How to Work From Home Without Compromising Security
As ordinary users, during our normal working lives, we are likely to use computer systems within an office environment where we don’t have to think too much about security measures. There are people within our organisation that put in place security measures and we just need to follow the advice and guidance we are provided with. These may include the IT department, which protects our important information assets from a technical point of view or the facilities department which is responsible for physical security.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that suddenly, people are taken out of these usual surroundings and are being asked to work from home, even though they may not have done so before. Whilst this means that we can stay relatively productive, it also means that a lot of the security that was previously provided for us is now our personal responsibility to maintain.
So, what are the things we should be thinking about?
Here are 10 top tips to enable us to keep our important information assets safe and secure whilst working from home.
Store laptops and other computer equipment out of sight when not being used, this way they won’t become a target. Make sure you do this when transporting them as well, put them in the boot, not on the back seat. And do the same with hardcopy confidential information.
Most companies have a clear screen policy, part of which requires screens to be locked when you are away from your desk. You should continue to do this when at home too. Predominantly, this is to keep confidential information away from family members, tenants or visitors in your home, but neither do you want the cat to walk across your keyboard undoing all your hard work!
If you can use your own computer/device for work purposes, make sure that you have set a password that meets your company’s password policy.
If you are using your own computer/device, also make sure that you have up-to-date anti-malware (anti-virus) software installed and running.
Make sure your computer is fully patched. For most of us, that means checking that Windows updates have been installed.
Many of us will be connecting to the Internet using a Wi-Fi router. There are a couple of things to check here. First, make sure that the router itself is password protected and that only authorised people know the password. The second thing is to ensure that the Wi-Fi connection is password protected and is also encrypted. Check the settings on the router. You are looking for WPA-2 to be enabled. This stands for Wi-Fi protected access, and it is enabled by default on most modern routers but check to be sure.
For the technical ones among you, consider setting up a separate virtual network within the router that only your work computer is connected to. This will mean that even if other systems/devices in your home have weak security, you will have an extra layer of protection. These other systems/devices include mobile phones, tablets and computer systems that belong to other members of the family. These may not be fully patched and may not have adequate protection from malware.
If you have items that have a Wi-Fi connection for the sake of convenience, consider putting these into a separate network as well. We call this the Internet of things (IoT) and it comprises items such as Wi-Fi-connected central heating systems and other home automation products, and maybe even the fridge and the kettle!
If you need to send information from home to somewhere out there on the Internet, consider encrypting the files before you send them or, better still, encrypt your connection end to end by using a VPN.
Finally, stay informed. This means that you should ensure that you take your information and advice from reputable sources. Unfortunately, the pandemic also presents an opportunity for scammers and we are already seeing fake pandemic related news. Always seek information from primary, trustworthy sources, such as the government’s website or the websites of your bank or major brands. Always type in the address of such websites into your browser if you know it. Never click on a link in an email or social media message.
Help is available from your organisation’s IT, information security or compliance department. Follow their guidance and if you are not sure about something, it is better to ask. In this situation, the old adage applies – ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question’.