Do you want to start working from home? A lot of organizations now, including Facebook are brainstorming on the ideas to approve remote working. This would provide help even in time of crisis, natural disasters or like the recent pandemic.
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Since covid-19, a lot of measures are being put in place to reduce the risk of infection. The coronavirus has forced the government to encourage social distancing techniques.
This includes isolation in various homes, consistent use of hand sanitizers, and a distance of at least two meters for people who need to leave their homes.
Social distancing has negatively impacted various economies around the world. Production lines in factories have been stopped and nations are closing borders and halting the free flow of travel.
However, because of the level of technological advance in the last few decades, we no longer rely on physical contact to facilitate certain kinds of work.
Some individuals work full-time on their computers as online freelancers. Firms have also set up remote workplaces for workers to connect to periodically. As a result of the pandemic, offices have been instructing employees to work from their homes.
This way, tasks can be continued while the world is awaiting the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
Understanding Risks Of Remote Working
Remote working is very convenient and can be handled from the comfort of your bed, your couch or even a park. However, just like everything else, it comes with its own disadvantages.
As you’re diligently working to complete your office tasks, there are also others working to disrupt your activity. They’re known as cybercriminals or hackers.
These hackers understand a lot more employees are working remotely in the world right now and are doubling their efforts to breach the security of your device.
When you connect to your online work from home, you’re highly likely to use your personal devices and network. This way, it would be easier for a cybercriminal to penetrate your system. When you work in the office, there’s a cybersecurity team to protect your work device from the security risks.
Working from home is a totally different story. Your device could have several security leaks and lack the necessary tools to prevent hackers from breaching your privacy.
Cybercriminals typically hack devices for two major reasons. To get financial remuneration or to target specific information. Either way, the consequences are devastating and could have long-term negative effects.
Because of you, sensitive files about your company could be leaked or your firm’s online workplace could be compromised.
There are certain threats that exist on the internet to target remote workers. These risks are explained below.
Breached Public Wi-Fi
Hackers use public Wi-Fi to obtain information from a large group of people. Individuals may connect to public Wi-Fi when they are in places like cafes, restaurants, malls, etc.
A cybercriminal would then perform a man-in-the-middle attack to place a device between the users and the network. This way, information can be gleaned from the numerous users that link to the Wi-Fi network.
In essence, all activities performed online by users would be seen and recorded by the hacker. Unencrypted chats, social media login information, email logins and even internet banking login details could fall into the hands of the hacker as you work remotely.
Malware and Ransomware
Malware is one of the most dangerous threats on the internet. Depending on the type of malware, a device could be remotely controlled by the cybercriminal. It is one of the ways hackers can get a lot of information from your computer.
Malware could be gotten from several sources. You could get it while surfing the internet and downloading files that seem useful. You could get it from email attachments sent to you. You could even get it while installing an ‘antivirus’ from one of those pop-up adverts you see on the internet.
Possibly the worst thing about having malware on your device is that you would be ignorant of its existence. The malware could perform activities like mining cryptocurrency on your device or stealing passwords to your various accounts.
Ransomware is considered the most damaging type of malware on the internet. Cybercriminals behind ransomware typically seize all of your information in exchange for a ransom. Threats would be made to leak your personal information on the internet until you make financial remuneration.
Phishing is the act of duplicating a website, usually one that facilitates logging in to an account, to steal a user’s details. Hackers have typically used phishing right from the mass adoption of the internet. The bad part is, a lot of people fall victim to phishing because they’re not tech-savvy or cyber-conscious.
Phishing is usually facilitated with an email. The email would create a sense of urgency, stating that action would need to be performed immediately. The email could even mention your account is being threatened. In the email, there would be a link to ‘log in’ to your account.
The cloned page would be an almost perfect duplicate of the original website’s login page. Immediately you fix in the details on the page, your information would be sent to the hacker.
Phishing emails usually target online banking and social media accounts.
Low-Security Level for Remote Working Devices and Network
Despite the fact that you’re working from home, you’d most likely not use your work device and network. Your office system and network are adequately protected with tools like antiviruses and firewalls.
You may not have an antivirus on your PC and your firewall might have been deactivated to stop those ‘annoying’ pop-ups. This way, you’re more vulnerable to the risks on the internet.
Your Wi-Fi system could also lack necessary security updates, especially if it is an older version. A cybercriminal near your place could breach your network’s privacy and spy on your activity. Professional hackers could even hijack your connection.
Even an action such as using the default Wi-Fi password could lead to a breach of your network. A simple search engine query could reveal your password for anyone to connect to.
Once inside the network, the hacker could do anything he/she wishes, such as turning your Wi-Fi router into a bot.
Tips to Protect Devices From Remote Working Threats:
Strengthen your Passwords
During remote working, it is more crucial than ever to change your passwords if they’re weak. An example of a weak password is one used for multiple accounts. In the event that a cybercriminal gets a password from any of your accounts, your other accounts would be exposed.
In this case, the hacker would utilize a method called credential stuffing. It involves using a single password to breach the privacy of other online accounts.
Another example of a weak password is one that contains elements of one’s personal life like a pet’s name or a relative’s name. All it would take for a security breach by the hacker would be a visit to your social media account. A few guesses would eventually lead the hacker to gain access to your account.
Different strong passwords should be used for different accounts. An instance of a strong password is one with at least eight characters with a mix of upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers.
If you’re finding it hard to remember all your passwords, you can use a password manager. Password managers save different passwords across your accounts and can even autofill your passwords for you. Their features also include creating a secure password for you if you’re not keen on racking your brains for a password.
