Our work environments have been turned upside down. We are all in a place of creating new work routines. Having left the cyber safety net of a central office designed to protect company cybersecurity, IT departments are juggling a dispersed workforce while maintaining cybersecurity standards that protect private data.

Before COVID-19 forced a remote workforce, anywhere from 60 – 90% of breaches were caused by human error. We are seeing cyber criminals take advantage of extra vulnerabilities created with employees working from home. Cybersecurity is no longer just an IT thing. Protecting your company and their private data has never been closer to home, literally. Mistakes that could hurt the company start on your own network, which could also affect your personal security. Your business, IT department and your family are relying on your vigilance to be cyber safe.

Cyber safety habits to put into practice

  1. Separate work and personal devices
    If your company provides you a device, use it only for work purposes. Have a separate device for family and personal use. If separate devices are not a possibility, create separate profiles with different security settings. Use your work profile only for work purposes. If you have children who need to use the same computer, create separate profiles with parental controls that limit their ability to access and/or download content that could infect your computer.
  1. Lockdown your device
    You may feel that your device is physically safe in your home office, but you still need to protect data safety. Set a unique password for your device and lock it every time you walk away. If you are using one device for multiple profiles, have a private, unique password for your work profile that no one in your household can access. This is good practice for after quarantine as well.
  1. Be wary of add-ons and downloads
    There are many add-ons and extensions that promise to make your work run faster, smoother and better. Be cautious of downloading these onto your device. Many contain malware that give hackers access to the data on your computer. If you then link to your company network, they could gain access there as well. A good cyber safety practice is to research on trusted sites before downloading a new program or add-on.
  1. Use company approved sharing sites
    With your entire team working remotely, there is a greater need to communicate digitally. It may be more comfortable to use data sharing platforms you are used to, they may not be the most secure. Only send private data through company approved sharing sites.

Know signs of a breach

Preventative measures are important to cyber safety, but breaches are still possible. It’s important to know what signs to look for in the event of a breach.

  1. Increase in unwanted pop-ups
    Pop-ups are a widely seen by-product of malware. If advertisements or system pop-ups begin appearing outside of any program, you may have been infected.
  1. Processing slows down
    Is it taking longer than usual for your computer to boot up or for programs to load? Viruses and malware run in the background, slowing down the programs you are attempting to run.
  1. New programs appear
    Computers do not add content on their own. If a new program, app or internet add-on appears on your computer, you may have a virus that inserted content onto your computer.

How do you handle a potential breach?

  1. Report it!
    Inform your IT department of what you are experiencing. Send screen shots of error messages, pop-ups and other unwanted content. Be specific about when it started happening and what is going on.
  1. Don’t click
    Never click on suspicious content, even to try and close pop-up windows. Malware is the gateway for a virus. Clicking on the content can give them access to the data they are looking for.
  1. Scan with anti-virus software
    Company devices should be equipped with anti-virus software. If your company does not provide a device, get with your IT department about them providing access to anti-virus software. While it should do scans in the background, if you notice any of the above issues, tell it to run a full system diagnosis.
  1. Don’t access private data
    Until your issue has been resolved, do not attempt to access the company network or open any private data. If a hacker is monitoring your computer through malware, you run the risk of giving them access to that information.

While human error will never be eliminated, we can all take steps to increase our awareness and cyber safety to lower our risk.

Want a reference to share with family, friends and coworkers? Download our checklist to make your most secure home office environment.

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