How to Keep Your Data Secure while You Work from Home?

Technology

Following the Centre’s order for a 21-day lockdown, individuals working from home will have to rely longer on their home networks than previously estimated.

For cybercriminals, this a huge opportunity as most home networks often lack the same level of security that exists at workplace. Also, many people do not often know much about potential threats.

Here are some ways in which one can work from home without compromising company data.

Securing home networks

Even if one has a separate office PC, at home it will work on the WiFi network available there. IT teams have no control over a home network, which in many cases are poorly protected. Changing password to something far more complex than just names or birthdays of family members is the first step in securing the home network.

Using a VPN (virtual private network) on work PC before connecting to home network is another security practice that should be followed extensively. VPN creates an encrypted virtual tunnel for all traffic passing between the home network and the work network, protecting it from interception by attackers. In case the IT team failed to install a VPN client, one can always secure the WiFi network or individual devices, as they prefer, by subscribing for a paid and reliable VPN service.

Free VPNs need to be avoided as they are not safe and can compromise security. Time and again, reports have showed that free VPNs don’t have a clear privacy policy, and many collect and share user data with third party. As per a CSIRO study, 38% of free Android VPNs are infested with malware or ads, which is an even bigger risk.

Avoid harmless websites, apps

While working from home, keeping tab on the outbreak from time to time via news and online articles is natural. But, users should avoid websites that do not have basic security protocols such as HTTPS (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) in place. These security protocols protect users. The link address in HTTPS websites start with https instead of http or www in the browser URL (uniform resource locator).

In addition to the HTTPS security feature, those working from home should also read domain names very carefully to ensure they actually exist. According to cybersecurity firm Check Point, coronavirus-related domains are 50% more likely to be malicious than other domains. Beginning January, when the outbreak was first reported, more than 16,000 new coronavirus-related domains have been registered.

Office emails for work communication

Sending a phishing email carrying malicious links or attachments is the oldest yet the most effective trick used by attackers. Most ransomware attacks are spread through phishing emails. About 67% of ransomware attacks have been carried out through a phishing email, as per Statista. Clicking on a harmful link can transmit the malware on the device and from there can infiltrate office networks. According to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, using work emails makes it harder for attackers to impersonate a worker if they use an account on another domain. Also, many of the enterprise email servers are protected and use solutions that can detect any malicious attempt to change the message sender.

Collaborate securely

One of the critical components of remote working is collaboration with the rest of the team and for that companies sanction use of specific cloud based collaboration tools where individuals can thrash out strategies, ponder over projects and share documents with team members. Using secure collaboration tools is critical which is why one should always use company sanctioned tools. Tools like Office 365 or Cisco WebX are some of the leading collaboration platforms that offer enterprise grade security and even encrypt data. However, for the sake of convenience many users have been found to be using unauthorised apps like WhatsApp or email which are not controlled by the enterprise. Using unsanctioned apps is a main source of data exfiltration, according to recent reports.

Create separate networks

If your home network has got multiple IoT (internetof Things) devices such as a smart speaker, smart camera or smart switch on it, it is safer to keep them on separate networks from the one used for office work. Most IoT devices are not regularly patched, for vulnerabilities. Vendors do not secure them properly fearing it will ruin performance and eventually the user experience. So, if a smart camera gets hacked, the entire home network and the devices connected to it can get compromised.

To keep less secure device on a separate network one doesn’t require a separate router. The existing router can be subnetted to divide them into smaller networks. So a subnet used for work can be kept separate from other subnets that may be accessible to IOT devices.

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