Working from Home? 7 Ways to Secure Your Home Office
While working from a home office means you can type away in your pajamas with your pets, it also means you’re in charge of your cybersecurity now. Sure, the businesses you work for will have defenses set up for you; but you should set up your own to protect sensitive data.
Let’s explore some ways you can fortify your home office and protect your data.
1. Use a VPN to Protect Your Connection
First of all, you should encrypt your connection. This helps stop people from snooping on your traffic, especially if you’re sending sensitive data or talking to co-workers through insecure channels.
Thankfully, this is easy to do with a VPN. These encrypt all the data sent from your computer, which means even unencrypted data packets such as HTTP have protection.
Best of all, a decent VPN will need minimal setup before you can use it. No need to fiddle with privacy settings and encryption standards. Just install the VPN, choose a server in your country, and enjoy better privacy.
Now that a VPN is encrypting your data, you can use public Wi-Fi connections without worrying about who is snooping on the network. If someone is analyzing data traffic through the Wi-Fi, they’ll only see an encrypted mess from your end.
There are plenty of other reasons for home and remote workers to use a VPN, so definitely consider getting one if you’re worried about your privacy. If you’re stuck for choice, MakeUseOf readers can save 49% on ExpressVPN.
2. Secure Your Office Router From Invaders
Next, let’s tackle your router. It’s a vital part of your home network, a gateway providing an internet connection for all your devices.
The flip side is, if an intruder gains access to your router, they’ll have access to all those devices. This includes your computers, Wi-Fi devices, and any external storage accessible over the network. As such, it’s a good idea to secure your network and protect your sensitive data.
To do this, do a hygiene check on your router’s settings. First, double-check the Wi-Fi password to see if it’s durable. Modern-day routers use strong auto-generated passwords by default, so you should be fine. If you changed the password or it’s a cheaper model of router, it’s worth checking to see if the password is tough enough.
Next, double-check the password used to log into the router. Routers have an administration control panel which you can find by accessing the IP in your web browser.
As such, be sure that your admin panel password is strong enough to withstand an attack. If you have the username and password both set as “admin,” a hacker can easily break your defenses and mess with your network.
If you find any of your passwords are on the weak side, don’t fret; there are ways you can create a strong password that you’ll actually remember.
3. Keep Your Antivirus Updated to Avoid Malware
Spies aren’t always people peering through your windows; there are plenty of digital equivalents, too. From keyloggers to screen-capture malware, there are ways someone can watch what you’re doing without being near you.
It’s a good idea to get a competent antivirus that can defend you from prying eyes. That way, you don’t end up leaking sensitive information to a hacker, who can use this info to steal your identity. There’s also the potential for intellectual property theft.
4. Keep Smart Gadgets to a Minimum
If you’re a big fan of connecting your toaster to the internet, you may be introducing security threats to your network. These smart gadgets are known to have severe security flaws, which allow hackers to gain access to your network.
No smart gadget is “too innocent,” either; The Independent reported on smart bulbs having security flaws, for instance. Hackers used these flaws to gain a foothold on the network, then distribute malware and ransomware once they’re in.
If you can’t live without turning on your kettle from another room, put your smart gadgets on another network. That way, if a hacker does gain entry through your devices, they can only see and access the other gadgets on that network.
5. Physically Secure Computers and Hardware
Now that your computer is safe from a digital attack, you can take the extra step and secure it from a physical one. Computer theft is damaging in terms of money and data loss. If you’re worried someone might steal your hardware while you’re out, you can physically secure it to dissuade thieves.
Laptops have plenty of security options, from cover locks to GPS tracking. However, what about your larger PCs? Fortunately, there are many ways to stop your home office from being stolen, with a good range of different price points.
6. Make Constant Backups of Sensitive Work
Of course, if someone does take your computer, you can always buy another one. Your data, however, isn’t so easy to replace. That’s why it’s so essential to create a backup so you can get your data back quickly and easily.
When making a backup, you can either save it to physical media (such as a memory stick) or upload it to the cloud. Putting it on a memory stick prevents hackers and companies from spying on your data, while a cloud backup is a lot harder to lose than physical storage.
If you want an online backup but you don’t want businesses snooping on your data, be sure to try the most secure cloud storage services to keep your information safe.
7. Properly Shred Sensitive Physical and Digital Documents
Once you’re finished with sensitive documents, it’s a good idea to shred them. It doesn’t matter if they’re physical or digital; either one can leak out and potentially cause damage to yourself or your business.
For physical documents, you can use a paper shredder for the job. Try not to skimp on your purchase; an inept paper shredder will do a poor job and leave documents recoverable. As the video above proves, a determined person will re-construct a document that wasn’t appropriately shredded.
But what about digital documents; why would anyone want to shred one? Unfortunately, deleting a sensitive record isn’t as easy as dragging it to the Recycle Bin. When you delete a file by hitting the Delete key, it doesn’t entirely go away; instead, the space that it occupied is marked safe for overwriting.
If the file doesn’t get overwritten in time, someone can use data recovery tools to find the file and retrieve the intact data from it. This is great if you accidentally threw your report in the bin, and not so great if someone pores through your drive for data you thought was long gone.
Fortunately, there are “file shredders” for PCs too. When you delete a file using one of these, it overwrites the data with junk, thus erasing it forever. A good example is Eraser, which is a well-trusted and free solution for permanently destroying data.
Keeping Your Home Office Secure
Working from home has its perks, but it does mean you’re now in charge of your cybersecurity. Thankfully, you don’t need to turn your home into Fort Knox; with a few easy steps, you can keep your data safe.
If you want to go the extra step, why not learn how to set up hidden security cameras in your home?
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