Remote Work & Learning – 11 Tips to Stay Safe & Secure

In recent months, remote work has clearly seen an increase in popularity all all over the world. The lockdowns imposed by COVID-19 have forced businesses to rethink their work strategies, and as a result, millions (if not billions) of employees have needed to adopt remote work. Also known as “working from home”, this practice is now being seen across all industries like never before. 


When you think about it, working remotely can come with a fair share of benefits – increased flexibility in terms of work hours, no commute time, and ability to juggle other outside-of-work responsibilities. Along with these benefits, working from home can present unique challenges and even risks when it comes to things like privacy. 


The truth is, undergoing remote work can be great for the company and the employee, but it can also put valuable company data at risk. In today’s society, information & data are being shared at a truly astounding rate which means it is now easier than ever for hackers and potential thieves to acquire confidential business and personal information. 


With everyone being more connected than ever before, and thus vulnerable to these cyber threats, what steps can you take to keep you and your business safe? Sadly, there is not a “magic protective armor” that can entirely eliminate all risks. However, there are still actions you can follow to ensure increased cybersecurity & privacy in the new virtual working world of today. Check out some of our tips below!


1. Keep your webcam covered


Have you ever seen one of those movies where the bad guys are able to spy on the good guys through their webcam? While this may seem like a crazy “science fiction” concept, hacking a webcam for remote access is an absolutely real form of cyber attack. In fact, this happens more than you would think! 


A good strategy for avoiding unwanted access to your webcam is to physically cover it up. Use a piece of paper or any other object to cover up your computer webcam when you’re not using it!


2. Be aware of SPAM & Phishing Emails


We have already noted how easy it can be for hackers to obtain your personal data. One of the most common methods for gaining access to this information is through the use of SPAM & Phishing emails. These are essentially fake emails that are disguised as legitimate, are really scams to try and steal your information. 


There are literally billions of variations of Phishing emails, but most usually follow a simple template. This normally involves a request to have the user or receiver of the email (you) click on a link or download or open an attachment (document, spreadsheet, file, etc.). It can also involve some other method which manually opens a window for hackers to view your computer and information:


“Hello! This is Amazon Support Services! We see there is a problem with the bank account information we have on file for you. Please click the link below to verify your bank information!”


As a general rule of thumb, most banks, retailers, services, etc will never ask you to provide personal information (credit card information, passwords, or account number) via email. Although Phishing emails can often be very easy to recognize, and will even get caught in your SPAM folder much of the time, hackers are getting better and better at creating these fake emails. Sometimes these emails can look nearly identical to a real email you would receive from a legitimate company. 


If you suspect you’ve received a Phishing email, be sure to click the “Report Phishing” option in your inbox! This will send a report to your email provider and help deter future Phishing emails from the same address. 


Be sure to check out more tips and what to do if you suspect a Phishing attack below.


Federal Trade Commission – How to Avoid Phishing Scams – Ultimate Guide to Staying Safe from Phishing


3. Invest in a VPN


A “Virtual Private Network”(VPN) is a private server that allows users (aka employees of a company) to send information, emails, and other data across the VPN as if their devices were directly connected to a private network. VPN services are often used by companies with remote employees who utilize remote working devices like company laptops. The increased encryption and private network can act to increase security for the users, as well as the information being sent.


For these reasons, VPNs are becoming more and more popular amongst companies. There are numerous options for VPNs depending on your location and number of users. Different VPNs also come at a variety of price points. 


4. Keep your devices updated


Large tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Android are constantly working to upgrade their software to run better and provide increased security. While the pop-up notifications informing you to “restart your computer to install updates” do get pretty annoying, these updates are necessary to improve and better protect your devices


If you are curious to know what specifics the update will include, you can read the update notes that are usually linked in the update notification.


5. Only use company-approved communication methods


It’s no secret that our phones, tablets, and other mobile devices have become second-nature when it comes to communication. This includes personal communication with friends and family, as well as work communication. While it is very easy to send your co-worker a text or What’sApp message, these forms of communication are much more open to threats than communication on a VPN or other private server. 


Keep this in mind the next time you want to discuss the recent company earnings report over text message!


6. Do not share your company computer with anyone


Company devices like tablets, laptops, cell phones, and other technology should be used solely for work-related purposes. Do not lend any of this company equipment to a friend or family member, as you may run the risk of that person connecting to an unsecure network, or visiting suspicious sites. 


7. Only use company tech for work 


Similar to not sharing your company computer with anyone, your company computer should only be used for work-related activities. Downloading movies, games, or other files from the internet or using your work computer on any unsecured network while traveling, for example, can be risky.


8. Lock your computer


This one really should be a “no-brainer”, but it can definitely be easy to forget! Firstly, make sure your computer is password-protected. You should have a password to ensure this device cannot be accessed by anyone else but you. 


Choose a strong password that includes a combination of upper & lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. When creating a password, try to not use pieces of information that may be easy to guess such as your date of birth, phone number, or house address. 


In addition to having a password, it is a very good habit to always lock your computer whenever you are working from a public place. This can include a coffee shop or library that you may be working remotely from. If you get up to go to the restroom or grab your coffee, lock your computer! 


Better yet, take your computer with you wherever you go and never leave it unattended in a public place.


9. Back-up your files 


Have you ever dropped your phone in the ocean and lost all of your precious family photos, simply because they were not backed-up and saved somewhere else? The same thing can absolutely happen with your work files, reports, important projects, and other work related data if you don’t have things backed-up. 


“Backing-up” is simply the process of saving your files in more than one location. For example, you can plug your phone into your computer every few months to transfer your photos and videos onto your computer. This way, they are now saved in two different places and you have a backup in case your phone or computer ever breaks.


When it comes to work-related data, each company will usually have their own policy on how to back up crucial data. Be sure to ask your supervisor what types of methods and procedures they have in place for using a secure cloud storage system or other means for backing up files. 


10. Report any suspicious online activity immediately


If you suspect you have accidentally clicked on a SPAM link, or notice that your email has been sending strange messages and you believe your account might have been hacked, report this to your supervisor and IT department immediately! The sooner your company learns of suspicious activity on accounts or sites, the quicker they can work to solve the issues!


11. Create a Technology Guide for your employees


If you’re a smaller company and do not have a designated “technology use” guide for your employees, you should strongly consider making one. 


A technology guide can be a great resource containing information about the responsible use of technology and safe browsing. It can also outline procedures for setting up a VPN, creating passwords, and avoiding Phishing scams. Consider the tips in this blog for creating your own technology guide for your business!


Interested in learning more about cybersecurity, software development, or coding? Check out our computer engineering internships! We offer both in-person and remote internship options in a variety of Career Fields, locations, and start dates!