- The novel coronavirus is changing how Americans work. Some employers advise, “Stay home.”
- Working from home could increase cybersecurity risks. Tech protection can help.
- Tools like VPNs can help protect data and online connections, but workers may need to adapt in other ways.
- Scam alert: Coronavirus-related phishing emails aim to trick staffers with fake company policies.
The novel coronavirus is changing the daily habits of millions of people globally, including where they work. Many employers are telling their employees — or offering them the option — to work from home.
Companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft have announced they are allowing staff to work remote to help protect against the coronavirus, or COVID-19, the name of the respiratory disease it causes. The idea: Protect health and help control the spread of the disease.
If you decide to work remote, it’s a good idea to keep cybersecurity in mind. That means protecting your devices and data, just like you would in the workplace.
Here are some tips to help keep your connections secure.
- Keep close contact with your employer: It’s smart to stay on top of company communications. Your inbox might contain emails about policy changes ranging from work hours to travel. Your employer might consolidate coronavirus-related information on the company intranet. If you have questions, ask.
- Use what’s in your company’s tech toolbox: Companies often have tech tools that can help keep you cybersafe when you work from home. That might mean you do your work on company-supplied laptops and mobile devices. They likely include firewall and antivirus protection, along with security features like VPN and 2-factor authentication.
- Control the impulse to improvise: Employees often work in teams, and that can mean using collaboration tools like instant-messaging platforms and video-meeting rooms. If a tool isn’t working right, you might be tempted to download a substitute. Don’t do it. You could inadvertently introduce a software program with a security flaw — and that means someone unauthorized may be able to access company data, or any personal data you have on that device.
- Stay current on software updates and patches: You might get reminders that software updates are available for your computer, laptop, tablet, or mobile device. Don’t wait. Update. Also, keep in mind you can configure your devices to update automatically. Updates help patch security flaws and help protect your data. Updates can also add new features to your devices and remove outdated ones.
- Keep your VPN turned on: A VPN — short for virtual private network — can help protect the data you send and receive while you work from home. A VPN can provide a secure link between employees and businesses by encrypting data. VPNs help protect against cybercriminals and snoops from seeing what you do online during a workday. That might include sending or receiving financial information, strategy documents, and customer data. A VPN helps keep that information secure from cybercriminals and competitors.
- Beware of coronavirus-themed phishing emails: Cybercriminals are exploiting the coronavirus outbreak to send fake emails with dangerous links to employees. Here’s how it works. The email messages may appear to come from company officials and might ask you to open a link to a new company policy related to the coronavirus. If you click on the attachment or imbedded link, you’re likely to download malware onto your device. Don’t click. Instead, immediately report the phishing attempt to your employer. A phishing email with malicious software could allow cybercriminals to take control of your computer, log your keystrokes, or access sensitive business information and financial data.
- Develop a new routine: Working from home requires changing your routine. Making sure you’re cyber secure is part of that. But it also involves structuring your day to work efficiently and maintain contact with your team. If you’re used to starting the day by greeting your coworkers, you might consider continuing to do that by email or on a chat platform.
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