Working From Home? – 9 Cybersecurity Tips!

Working From Home? – 9 Cybersecurity Tips!


May 4th, 2020

#smart home #iot #security

Due to the current pandemic, you may now be working from home, spending more time online, and using new technologies such as remote meetings. Perhaps your entertainment options have been impacted as well. You may have re-watched so many episodes of your favorite TV show that you can almost say the upcoming lines verbatim. Or you may be tired of the excessive social media coverage of the latest “Tiger” documentary, so how about making some time for technology checks and improvements. With so much time spent online, now is a great opportunity to improve your overall cybersecurity hygiene. Here are nine tasks to help pass the time while improving your safety and privacy.

  • Take a break from your Voice-assistant. Did you know that your favorite voice assistants send out data at all hours of the day? Some vendors are enabling “opt-out” functionality due to these privacy concerns. Check if your device allows you to do so. Why have these powered on and in listening mode when you are not using them? Set up a schedule with a smart plug or timer to turn off your voice assistant(s) before you go to sleep, and have it power up an hour or so after you usually wake up. If you really need a break from technology, then schedule to turn off your voice assistant(s) for a day or two of your choosing.

  • Install & update your IoT Devices. Admit it, you may be one of the more tech-savvy people who bought several new IoT devices but never got around to installing all of them. Now is a good time to complete that process and take advantage of your purchase. Once you install your IoT devices, continually check for application or firmware updates regardless of how old they are. These software updates may increase the security of your devices. Another possible scenario is some of your IoT devices are now considered past end-of-life and are no longer getting security updates. It might be time to retire or replace these old IoT devices with newer, more secure models. Always reset the default device password to a unique password to prevent the device from potential hacks.

  • Change your passwords and don’t repeat. We have all heard this advice, but how many of us are using the same password for multiple websites or applications? In the recent Ring camera “security” issue, it wasn’t a vulnerability that was being exploited. Hackers found usernames/passwords posted on nefarious websites and kept trying these in the Ring application until they found a match. Had the owners used different passwords for the various websites and applications, it is less likely their privacy would have been violated. Security experts advise people to use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. Regardless, it is best to get into the habit of creating different, strong passwords for your accounts, and manage them in a password safe on your smartphone and desktop. Password management software and applications are a simple and secure way to manage dozens of unique passwords. Check out Brian Rexroad’s blog post for more on this topic:

  • Use an IoT device to track your Exercise. A recent article indicated that most people are exercising less due to recent “shelter in place” rules. In these areas, you can still walk outside if you practice social distancing or take a virtual exercise class online. Be sure to check out the privacy settings on your IoT device to see what data is being shared. It’s a good time to improve your overall health as opposed to heading the opposite direction.

  • Backup your Data. Your photographs and documents are probably the most important items on your laptop/PC or mobile device. We all know that we should back these up at least once a month, but rarely does this occur for most of us.nHackers are very active during times of crisis trying to benefit by spreading malware. Having a good backup could alleviate some of the pain if your device were to become infected. Think about what items you would hate to lose if your device was stolen or encrypted with ransomware. Back data up to the cloud if your internet connection is fast enough. At a minimum, use an old flash drive as a local copy.

  • Install and try an alternate Operating System. There are plenty of free / open-source operating systems ready for you to try. Hands-on is always the best teacher, so why not turn that old PC or laptop into a Linux machine. Another option is to use virtual machines on an existing PC/Laptop to try out new operating systems. Some distributions are security focused allowing users to scan their local network for vulnerabilities.

  • Clean up the Bookmarks/Favorites on your Browser. Throughout the years, we have all probably bookmarked way too many websites. I recently went through mine and found that some of the websites didn’t exist anymore or I had no use for the information. Another good reason to clean up your bookmarks/favorites is hackers will sometimes buy old website addresses for malicious purposes. After the cleanup is done, be sure to save your newly updated bookmarks.

  • Use Telehealth medical options. During a health crisis, it is important to prioritize care given to patients. Your doctor may offer a Telehealth option or interface with your IoT health devices to help diagnose your issue. In these changing and challenging times, your medical insurance may offer a remote option to assist you with the latest ailment. Waiting in a crowded doctor’s office may not be a safe option for many due to the current outbreak, so why not ask if you have other options. When using a video service such as Zoom or WebEx, ensure your session is password-protected by the host of the teleconference.

  • General Security Items. These are not new security topics but need be reviewed to help keep your devices as secure as possible: Install operating system patches, update your applications from a trusted application store, make sure your anti-virus/anti-malware is current, don’t open email attachments from someone that you don’t know, don’t click on links sent via text messages from an unknown person. Also be aware of COVID-19 related scams. If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t.