March 23, 2020
As more and more organizations implement company-wide work from home policies as a way to protect the health of employees in the wake of COVID-19, they are also considering how to continue business as usual under a whole new networking situation.
Many employees beginning a remote work situation for the first time may not be up to date on how to keep their devices safe, confidential information private and networks secure.
We asked IEEE Impact Creators and cybersecurity experts to weigh in and share their tips for staying safe online while working, as well as practicing social distancing:
1. Ensure Your WiFi and Router Passwords Are Secure
“One of the simplest things you can do to secure your home network is to ensure your WiFi and router passwords are secure,” advised IEEE member Carmen Fontana.
It’s important that your home network has a strong password that contains a variety of characters and symbols to prevent cyber attackers from easily breaking into your network. Keeping an industry-set password or not having a strong password is like leaving the door open for someone to walk into your house. Changing your password regularly is also a great way to keep the door locked on your devices.
“Consider using separate security for your guest/family/IoT devices than your work WiFi,” says Fontana. “If you want to go even further, think about implementing a firewall and/or Domain Name System (DNS) server.”
2. Check In With Your IT Department
Spending more time working from home may expose new privacy vulnerabilities and information to bad actors — your IT department can be the first line of defense.
“Unfortunately, nefarious actors use situations like this to prey on our insecurities,” says Fontana. “Your company’s IT support team should never unexpectedly email you to ask for account information, home networking information, etc. Exercise excessive caution if you are contacted in this manner.”
If you do encounter a situation you are unsure of, contact your IT department to see if this was a company-approved initiative.
“If you receive a call purportedly from your helpdesk, call them back on the number listed in your corporate directory,” reiterates IEEE member Kayne McGladrey. “Threat actors are actively calling employees in the hopes that they are unfamiliar with working from home.”
3. Only Use Employer-Provided Devices
“Employees should only use employer-provided and approved hardware to connect to the corporate infrastructure when working remote,” says McGladrey. “This is to limit the risk of accidental or unintentional data loss or exposure when using a personal device.”
It might be tempting to use your personal device if you were not able to take home all of your hardware or if you feel your devices are easier to navigate. Your IT department has worked hard to set up infrastructures to protect you and your company from unintentionally sharing confidential information. It’s safer to continue using the devices your company has provided.
4. Keep Your Software Up-To-Date
“Running the most recent versions of your mobile operating system, security software, apps and web browsers is among the best defenses against malware and other threats,” says IEEE Senior member Kevin Curran. “When you see a message on your computer or mobile to update, then do so immediately. These updates often contain security patches which protect against new vulnerabilities.”
As mentioned before, if you are feeling uneasy about updating anything — check in with your IT department before you hit download. They can confirm what seems suspicious and what is necessary for the health of your device.
5. Be Patient with Slower Network Servers
Remember to allow extra time as you navigate this new remote-only world of work. Network servers are expected to be a little slower as more people all take to their computers to get all necessary work done.
“With many people now working from home, we can anticipate some service outages and slowdowns,” says McGladrey. “Be patient. We’re all in this together.”