Don’t let the comfort of working from home blind you to the cyber threats out there.

By Alice Williams
April 15, 2020

While an unprecedented number of people have shifted to remote work or work-from-home companies in response to COVID-19, it was already on the rise before physical or social distancing took over. In 2017, more than 8 million people in the U.S. reported that they worked from home. It’s easy to see why—working from home offers flexibility in where you work (home, your parent’s house, etc.), removes your commute, and decreases distractions. With the right working from home tips, it can even be a delight.

As with any online activity, though, online safety precautions need to be taken while working from home now more than ever. Cyber attackers are latching onto the fear and panic caused by COVID-19: According to Heinan Landa, CEO and founder of Optimal Networks and author of The Modern Law Firm: How to Thrive in an Era of Rapid Technological Change, corona-themed phishing scams have jumped by 600 percent since February.

Don’t let online threats ruin your working from home experience: Follow our four steps to stay secure online.

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1 Verify the authenticity of suspicious emails

Received an urgent email from someone at WHO (World Health Organization)? Think twice before clicking on the link to donate in their email. Landa recommends verifying the authenticity of any suspicious persons or emails, which can be done with a quick Google search.

Look for spelling errors and bad grammar. Scammers often use bad grammar on purpose to find out who the most gullible people are, because they will be a good future target. Beware of anything that asks you to download content or provide sensitive information to access tips on how to protect yourself from the coronavirus. Any email that solicits private information in exchange for something is one to be wary of.

2 Gain access to a VPN

If your work deals with any type of sensitive information, a VPN is essential. A VPN is a virtual private network and can be a useful tool for keeping your work secure. VPNs afford a secure, encrypted connection when you use your home internet. This is important because your home internet won’t be as secure as your company’s.

Large companies can (and likely will) provide you with access to a VPN that can be used to secure your remote work. If this isn’t an option, there are many on the market that you can choose from. While it can be tempting to lean towards a cheaper option, not all VPNs are created equal. Research the level of encryption offered, whether or not there is customer support provided, the reputation of a provider, and if it is easy to set up before committing.

3 Be careful what you search for online

While it’s natural to ask Google your questions, Landa notes that more people than ever are seeking information on COVID-19, either out of curiosity or to take precautions. This has led to a rise in hackers targeting internet users who repeatedly search for the coronavirus.

If you aren’t making multiple searches a day for the coronavirus specifically, it still pays to use smart search behavior. When browsing websites for info, ensure their legitimacy by checking their About and Contact Us pages. Look out for websites that contain lots of pop ups and ads, particularly any that ask for sensitive information, which could place malicious software on your device.

4 Don’t slack on authentication

You need to lock down your personal information if you’re bringing work home. Think of all the times you’ve registered for an online account and were asked to set up a security question or enter in an app-generated code—that’s what strong authentication refers to.

Instead of ignoring a prompt to set up multi-factor authentication for your work or personal accounts, pay attention. Revisit any online accounts and set up strong safeguards with unique passwords and answers.

While the world of remote work is full of opportunity, don’t let your digital hygiene slip. Whenever you log into a work device, get into the right mindset, and stay vigilant: Don’t let your company become the victim of a costly data breach.