BLOG - 20 March 2021, UK
Working from home remotely? Stay safe online!
Mark Norris, IT Security Manager at Focus Group, highlights how remote workers should stay vigilant to online hackers and scams. But it’s not all bad; direct access to tea and biscuits can help through the days spent in your new working environment…
By Sonia Older
Remote workers – stay safe online!
So, here it is. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Working from home with my cyber security hat in my home study, but when I say study it is the box room upstairs that we use as a storage room. But it does have the luxury of a chair and desk. And that is important, finding somewhere that resembles an office set up is key. Sat in bed, wearing your PJs, with a laptop on your lap is not ideal. I have a friend that to work from home must physically walk out the front door and then around the side of the house and in through the back door. Without that ‘leaving the home’ part he struggles to adjust.
Apart from drinking too much tea, eating too many biscuits, the biggest threat to you, your data and your company’s data, is your isolation. Companies these days spend a fortune building secure networks to stop undesirables (let’s call them ‘Chummies’ - you may have your own names for them) from gaining access to our systems. But then send us all home to work from home networks, in isolation from colleagues and friends and distracted by day to day onslaught of news about coronavirus, and we could be opening ourselves up to online security risks.
As with any misfortune, there are Chummies out there that will be trying to use these unprecedented times to take advantage of people. They will be using this uncertainty to try to trick or exploit people. Given that most of us are decent human beings we are all too willing to help people, believe in freebies (especially free pizza) and, at times, unable to spot that fake email.
There have already been reported a vast increase of phishing and spam emails relating to the coronavirus, with Chummies trying to steal your passwords or login credentials. We know to be vigilant in the workplace but, somehow sat in our cosy homes, we relax and let our guard down. That is exactly what these people want. We need to be extra vigilant for all their tricks and fancy emails. I have a rule that says, “If in doubt throw it out”. If it is important, they will call you or email you again. I must admit my manager does not like philosophy as it is mostly his emails I throw away…(!)
Apart from phishing emails (which account for 90 per cent of breaches), just how secure are we in our homes? We are all probably using our home broadbands to connect to the internet to work. But do these home networks match the network security we have at work? I very much doubt it. Does your home Wi-Fi have a password to connect? If not, I would suggest setting one up.
Does your employer provide you with a Virtual Private Network VPN to connect back to the office? A VPN is like driving along a busy motorway in a blacked-out limo. People can see you drive past but they cannot see you inside. This is the same with your data. A VPN hides your data as it traverses the clouds and internet and wings its merry way back to your office.
Up the anti!
I would also suggest ensuring your secure anti virus software is kept up to date and a shutdown at least once or twice a week rather than just putting your device to sleep is strongly recommended. A complete shutdown refreshes your system, restores any lost resources and most importantly will install any updates provided by manufacturers. Any security habits you may have at your work should be adhered to at home. For example, locking your screen when you walk away from your desk -especially if you have cats! Cats love laying on keyboards and pressing keys. Or do they know exactly what they are pressing? There are certain keystrokes that will turn your screen upside down or into monochrome. I am sure cats do it on purpose.
But back to emails. Emails are where the biggest focus (pardon the pun) will be on trying to trick you. Now more people are working remotely they should be extra suspicious of any emails asking them to check or renew their passwords or login credentials. If possible do mix work and leisure activities on the same device and be particularly careful with any mails referencing the coronavirus.
In the current situation, one should be suspicious of any emails asking to check or renew your credentials even if it seems to come from a trusted source. Please try to verify the authenticity of the request through other means, do not click on suspicious links or open any suspicious attachments.
Be very suspicious of emails from people you don't know- especially if they ask to connect to links or open files (if in doubt phone your security officer).
Mails that create an image of urgency or severe consequences are key candidates for phishing - in these cases always verify via an external channel before complying.
Mails sent from people you know but asking for unusual things are also suspect - verify by phone if possible.
Cyber security on another level
Worried about online threats? Don’t be. At Focus Group we have a team of cyber security experts ready to safeguard your business and remote workers. Safeguard your data and the data of your employees. Are your personal details exposed on the Dark Web? Let us find out and lock down your IT security – don’t fall foul to the Chummies!
Call the team on 0330 024 2004 TODAY.