When COVID-19 was first discovered in 2019, most people thought their lives would remain unaffected by the outbreak, which eventually turned into a pandemic. Fast-forward to 2021 and most people that could work from home are doing so, and it is staying for the long haul.
The perks of working from home are numerous. You can roll out of bed in your pj’s and still make it on time for the Monday 9am meeting. Having the comfort of your own home, avoiding the commute, saving money on those office lunches because you forgot your packed lunch…. I could go on. It’s not all perks though, as there are always thieves and scammers on the lookout and with most workers using their own devices and laptops, the cybersecurity could range from financially devastating to easily avoidable.
Safeguarding your personal and work-related information is hard to master, and even the most security-conscious folk slip up sometimes. Keep reading to find out what the most common cybersecurity mistakes are, so you can avoid them in the future and keep yourself and your information safe!
Using weak passwords
If you haven’t screamed at your laptop at least once in your life trying to sign up to a website and being told your password is too short, lacking in numbers and special characters or that they don’t match, then you haven’t lived. Passwords are the most vital part of cybersecurity and IT professionals have stressed time and time again that using a unique and complex password is the first and most important step to protecting sensitive information.
Unfortunately, many choose to recycle passwords and keep them relatively simple so they can be remembered easily. It is stressful to forget your password and be locked out of an important account, so if you struggle to keep track of your passwords you can use password manager and store all your different combinations. An extra layer of security is the two-factor authentication (2FA), and in the scale of a business, managing access can be done more easily with privileged access management.
Using applications in the wrong way and making security shortcuts
In order to increase productivity, save time or simply after creating a bad habit remote workers may choose to use security shortcuts or the wrong communication channels ie. Using personal emails to share sensitive information or installing unverified apps on their work devices. This is done at the expense of security.
Very common practices also including storing work passwords in the browser so they autofill and save time when logging in, but this can be very risky. Hackers will look at the browser credentials of a device and will be able to extract sensitive information more easily than you realize. Although shortcuts may seem harmless and increase convenience, they may have very real damaging consequences down the line, it’s important to follow security protocols, they’re there for a reason!
Sharing with family
Your work computer may be your only computer. Sharing with family members when you’re not working is a common habit, sometimes it is completely inevitable. Children using Zoom for their schooling as well as other co-habiting members of your household potentially also working from home means that any cybersecurity mistake you could make, they could make too. Clicking on unfamiliar links or leaving important windows open is a common mistake both children and adults make often. Having a different person use your work laptop can generate confusion and expose an entire employment network. Remember the lawyer that turned up to online court date as a cat on Zoom? All due to sharing his device with a family member and his settings being switched around.
Using a different browser for work related activities is a start but creating a separate Wi-Fi network at home for work related purposes only is advisable to create an extra layer of protection.
Ignoring the red flags
Before a major cyber-attack happens, there are some signs to look out for. If your browser starts changing but you haven’t applied those changes, getting random pop ups or windows being open that you don’t remember opening yourself are major signs of an imminent cyber-attack.
If you periodically lose control of your keyboard or mouse this is a sign somebody is trying to gain access to your device. Other common signs are files downloading onto your device without you actioning the download or if you experience a dramatic and sudden slowdown of the system in general.
It's key to not ignore these red flags and let your employer know as soon as possible so the appropriate security protocols can be applied to prevent sensitive information from being stolen.
Not updating your devices
Whilst it might be tempting to keep hitting “remind me tomorrow” on those pesky system update messages, updating your device’s operating system is a great way to protect yourself from cybersecurity attacks. There are times hackers will even prompt you to update your system once they’ve gained access so other attackers can’t get in! Think of updates as a new coat of paint on your device, they fix flaws and bugs hackers could exploit to gain access to your information. Preventing a risky situation can be as easy as pressing the yes button as soon as possible!
Hackers and cyber attackers are very crafty, and technology is unfortunately never going to be 100% safe. However, taking small steps in the everyday use of our devices can significantly reduce the chances of falling victim to a cyber-attack. A really good start to this is actually the bare security minimum. Setting up complex passwords, avoiding autofill on your browser, keeping your work device separate from your personal use device and updating it regularly are all excellent ways to keep cyber security breaches at bay. Remember that your employer’s security protocols may seem overbearing and burdensome but they could save you a few sleepless nights down the line.
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