Working from Home – Part 6: COVID-19 Isn’t the Only Virus You Need to be Concerned About While You Work from Home

We’ve all become very aware of the COVID-19 Coronavirus in recent months. However, when a new threat comes along, we sometimes forget about the old ones.

Computer hackers have more time on their hands at home. They don’t take breaks and neither do the viruses they create. When we worked from the office, we probably had an IT department that arranged for a secure electronic environment. Now that many of us are working and using online videoconferencing tools from home, we need to be especially aware of security issues and how to protect ourselves from them.

We care about you and your online health and welfare, so here are some important reminders and tips that may help you stay safe and secure while working from home.

Be extra alert for phishing emails. These are emails that pretend to be from some organization, or even your own IT department, inviting you to click on a link or download an attachment. They might pretend to be offering updates about organization closures or procedures, or to be checking up on technical issues. They might ask you to install an app on your computer or provide your username and password so they can perform a remote technical update or file transfer. Do not be fooled. Do not click on any links or attachments. Double-check – outside of that email – with the appropriate person or department. Find the official link some other way by browsing the company website or check with colleagues to see if they’ve also received the email.

Use secure Wi-Fi passwords on your home router. If you have not changed the Wi-Fi router password to something secure already, then do it now. You may not worry too much about neighbours using your Wi-Fi, but you don’t want anybody accessing your network while you’re working from home with confidential company data.

Network visibility and file-sharing. If you’re connecting your work computer to your home Wi-Fi network, ensure it isn’t visible to other users or at least ensure file-sharing is turned off.

Don’t let the kids use your work computer. They might be tempted to download something that turns out to be malicious, or they could even stumble upon your work and accidentally delete something. Remember, it’s company property and you need to treat it as securely as you would if you were at the office.

Be cautious with the kids if you’re working from home on your own computer. If necessary, set up a different user account without admin privileges for the kids. This way, they cannot accidentally corrupt or destroy your work. Additionally, if they download some fancy new, free, game they find online, they won’t be adding a virus to your user account and potentially leaking work data. Without admin privileges, their account will remain reasonably isolated from the other accounts.

Keep your operating system updated with all new security patches. If you’re using Windows 10, this will probably be done automatically; however, if you are on an earlier system you might have disabled automatic updates in the past. If so, change this setting to automatically download and install updates. As new threats are discovered online, you will be more protected.

Screen locks for confidentiality. If you live with a roommate or children, log out or use a screen lock every time you’re physically away from the computer. Even if the time away is only very brief, use caution. It is like the seatbelt in your car; use it for even the briefest of drives.

Dispose of printouts securely. Don’t forget about offline security! Shred any paper documents that you generate, or else store them securely until you can get it to the office for proper filing or disposal. Your employers will not want confidential reports and charts put out with the regular household recycling.

A special reminder for videoconference meetings using apps like Zoom…

  • Always use a password for access to meetings and use the waiting room feature. These default settings have recently been updated by Zoom for security reasons; however, if you have older recurring meetings scheduled, these may not have that setting applied. Check to make sure.
  • Don’t take screenshots of ongoing meetings. Have you seen all the fun screenshots people are posting on the Internet and social media of their ongoing Zoom meetings? Avoid this for any kind of professional meetings. Do not take screenshots unless absolutely necessary, and certainly do not post them for all to see online. You probably would not take and post pictures of your physical work meetings, so be careful not to do it for online ones. Use the same discretion you would in the workplace.
  • When sharing your screen. Be careful to ensure that other windows or confidential data are hidden away or closed. Your emails, open websites, or other on-screen data should be securely out of sight of others unless you intend to show it for some reason.

Back up your work. Your computer at work will likely have automatic backup protocol in place. That might not be the case when you’re working from home, so remember to always back up any data as required. This should be on a different device, an external hard drive, or maybe on the company’s online storage location if you have access to it. Avoid using commercial online file-sharing services for this unless they have been specifically approved by your manager or IT department. Some online file-sharing services withhold the right to access and review your data, so double-check first.

As always, if you suspect any kind of breach or leak of confidential data, inform the appropriate person immediately. That might be your manager or someone in your IT department. Do not just hope for the best; make sure of it.

It’s impossible to mention all the possible security issues and potential leaks and dangers in a short post such as this one but these basic reminders should get you started and keep you relatively safe as you work from home. As always, the last word on such matters will be your manager or your IT department. Take and follow any advice they give, and you will be able to work from home confident that you’re safe and sound.

Our aim at JN Software and CompuEase is to make sure you are fully prepared to handle the current situation and to work remotely with the minimum of disruption and fuss.

We’re offering all sorts of free online resources to help you cope with the challenges of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Special online software training courses, free webinars, and a special BLOG series are just part of what we’re offering.

And don’t forget that all our software training courses are available online with a live instructor on an easy-to-use platform. Software training is a fantastic opportunity to shake up your day and interact with others, while building up your skill set.

We know how you’re feeling, and we know how to help.

Please let us work with you to help get you safely through this current crisis. Check out our “COVID-19 Working from Home Resources”, and some of our available courses, here:

We hope you found these tips helpful. If you need any more tips to work more efficiently at home, please subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and/or Twitter to see what training and free tools we offer and for regular updates and announcements. We have been training people across the country virtually for years and we are fully equipped to assist you as well!

Take a look at the courses we offer and register for public classes on our website! Click here for Ottawa and Quebec, or here for the rest of Canada.
Want to find out more about our training? If you’re located in Ottawa or Quebec, call CompuEase at 613-235-6161 or email us. If you’re located anywhere else in Canada, call JN Software at 416-264-6247 or email us. We’re always happy to answer your questions!
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