If you always wanted to work from home and got to do so this year, you must be pretty happy. But while WFH has its perks, it can also be dangerous for your privacy and security.
Handling vulnerabilities and security risks might not be your cup of tea, but it’s something you need to be aware of. After all, you don’t want to end up exposing company data online.
So, let us show you how to step up and safeguard your professional life when working remotely.
These are trying times for companies
With people no longer working in controlled environments, IT and security specialists’ jobs got a lot more complicated. Valuable business information that was once shielded from hackers is now harder to protect.
And hackers did take advantage of the fact that more people than ever worked from home in 2020, causing a spike in cybercrimes. It’s no wonder since corporate sensitive information can be sold for a profit.
Source: World Economic Forum
And it’s not like things were off to a great start. According to Varonis Security Platform, in 2019:
- Every employee had access to an average of 17 million files.
- 53% of companies had over 1,000 sensitive files available to every employee.
- Only 5% of folders were properly protected.
- 61% of companies had over 500 accounts with non-expiring passwords.
As you can see, data security risks were already high, even before the pandemic. The coronavirus only added fuel to the fire:
The last thing that a company needs right now is a data breach. No company or organization wants that, especially right now in the situation we are in with COVID-19. When companies have to move from a traditional in-office work environment to an online distributed model, the risk increases, especially for companies that are not prepared to do so. Without a doubt, 9 months from now, we’ll be hearing about all the breaches that have happened during COVID-19 because of negligent infrastructure or lack of basic security awareness among employees. At the end of the day, it’s up to our security teams to handle both. Security, infrastructure, and IT teams are going to have to step up their tools and education to stay ahead of where employees want to go and ensure they have the tools to be happy and successful.Aaron Zander, Senior IT Manager, HackerOne
So, don’t let poor cybersecurity practices be your weak spot and up your privacy game.
Five ways to protect your privacy when working from home
1. Follow your company’s policies
Ignoring company policies is not something you should ever do, and especially not when working from home. All those requirements and regulations are there to make sure your work and all the data you have access to stays safe.
However, when your home becomes your office, things might get blurred, so you need to pay extra attention to the details.
Take it from our HR Manager:
During the pandemic, one of the challenges has been to transform home environments into secure workspaces. The secret to preventing data leaks that can impact you, your team, and your company is an increase in awareness and compliance. Educate yourself, learn the ropes of cybersecurity, act responsibly, reach out to your IT colleagues or manager when you’re unsure about something. It’ll help with your chances of staying safe online while working from home.Mihaela Cretulescu, HR Manager, CyberGhost VPN
For example, your company might already ask you to use 2-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible for your work accounts. 2FA increases your protection by combining two elements, not just a password, to ensure only authorized people have access to an account.
What’s more, you’re probably already prompted to change your credentials at regular intervals. Don’t dismiss these nudges, and make sure you know how to create robust passwords.
If you’re using company-provided gadgets, they most likely come with antivirus software installed. Keep it on, keep it updated, and let it protect you from all the malware out there.
VPNs are essential for protecting your information when using public Wi-Fi networks, so make sure to fire up yours up and don’t give hackers the chance to inspect your traffic.
2. Master your software
When the world suddenly moved online, people flocked to Zoom, Slack, Google, and Microsoft for chats and video calls.
But these platforms don’t come with bulletproof privacy, and sometimes it’s up to you and the settings you create to make sure only designated individuals can access your documents.
Lucky for you, we’ve put together this useful guide on how to avoid the privacy traps of apps when working from home. Check it out!
3. Be on the lookout for phishing scams
Here are some things you can expect in your inbox:
- Instructions from someone pretending to be from your company about relaxing WFH protocols
- Bogus requests to access your documents
- Messages from your manager, presumably, asking for sensitive information they should already have access to.
Read every email carefully, look for details that are slightly out of place, and contact your IT department whenever something looks phishy. You can never be too thorough when making sure the requests you get are legitimate.
4. Separate your personal from your professional life
With boundaries blurred and the feeling that the office moved into your home, you might fall into the trap of mixing aspects of your life when WFH.
But it’s best if you keep things separate:
When it comes to working from home, there are two sides: employers and remote workers. Each has a different set of priorities. Employers want to feel they control their employees, while workers need to feel their bosses trust them to do their work. Yet, research has shown that many companies have applied invasive “bossware” tools to track every single move remote workers do. Some of these tools would follow every click and keystroke or how many emails you send each day. This practice does not improve work efficiency, but quite the opposite. One simple suggestion would be to use a different computer (or your personal phone) for any activity that is not job-related. This way, you know that you will not lose any personal data if your boss wants to inspect your work computer.Eva Galperin, Cybersecurity Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Just remember that you should still pay attention to protecting your privacy and security, even on your personal devices, so
5. Be careful about what you post online
When working remotely, you might sometimes feel isolated and be tempted to post about your tasks, projects, or achievements online.
While details are great for your stand-up meetings or 1:1s, they shouldn’t hit social networks or even general chat rooms at work.
Think twice before you post, and make sure you’re not divulging any private information or data that’s protected by any non-disclosure agreement you might have signed.
Sure, you’ll miss some likes, but gain the love of your Chief Information Officer.
Have you been working remotely this year? What are the challenges you’ve faced while trying to stay private?
Let me know in the comments section below!