Security Guidelines for Working Remotely From Home
Most of us are working from home due to the current situation that has arisen from COVID-19. At the office, there is an infrastructure to protect you while accessing the internet, but at home we need to take care of security ourselves. Here, we will explore a few techniques which we can use to achieve the goal of securing ourselves from cyber attacks. Below are the steps to make your work from home secure.
1. Humans are the weakest link
The weakest link in cybersecurity is humans. So, to secure a computer or network, the process begins with you. For the adversary, the easiest target is you, not the computer or the network. If adversaries want to obtain information like credentials, a file, or privileged access to something, they will try to trick you into giving them1. This is also known as a social engineering attack. Social engineering attacks include Spoofing (i.e they might act as your friend or your boss), often by creating some sort of urgency. The following are some examples:
- There might be an email from someone (adversary) acting as a legitimate co-worker, who might ask you for some technical details which he/she is not permitted access to.
- An email could be received from someone, saying you have just won a lottery (even though you don't remember buying an entry), that contains a malicious link, which can steal information or download a virus onto your computer.
The best way to avoid such attacks is to educate yourself and stay conscious of what you are clicking or downloading.
- Never reply to an email asking you for credentials or access; in cases of urgency, try calling that person if you know him or her.
- Never click on unknown links.
- Never download any file from untrusted sources.
2. Secure use of your home network
Most of us are using WIFI at home to connect to the internet. Generally, we all are using a router, which is the controlling device for the home wireless network. A few things to keep in mind are:
- Connect to the office network via the VPN provided by the company; if you face problems using the VPN, reach out to the IT department.
- The default password on the Router or any network devices should be changed to something strong. Passwords should contain a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Don't give your network password to anyone. Create a temporary Guest network, if needed, and disable it when not in use. The router admin panel has this feature and can be configured in a few minutes.
3. Passwords and management
Always create strong passwords when asked. The best way to achieve this is by using a passphrase. The passphrase is made up of multiple words, for example, “My hometown’s zip code is 201301”. It's better to use a different password for each account and store it using some type of password manager. Multi-factor authentication can be used in order to achieve more security. One example or multi-factor authentication is a combination of “something you know’ and “something you have”. Something you know would be your password and something you have can be your email or mobile phone2.
- Use a passphrase to create a strong password.
- A strong password can be made up of upper or lower case letters, numbers and symbols, with a minimum of 16 characters.
- Always use multi-factor authentication when possible.
4. System and software updates
Always update all of your devices in the house, which includes but is not limited to computers, mobile devices, software and apps. Adversaries or hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities in the operating system and software for the exploitation and hacking of devices. Companies try to release updates for the software to fix the vulnerabilities. We can try to remain on the safer side by installing these updates and trying to avoid any possible vulnerabilities related to the hack3.
- Use of automatic updates would save a lot of time, in place of manual updates.
- Don't use software and apps from unknown publishers; always download the apps from trusted sources like Google Play Store, Apple app store or the Windows store.
5. Friends and Family
When we are working from the office we don't have to worry about the use of our work laptop by anyone other than us. However, when we are working from home, we have to safeguard the possible use by family members and visiting friends. We must give clear instructions not to use a work laptop for any reason. The following are a few things to keep in mind to avoid such a situation:
- Always log off from the account when you are not using it.
- Set the auto-lock feature to the minimum time which suits you. For example, set it to auto-lock in 5 minutes when not in use.
- Store your laptop in a place which is secure.
6. Use of antivirus
Sometimes it's hard to remember which security rules to follow. In this case, the best solution is antivirus software. Antivirus software can help us in securing the computer at all times by avoiding viruses. It ensures the protection from USB devices, files, and saves you from visiting malicious websites; it also protects your password4.
- Always keep the antivirus software updated.
- Never turn off the antivirus software when a program requests to turn it off. This should concern you.
7. Avoid Unknowns
While we are traveling and looking for a network that is freely available, we might be lured to use a network which might be malicious. Always avoid the use of such unknown networks. Try to use your personal hotspot, instead of compromising the security of your information.
Avoid borrowing USB drives from friends, since you cannot be sure what is on the drive. It might have malicious applications that could infect your computer.