplace.
Tips to help stay secure when you work from home
Here are some tips to help keep your connections secure.
1. Keep close contact with your employer
It’s smart to stay on top of company communications. Your inbox might contain emails about policy changes ranging from work hours to travel. Your employer might consolidate coronavirus-related information on the company intranet. If you have questions, ask.
Why it’s important: Companies around the world continue to react to developments around the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to know new policies to help keep you, your coworkers, and the business safe.
2. Use what’s in your company’s tech toolbox
Companies often have tech tools that can help keep you cybersafe when you work from home. That might mean you do your work on company-supplied laptops and mobile devices. They likely include firewall and antivirus protection, along with security features like VPN and 2-factor authentication.
Why it’s important: Your employer’s cybersecurity tools are designed to protect data and devices. Cybercriminals have an interest in both, whether you’re working in the office or at home.
3. Control the impulse to improvise
Employees often work in teams, and that can mean using collaboration tools like instant-messaging platforms and video-meeting rooms. If a tool isn’t working right, you might be tempted to download a substitute. Don’t do it. You could inadvertently introduce a software program with a security flaw — and that means someone unauthorized may be able to access company data, or any personal data you have on that device.
Why it’s important: Your employer likely has vetted its collaboration tools and makes sure they’re secure. You can’t be sure a quick-fix tool you’ve downloaded has the same protections.
4. Stay current on software updates and patches
You might get reminders that software updates are available for your computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile device. Don’t wait. Update. Also, keep in mind you can configure your devices to update automatically.
Why it’s important: Updates help patch security flaws and help protect your data. Updates can also add new features to your devices and remove outdated ones.
5. Keep your VPN turned on
A VPN — short for virtual private network — can help protect the data you send and receive while you work from home. A VPN can provide a secure link between employees and businesses by encrypting data and scanning devices for malicious software such as viruses and ransomware.
Why it’s important: VPNs help protect against cybercriminals and snoops from seeing what you do online during a workday. That might include sending or receiving financial information, strategy documents, and customer data. A VPN helps keep that information secure from cybercriminals and competitors.
6. Beware of coronavirus-themed phishing emails
Cybercriminals are exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to send fake emails with dangerous links to employees. Here’s how it works. The email messages may appear to come from company officials and might ask you to open a link to a new company policy related to the coronavirus. If you click on the attachment or imbedded link, you’re likely to download malware onto your device. Don’t click. Instead, immediately report the phishing attempt to your employer.
Why it’s important: A phishing email with malicious software could allow cybercriminals to take control of your computer, log your keystrokes, or access sensitive business information and financial data.
7. Develop a new routine
Working from home requires changing your routine. Making sure you’re cyber secure is part of that. But it also involves structuring your day to work efficiently and maintain contact with your team. If you’re used to starting the day by greeting your coworkers, you might consider continuing to do that by email or on a chat platform.
Why it’s important: It’s easy to lose focus or feel isolated when working from home. Take steps to avoid letting that happen. Reach out and stay engaged with your colleagues. The coronavirus may have changed your work life, but you still have a job to do.