This is a guest post for the MELD Coworking blog written by David Jones.
With everything that’s going on in the world right now due to the Coronavirus, many of us are working remotely which will probably become the more accepted way of working going forward.
Working remotely has many benefits which I’m sure many of us are loving right now. This time last year, I don’t think any of us would have imagined conducting meetings while dressed in our loungewear. With that said, working remotely can have many security risks to your and your client’s data and in this article, we will discuss the risks and how to mitigate them.
1) Changing your default Wi-Fi settings
You would be surprised how many individuals keep their default Wi-Fi username and passwords which make it easy for hackers to crack your passwords because they know the general format of these usernames and passwords.
When working remotely, you want to make your network as obscure as possible and not give these hackers any indication of who the network belongs to. So if your name is Sarah, don’t use a Wi-Fi network named “Sarahs Wi-Fi” instead call it something along the lines of “Wi-Fi Network 3”.
Using a name like that won’t allow attackers to know whose network it is or the model of the Wi-Fi hub which makes brute-forcing or guessing your username and password much more difficult.
2) Don’t open attachments with emails
One of the easiest ways for your network to become infected is through opening emails from people you don’t know and clicking on either links or attachments.
These links and attachments could send you off to websites with malicious code or your computer will be forced to download something called Ransomware. Ransomware is code that locks you out of your system and requires you to make a payment to get your data back. For individuals and businesses alike, Ransomware attacks can be disastrous as they can cost you anywhere from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands.
Emails are the go-to method for scams so be very careful when opening messages from people you don’t know.
3) Enable Wi-Fi Encryption
Most routers will come with Wi-Fi encryption, but for some strange reason, they are not turned on as standard. However, if you are working from a co-working space you will be glad to know that your Wi-Fi is encrypted which helps keep your data safe.
For those working at home, you should Google search your router and see how you can turn on its encryption. When turning on encryption you should choose either WPA2 or WPA3 encryption depending on the age of your router. Both levels use something called Advanced Encryption Standard which is used by the Government for securing their top-secret data. If it’s good enough to hide data about little green men in area 51, then you can be sure it will protect your data too.
Some Wi-Fi routers will come with WEP encryption which isn’t very secure and can be cracked with the right tools. If your router only has this option it may be worth upgrading your router or working from a coworking space with better encryption levels.
4) Install a firewall and virus protection
The final tip that I want to share with you is to install antivirus software, a firewall, and malware software. Having these on your computer will protect your computer as well as the network you are connected to.
Even if you don’t download software or click on links in emails, you can still get infected from using the internet at any time. I often click on websites when searching for something on Google and land on websites that try to install software on my computer without my permission.
To keep your data and computer safe there are many choices out there, some paid and some free. I like using AVG for my antivirus and Firewall options along with Malwarebytes to protect my computer from malware.
To protect my network against Ransomware I try not to open emails from people I don’t know. If I have to, I don’t click on any of their links or download any of the attachments in the emails because even the most innocent-looking files such as a jpg (which is the file type of an image) can include malicious code.
You should also consider the above when receiving emails from friends or colleagues, as their computer could have got infected and sent malicious emails out without them knowing.
David Jones is a security consultant at Ottawa based IT company Firewall Technical.