By DeVry University
Working from home or from a remote location can have many benefits, but it also comes with its own set of security concerns. One of the biggest safety risks for someone who lives and works remotely is an attack on their personal devices—computers, smartphones or other internet-connected gadgets.
There has been a recorded increase in cybercrime over the last couple of years. As more companies transition to flexible work arrangements, hackers are taking advantage of this migration to exploit companies’ data through remote workers.
Remote workers can be more vulnerable to cybercrime due to social engineering, and since there are often fewer cybersecurity safeguards in place than for those who work in an office environment.
So what can you do to protect yourself? This article provides a practical overview of some cybersecurity tips for how to protect your data while working from home, and your identity as a remote worker.
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the process of creating a system of safeguards (using software, tools and habits) to protect data and network integrity. Also known as information technology security or electronic information security, cybersecurity prevents hackers and attackers from harvesting your personal or professional data from your devices.
A good cybersecurity policy for remote workers should provide a framework for helping employees become more educated about information security protocols and aware of how to recognize and avoid threats while working from home. If your job involves using a computer and the internet, you need cybersecurity measures to protect your data.
Three of the Most Common Cyber Threats
Cybercrime involves using a computer or device as an instrument to further illegal ends, such as committing fraud, trafficking in illegal content, intellectual property theft, stealing identities or violating privacy to name a few.
The term “cybercrime” covers a wide range of activities, but they all have one thing in common – cybercriminals use various methods to break into systems and steal data. The first step towards protecting your data and devices is by understanding what kind of threats are out there.
Malware, short for "malicious software," is a term used to describe any program designed to steal information from your computer. There are many different kinds of malicious software, including viruses, ransomware, adware browser hijacking software, fake security software and spyware. Malware is developed explicitly by cybercriminals or "hackers" to intrusively steal your data.
For example, ransomware is malicious software put in your system that will essentially hold your important information hostage until you meet the hacker's demands. A ransomware attack can shut down a victim's computer or encrypt their files remotely, removing them from your control. A different kind of malware, spyware, runs quietly in the background collecting your data and sending it back to the criminal, who can then use it for fraudulent purchases or illegal schemes.
Phishing scams trick users into sharing their personal information, such as usernames or passwords, on fake platforms, such as web pages, that pose as the real thing. Using this method, scammers can acquire sensitive data like passwords or credit card information simply by impersonating a trustworthy source, as long as the victim doesn't look too closely.
Phishing also includes fraudulent emails or text messages pretending to be sent from legitimate businesses in an attempt to collect sensitive personal information. Links in the email will redirect to a fake website owned by the scammer, where your personal data can be collected.
Hacking is the process by which someone obtains and uses another person's personal data in an unauthorized way. Hackers look for weaknesses in computer systems or network security to access sensitive data. Cybercriminals who utilize hacking look for private or restricted information like your bank, social media and email account login information or passwords.
Why is Cybersecurity So Important?
While people might think that cybersecurity is only crucial for large corporations with sophisticated networks and mountains of sensitive data, it's actually a vital measure for everyone and anyone who uses a computer on a regular basis.
Cybersecurity is particularly important for remote workers since they work with company data, and because your home’s network may not have the same level of protection or security measures as your work’s network.
How to Prevent Cyber Attacks at Home
The goal of cybersecurity is to keep your sensitive information as safe as possible by removing vulnerabilities and keeping access away from hackers. Remote workers and freelancers need to take extra precautions to implement cybersecurity measures, especially if they’re working with sensitive information.
There’s an array of cybersecurity tools, habits and software you can use to protect your devices and data from malicious attacks. It’s also beneficial to stay informed. Ready.gov has a wealth of information and tools to help consumers educate themselves on cybersecurity and what to do if targeted.
Protect Your Devices
There are many methods to help safeguard your devices from cybersecurity threats, including:
- Keeping your devices up to date by turning on automatic updates to save time and to avoid missing a hardware or software update for your devices than could strengthen its security.
- Install security software on your devices for firewall, antivirus and browsing protection.
- Never leave your work or personal devices alone and unlocked in a public or crowded area, even for a moment. Doing so can leave them and your data vulnerable to theft.
- Purchase or request an external hard drive from your company that can be disconnected when you're not actively using the work files.
- Cover or disconnect your webcam when not in use to prevent hackers from potentially gleaning personal information from your environment. The same kinds of malware and viruses that can harvest data from your devices can also be used to embed software that records whatever is in your webcam’s field of vision.
- Don't connect to public WiFi networks or random hotspots unless you trust them or have antivirus software, firewalls, or a VPN running in the background.
Guard Your Personal Information
Keeping personal and company information secure is a vital habit to develop. Below are some cybersecurity tips for remote workers that help prevent identity theft and protect your personal information:
- Avoid phishing scams by verifying the sender before opening, clicking or replying to emails. Don’t give out personal identification to unprotected or unofficial websites. When in doubt, ask your employer for clarification.
- Avoid using public WiFi when accessing work servers or software, which may not be encrypted and can leave your device and personal information open to being hacked.
- Don’t volunteer information to strangers or new acquaintances about your job unless you know you can trust them or someone you trust can vouch for them.
Increase Password Security
It’s good practice to change your passwords often, randomize them and not reuse them. More ways to keep your passwords secure include:
- Using trusted password manager programs to keep track of and protect the privacy of your passwords.
- Avoid using the save password feature on your devices without added security measures, such as fingerprint identification or facial recognition.
- If you must input your password out in the open, prevent others from seeing by using privacy screen protectors while using your laptop or phone out in public.
Utilize Encryption Technology
Encryption technology converts information into secret codes so that only the intended recipient can read the message. Utilizing encryption technology can help you protect data from unauthorized access and potential leaks.
As a remote worker, keeping an active virtual private network (or VPN) installed on your devices may be recommended. VPNs cloak your device’s location and scramble information transmitted over a WiFi network using encryption technology, protecting your data and preventing hackers from intercepting it.
You may want to also encrypt sensitive data on your mobile device if you use one for work, by installing mobile VPN apps from trustworthy sources.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Multi-Factor Authentication is a security process that makes it difficult for hackers to access your devices by requiring additional identity verification steps.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a type of multi-factor authentication requiring two different identification types before granting log-in access. Whenever possible, use two-factor authentication log-in options on online platforms.
Grow Your Knowledge of Cybersecurity
Begin or continue your education at DeVry, with our Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security or our Bachelor's Degree Specialization in Cyber Security.
Our cybersecurity programs are designed to help you develop the skills you need as you prepare to pursue your career. Earn your degree on your schedule, with flexible options like our 100% online classroom structure. Classes start every 8 weeks.