Activate Two-factor Authentication
When massive data leakages happen, several passwords get leaked. In this case, having a strong password wouldn’t do you much good. This is why you need to activate two-factor authentication for your remote workplace account.
Two-factor authentication is an added layer of security that protects an account. To a hacker, your password would prove to be useless if your account is protected with two-factor authentication. The extra security could be in the form of a code sent to your registered email or phone number.
Also, remember to activate an extra layer of security on your devices such as fingerprint or iris unlock. In that case, when your device gets lost or stolen, the cybercriminal would not be able to steal sensitive files about the firm.
Pay for a VPN
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It works by routing your Internet traffic through a server in a region you chose to connect to, thereby protecting your online activity. Practically, a VPN acts as a protective barrier between the online traffic flowing to and from your device. In fact, it stops your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from tracking your activity.
VPNs protect your personal information by hiding your IP address, ensuring that you are anonymous on the internet, browsing with no worries. It’s very much ideal for remote working.
A VPN is so effective that if you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network that has been hijacked by a cyber-attacker, he/she wouldn’t be able to spy on your activity. This is because the encrypted information would be unreadable to the hacker.
VPNs come with various perks applicable during the lockdown such as allowing you to connect to geo-restricted content from any location. That way, you can watch your favorite shows on Netflix or download geo-blocked games. All you’d need to do is to connect to a VPN server in a location that can access the content.
Boost Your Router’s Security
Some individuals never bother to change their router password after purchase. These networks can easily be broken into by anyone searching the internet for the default password of your router. A hacker can even get onto the network, spy on your internet activity, and steal your files.
For remote working, you need to change your router password to a highly secure one. But that’s only the first step. Boosting your home router’s security goes beyond just changing its password.
You need to make certain firmware updates are installed on the router to prevent security leakages. The router encryption should be set to WPA2 or WPA3. You also need to add a firewall to your router. You can opt for a hardware firewall.
Activate Your Firewall
A lot of people tend to switch off firewalls on their devices to stop its numerous ‘annoying’ pop-ups. They’re ignorant of the fact that firewalls protect devices from malware attempting to sneak into devices.
A firewall is considered the first line of defense against spyware, malware, and ransomware. It works by closing communication ports between your device and the internet. Suspicious data packets would be blocked from penetrating your device, thus freeing your system from all forms of malware.
Operating systems typically come with default firewalls. To activate Windows Firewall, you can head over to the Control Panel, click on ‘System and Security’ and select ‘Windows Firewall’. If you are a Mac user, you can go to ‘System Preferences’, then ‘Security & Privacy’, then ‘Firewall’ tab and enable Firewall on Mac.
Default Suspicion of Emails
You need to be suspicious of emails that you receive. This is effective in preventing malware from being installed on your device or your account details from being phished. Make certain you’re familiar with the sender of any mail you’re receiving. Even then, you’d still need to watch out for other stuff.
Phishing is typically used to take over accounts and siphon internet banking information. To stop your information from being phished, you need to double-check the sender’s email address for spelling errors. Phishing emails also typically have several spelling errors and sometimes poor grammar.
If a link has been sent to your mail, hover over the link to see where it leads before clicking on it. Phishing links usually have misspelled domain names so you’d have to take your time to view the link sent to you. If you click on the link, ensure it is HTTPS protected (showing a symbol in the address bar) before fixing in your information.
If you’re sent an email attachment, ensure that you’re familiar with the sender before download. You can do this by scrutinizing the email address.
Use Encrypted Chat Applications
If your work requires a high level of privacy, such as journalism, and you need to secure the information sent to your colleagues, endeavor to use encrypted chat apps. Chat applications that use end-to-end encryption ensure that your messages can only be seen by you and the party you’re sending to.
Any hacker attempting to get your conversations with another person would be wasting his/her time.
There are super-private encrypted chat applications such as Signal and Jabber/OTP that employ a high level of encryption, with no information logs stored on company servers.
Update your Device’s Operating System and Software
Some major hacks in the world could have been stopped if the devices utilized updated operating systems. Operating systems have full-time developers working day and night to make security patches, enhancing your level of protection when you’re using your device.
Often, outdated operating systems could increase your vulnerability to hackers. Cybercriminals never stop working around the clock to install different forms of malware on your device through obsolete software and browser plug-ins or extensions. To frustrate their efforts update your operating system to the latest one available and upgrade your software frequently when you’re prompted to.
You can activate automatic OS updates on your device if you’re not certain you’d remember to update your device.
Use Office Tools for Messaging and Uploads
If tools like Microsoft Office 365 or corporate messengers like Slack are being used in your office, you can utilize them for communication and file sharing from home. This way, you get to keep company messages and files secure.
Uploading files on a different service like your Google Drive could make your company files public. For instance, when you create a link to a Google Drive file that could be accessed by a colleague in your office, search engines would read that information as public an index it.
Anyone searching for anything on the internet related to the file would be able to access it.
The world has been forced into isolation since the coronavirus pandemic. Workplaces, in a bid to obey government and organization health guidelines, are asking employees to work from home.
However, despite the increased convenience that comes with remote working, there’s a looming threat.
Hackers are increasing efforts to get more victims for their selfish activities. They’re using methods such as Wi-Fi hacking, malware, and phishing to get sensitive information out from remote workers’ devices.
To foil their efforts, you can use a VPN, scrutinize emails sent to you, strengthen your passwords, and use private chat applications. For a heightened level of security, you can activate two-factor authentication for your devices and accounts, boost router security, and update your device’s operating system and software.