by | 28 Jul 2020

5 cybersecurity best practices when working from home

While the Coronavirus pandemic has made working from home the new normal, the proliferation of cyber attacks could well put a damper on the corporate world’s enthusiasm. When outside of the office, employees change their usual digital habits and consequently increase their risk of exposure to cyber threats. If we want to continue working from home, SMEs must make a concerted effort to put cybersecurity at the heart of the remote working policy.

1. Install anti-malware software

Simply installing antivirus software on an employee’s desktop will serve little to protect against the cyber threats awaiting when they log in from home. And any incomplete solution will not guard against the most critical cybersecurity danger for SMEs: malware. An even more salient point when we consider that an employee working from home is more likely to use their work computer for personal use, since they are no longer in view of everyone at the office, and this significantly increases the risk of being attacked by such malicious software. Anti-malware software that is up to date with the latest signatures can warn of potentially dangerous private messaging or internet browsing activity.

2. Perform security updates

In attempt to boost their productivity, work-at-home employees don’t often realise to what extent they are putting their employer at risk by refusing security updates suggested by the operating system. The main argument is that they want to avoid a potentially long period of forced inactivity —generally a few minutes. For SMEs with on-site staff and an IT manager who oversees updates for hardware and software, the risk is minimal. But for those with no IT director, cybersecurity software will minimise security vulnerabilities by forcing users to perform these critical updates.

Online backup protects against human error… and ransomware

3. Back up sensitive files online

It’s pretty much impossible to work remotely and not share files online. But some employees will always prefer to edit files locally. And if ever there is a problem, it can be extremely difficult to recover the contents of any documents being worked on. The answer is to add another layer of cybersecurity by regularly and automatically backing up sensitive business files online. This not only provides extra protection against human error, but also ransomware: malicious software that encrypts sensitive data and demands a ransom in order to release the files.

4. Apply a security filter to emails

Business email accounts are the favourite port of entry for hackers and fraudsters, and fraudulent emails that attempt to glean sensitive data regularly find their way through spam filters. The danger they pose becomes even more real when working from home, since employees can’t rely on chatting with their manager or colleagues before opening an email with a malicious link. Anti-spam filters are designed to boost productivity, not security; and they often block emails that we actually want to receive! An email security filter is the only way to effectively thwart phishing attacks.

Downloads, illegal streaming, online gaming: the unsafe habits of work-at-home employees

5. Switch to secure online browsing

Private browsing modes offered by Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari are only designed to make online browsing precisely that: private. In no circumstances can they be considered a cybersecurity defence for any SME wanting to raise its employees’ awareness of cyber threats. A secure online browsing solution will, on the other hand, be capable of warning users when they are about to visit a malicious site. This form of cybersecurity is particularly relevant to employees who work from home and use their business computer for private activities such as downloading files, illegal streaming and playing games online.

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