How to Stay Safe Online While Working from Home During the COVID-19 Crisis
Many people are working from home for the first time due to the restrictions put in place during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home can put us all at risk of cybercrime, which can have serious impacts for us personally and for our employers. It is therefore important for all of us to take precautions to protect ourselves online.
What can I do to protect my cyber security?
There are some simple steps suggested by the Australian Cyber Security Centre that we can take to improve our cyber security.
- Keep a look out for scams.
The upheaval in work arrangements brought about by COVID-19 has made businesses an appealing target for online criminals, who may see this as an opportunity to take advantage of new and potentially unsophisticated systems.
Cybercriminals are likely to attempt scams to get people’s money and information, and to access their online systems. To avoid being the victim of a scam, ensure that you are attentive and use your critical thinking if you receive suspicious calls, texts, or emails. Do not open attachments or click on links unless you trust the sender. Think carefully before providing any personal or bank details online. If you are not certain of the sender’s identity, stick to contact methods that you have previously used.
- Strengthen your passwords.
A strong password can go a long way towards preventing cybercrime. Ensure you set detailed and unique passwords on all of your devices.
Make sure you use different passwords for every website and app, especially if you have personal or bank details saved on the website. If you use the same password for every website, all of your accounts will be at risk if one of them is compromised.
- Use multi-factor authentication where possible.
Multi-factor authentication can be enabled on your devices and online accounts and involves using multiple layers of authentication. This means that even if someone obtains one type of authentication (e.g., a password), they will not be able to access your device or account without the other types of authentication.
Multi-factor authentication can include something you know (e.g., a password or answers to security questions), something you physically hold (e.g., a card or token), and/or something you inherently have (e.g., a retina pattern or fingerprint).
- Carry out software updates.
Ensure that you allow your devices to carry out automatic updates as software updates are often developed in response to security issues and could include new security features.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
VPN connections allow you to connect your devices to your work network while ensuring the security of your remote network access and web browsing.
If your employer requires you to use a certain VPN, ensure that you understand their VPN policies and procedures.
- Only use Wi-Fi connections that you trust.
Free Wi-Fi is not secure and you are potentially exposing your web browsing to criminals if you use it. Some cybercriminals create Wi-Fi hotspots that look legitimate and use them to take your personal details and communications.
Only use Wi-Fi connections that you trust, such as your home or mobile phone internet.
- When you are not using your devices, ensure they are kept secure.
Gaining access to your data is easier when criminals can physically access your devices. It is important to always keep your devices secure when you are not using them, for example by locking them and keeping them somewhere safe.
You should also think carefully before giving permission to someone to use your work devices. If you let your children or family members use them, they could accidentally share important data, delete information, or download harmful software.
If you share devices with your family, ensure that they use accounts that are separate from your work account and that they set unique passwords.
- Try not to use portable storage devices such as USBs and external hard drives.
While portable storage devices can be a useful way to back up data or take files home from work, they are easy to lose. Additionally, they can carry malware that could infect your devices at home.
If you can, try to move data in a safer way, for example through cloud storage. If you use a portable storage device, secure it using encryption and passwords.
- Only rely on trusted sources of information.
Online criminals are known to take advantage of popular issues like COVID-19 to spread false information and scam people. They may do this by cloning, imitating, or making websites to appear legitimate, or by circulating disinformation through social media.
Make sure you only rely on sources of information that you trust and think critically about new sources of information before you use them.