Given the COVID-19 pandemic schools have closed their physical doors nationwide and are moving to online assignments. Most churches and businesses have shifted day-to-day operations to a work-from-home model. And so, with most of us working at home now, and remotely connecting back into our critical networks at work, it raises the question—have we implemented the necessary safe computing practices at home? Here are six essential safe computing practice tips:
- Implement complex passwords. Safe computing practices require that passwords must be long (over 15 characters) and complex (mixing upper- and lower-case letters with numbers and special characters). Furthermore, it’s foolish to repeatedly use the same password for multiple login accounts. Cybercriminals are scavengers (and are not lazy, like us) and they will use these “dummy” passwords to login to multiple accounts that we possess. Using the same common password makes it easy for hackers.
Home computers are “low-hanging fruit” for hackers. In other words, they are preying on vulnerable remote systems that are likely to have less-secure passwords, and they will use those to compromise or obtain the (usually more secure) business network login credentials. If we have weak computer security and passwords at home we are opening the door to security breaches on our (remotely accessed) professional networks.
- Maintain regular software updates. Keeping up to date with your installed software patches is critically important. New Operating systems and 3rd party vulnerabilities are announced daily. Turn on automatic updates for your Windows OS or MAC OS systems. It’s essential. This also goes for web browsers and browser plug-ins.
- Lock or shut down your device when not in use. This is an age-old, sound and safe computing practice. The current work-at-home climate opens the door to heightened awareness on this level because we have children and spouses usually share Internet access and devices at home. The risk of data loss (even accidentally) or data theft increases significantly. On a similar security parallel, another high priority should be to keep proper track of flash drives and external hard drives that store your personal and professional data.
- Common sense still wins out: Don’t open attachments from unknown sources or click on links embedded in emails or on social media sites. I’ve been harping on this point since the days of the LoveLetter worm back in 2000, and for good reason. Despite many of the criminal advancements that attackers use to proliferate malware, the use of spam email is still the #1 source for malware infections, including spying software. These email scams are highly socially engineered to pique your curiosity, and they are no longer easily identified by poor grammar or spelling. The reality in staying secure is that extreme caution should be used when opening all emails. (Also: be skeptical of phone calls.)
- Install strong antivirus/endpoint security protection. With tens of thousands of new malware and viruses created and released each day, it’s essential to have a reputable antivirus/endpoint security software installed on your system. It’s equally important keep your security software up-to-date with the latest virus definitions.
- Think! Cybercriminals are after YOU! As organizations are evolving in accordance with health safety precautions and state guidance, so are hackers. They’re clever, they’re smart and they want to harm you financially from both a personal and corporate standpoint. We all must do our part to remain vigilant from online dangers!
These safe computing practices are not difficult, and most of them stem from common sense. We can establish safe-computing methods at home to protect both in-house and remotely accessed networks. We are in this work from home situation together as a nation, and we will come through it together and safely if are prudent and wise about the health of our devices and ourselves!