How to stay cyber safe whilst working remotely

How to stay cyber safe whilst working remotely

Many of us here in the UK are currently without the luxury of working from the office, missing out on our daily routine, working space and colleagues. However working from home does have its benefits; fewer interruptions, more time to focus on key projects, as well as the time-saved from your daily commute.

Whilst it can be enjoyable to break away in the short-term, without the safety of IT support in the office, the use of personal laptops, unsecured home internet and general household distractions can cause things to slip – in particular cyber safety; and cyber criminals are exploiting this vulnerability.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak cyberattacks have been on the rise, predominately in the form of phishing scams. The UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau reported losses of over £800,000 to victims of Coronavirus related scams in February 2020 alone.

COVID-19 scammers are taking advantage of the increased public anxiety, by preying on individual concerns and exploiting people’s desire for “good news”. Much of the news surrounding the virus is negative, with the high daily death tolls and the stress put on the NHS, meaning email phishing campaigns with positive coronavirus subject lines are compelling unsuspecting people to ‘read more’ and subsequently open a potentially dangerous link. Checkpoint research shows that approximately 4,000 COVID-19 domains registered this year, many of which are likely to be related to cyber-crime.

The majority of phishing emails will come from an unknown email address (which should act as the first indicator warning you to not open) but savvy cyber criminals will send from a seemingly legit/trusted resource such as the World Health Organisation or the UK Government.

Ultimately the responsibility to ensure that employees are using fully protected equipment whilst working remotely is down to organisations themselves. Employers should ensure the following rules are adhered to:

  • Multifactor security – increase the lines of defence for your company’s private information. An inexpensive and easy way to increase your security. Apps like DUO simply send a notification to the registered user’s phone to unlock.
  • Virtual Private Network – By using a VPN, it allows users to access this private network on public wifi, thus keeping the company’s IT resources safe from outsider threat.
  • Company devices – Make sure that employees have access to company regulated devices as much as possible. This gives you assurance that the software installed is up to date and security checked by IT support.
  • Communication and Guidance – Make employees aware of any potential scams and threats and provide advice on how they can protect themselves.

For those of us who are employees, we too can take steps to increase our cyber awareness and minimise our vulnerabilities to cyber-crime.

  • Focus – It is important to still keep your work-life balance. Without the usual daily commute it can be difficult to separate the two, try to bookend your working day – perhaps start your day with some morning exercise to awaken the brain before you start your work and then finish by closing your workspace and moving to a different area of your home.
  • Do not mix work and play – Only use your work device for work. Keep away from family, and avoid the temptation to open personal emails on the cloud etc.
  • New location, same rules – Follow usual company procedure – using company equipment or staying on the company network, separating all things business-related.
  • Online hygiene –  Make sure to install all mandatory updates and to keep using strong passwords etc. Don’t open any emails from unrecognised addresses

In conclusion, in this current climate, we need to treat cyberattacks like we would human viruses. To quote, Robert Krug, the network security architect for antivirus software giant Avast. “Just as you would avoid touching objects and surfaces that are not clean, so should you avoid opening emails from unknown parties or visiting untrusted websites.” Antivirus solutions work as our hand sanitiser, to remove viruses from our computers before they have a chance to enter our devices and cause harm.

Keep calm, stay safe and stay cyber aware.


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