The outbreak of the coronavirus and the subsequent global lockdown has seen the workplace ecosystem change. Most people have been working from Home (WFH), and the trend is not about to stop.
by Julie Hughes
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Most people may assume that because they are working from home, they are safe from cyberthreats. The truth is when at home, you are even more at risk than in the office environment.
Other than cyber threats, WFH individuals face other challenges at Home that prevent them from being productive.
Threats and challenges facing WFH Individuals
Before we explore how to stay safe and how to overcome challenges while WFH, what are the risks and challenges involved?
When working from the office, most people are assured of a safe and secure network. With the home network, most people do not have complex safety measures put in place. Hackers know this and hack home networks more often. They know your home network is more accessible and has fewer to no security barriers.
● Social engineering attacks
Social engineering attacks are attacks that rely on psychologically manipulating you into divulging confidential and sensitive information. The most common of these attacks is phishing. Phishing attacks exploit your emotions and push you into making decisions based on your feelings.
For instance, an email from your bank (seemingly) comes in and informs you that your bank account is at risk. The email provides you with a link and requests you to click on that link for more information. You naturally panic and click on the link.
The minute you click on that link, you are automatically redirected to a bogus site (created by the hackers) that looks like your bank’s legitimate website. The site prompts you to enter information like your name, address, credit card details, etc. Hackers can use this information you divulge to sweep your account clean, or your identity is stolen and used for committing crimes.
Malware or malicious software is a collective term for software code like ransomware, viruses, or spyware. Cybercriminals design the malware to cause damage to your computer or gain access to your network.
● Man-in-the-middle attacks (MiTM)
Man-in-the-middle attacks occur when a hacker intercepts communication between two people. The purpose is either to eavesdrop on the conversations or modification of traffic between them.
The two people communicate and the hacker intercepts the message, and it is not delivered to the other party. The hacker modifies the message and sends it to the original recipient, who replies, and the hacker intercepts and modifies it before passing it on to the recipient.
In reality, the two people are conversing with the attacker, thinking their communication is with each other. The attacker can easily use this attack to steal credentials and confidential information, corrupt data, or sabotage your communication.
Challenges of WFH
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● Time management
Working from Home is not as easy as it seems. Most people are used to an office setting where you have to be at work at a particular time. Working from Home means you have flexibility. The discipline to start work on time is a challenge, and sometimes you may feel the need to sleep in an hour more, or take longer breaks. When you get down to work, interruptions like social media are an issue.
● Improper working environment
Most of us were not used to working from Home. Suddenly, we find ourselves thrust into a WFH situation that we were not prepared for. You most probably did not have a home office. Trying to find the right working environment is an issue, considering everyone (if you have children) is at home.
If you have children, you have to contend with constant interruptions from young children who do not understand you need to work from home. If you spend your time hunched on your sofa working, backaches and neck pains become an issue.
● Damaged property
When working from home, the risk of your office Mac Book Pro getting damaged is a possibility. Liquid spills, dropping, and breaking are potential dangers, especially if there are young children and pets around the home.
● Cabin fever
When working from home during this period, cabin fever or depression is a reality for most, especially for people who live alone. Human beings are primarily social beings, and being around others has a positive effect on people. Staying indoors and doing nothing but work, eat, and sleep may hurt most people and lead to loneliness and depression.
● Mitigation and Tips for WFH individuals
Working from Home does not have to be a constant nightmare. Here are some tips for your peace of mind.
1. Strong Home Wifi passwords
To prevent hacking, the use of solid Wifi passwords is crucial. You log into your office network every day, and a hacker can crack a simple password on your WiFi and sensitive company data stolen.
A strong WiFi password does not have to be cryptic. It should contain upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. Make it easy for you to remember and impossible for anyone to guess. Steer away from the cliché birthdates, children’s names, or pet names.
2. Monitor your PC’s Task Manager
If your computer behaves strangely, it might be malware-infected or have a performance issue. To diagnose the issue, go to your respective machine’s task manager, informing you of the running programs and the remaining disk space on your hard drive.
3. Enable automatic updates
Your PC, whether Windows or Mac, should have automatic updates. These regular updates sort any security vulnerabilities that can create a loophole for hackers to exploit. Once you enable this feature, the software will update in the background every time there is a security update.
4. Do not click on links
If you receive an email with a link or attachment, do not touch it. First, hover on the link and check if the URL starts with HTTPS. If it does not, and it is HTTP, delete it. If the email purportedly comes from your bank, do not panic.
The hackers rely on your panic reaction, so do not give them satisfaction by panicking. Go to your browser and go to your bank’s official website. You can also go to the bank or call customer support to confirm whether the email was genuine.
5. Use a VPN
Another excellent way of staying safe while working from Home is using a VPN. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) does several things. It creates a tunnel that allows your devices to log securely into the internet.
It encrypts your data and keeps you safe from hacking and attacks like MiTM. VPNs use the AES-256-bit (Advanced Encryption) system used by security agencies and financial institutions to encrypt data.
A VPN also masks your IP address, meaning anybody attempting to track you will be thrown off course. For instance, you can log into the internet via a server in Europe while in the US.
6. Invest in anti-malware and Anti-virus software
Invest in quality anti-malware and anti-malware software to keep infections at bay. This software detects, blocks, and eliminates in real-time any malware or virus attempting to attack your system and computer.
7. Activate firewalls
Regardless of which operating system you are using, activate the inbuilt firewall.
8. Manage your time
You can manage your time by downloading free time managing apps online. These apps will help you to organize your working time and your breaks.
Practice self-discipline by waking up the same time you go to work. Shower and dress in your work clothes, then sit down to work as usual, only taking breaks when need be.
To prevent cabin fever, video calls your friends and family. You can do a group video call with friends, have a chat, and ease your tension and cabin fever. Keep in touch with people via social media, calls, and chat.
10. Create a workspace
Create a workspace in your home. This does not mean you have to break the bank. Get a decent desk and an office chair. Set aside an unused room in your home. If you do not have a spare room, move things in your bedroom to create a space for a small desk. Buying an ergonomic office chair will save you from potential back and neck pains.
11. Keep your work equipment safe
While your employer might not charge you for a damaged laptop, it does not reflect well. Some employers might decide to deduct the cost of the damaged item from your pay, so better safe than sorry. If you are using your own PC or laptop, the same case applies, otherwise you have to keep replacing expensive machines. Keep your laptop or PC away from children and pets.
The phenomenon that is WFH or working from home is here to stay. Aside from the coronavirus, most organizations have discovered that it saves time used on commutes for their employees, making them less stressed and more productive.
For those working from home, it comes with myriad challenges. Still, you can easily overcome them by taking extra security measures online and being more proactive in making your Home a safe and productive environment.
Related Additional Reading Suggestion: COVID19: Who Will Survive, Who Will Thrive and Why