While working remotely is natural for some tech marketers, many are facing a period of transition during the coronavirus pandemic. Tech marketers no longer have a clear distinction between their "work" space (i.e. the office) and their "home" space where they relax. Remote workers now need to strike a new balance between home and work priorities while being in the same space.
This can be a challenge. Some things may fall through the cracks. But, there are some aspects that should not be forgotten about…like cybersecurity. Usually monitored by someone at your company, your home relies on you to be the IT expert! In many homes, a modem and router are placed in a central space, devices are connected, and life goes on without interruption.
But when doing sensitive client work at home, there are additional precautions you should take to keep your work data secure. Here are five things you can do to boost your home's cybersecurity while working remotely.
1. Turn on Multi-Factor Authentication
Commonly referred to as "Two-Factor Authentication" (2FA), this is a way to keep your online accounts safe from malicious actors. While best practice tells tech marketers to generate a secure password like "3^Xe7@G#xL5N" for every single account they have, very few people actually do this. Even though a password manager (e.g. LastPass) can hold all of these impossible-to-remember passwords, we tend to use duplicate, easy-to-remember passwords instead!
When you sign into an account—say your email—you enter your username and password, then you're logged in. Sometimes you'll get an email if it's a new device you've logged in from, but if someone has hacked into your account it could be too late to save your data.
Enter 2FA. Instead of logging you in after entering your username and password, 2FA asks for a code or additional verification from one of your other devices, like your phone. So if a hacker tries to infiltrate your email, he or she would need a code that only your phone shows.
Some platforms require 2FA but many have it as an option to toggle on/off. You can set this up easily in your account's security settings. There are typically a few ways (factors) you can use as your second layer of security:
- A six-digit code sent to another email address
- A six-digit code sent via text to your cell phone
- A six-digit code from an authenticator app
The first two options are self-explanatory. The third way involves an additional app on your phone. Download an authenticator app, like LastPass Authenticator, and add your account. In most cases, the website you are on will give you a QR code to scan.
Then, you'll see a six-digit code appear that randomly changes after a given amount of time. In most apps, these codes change each minute. So, even if a bad actor were to get access to this code, it's likely it'd be invalid by the time they try to use it! Plus, these authenticator apps take advantage of your phone's biometric entry (e.g. FaceID on iPhones) to make sure only you see the codes.
2FA is a simple security feature that you should activate on all of your work (and personal) accounts. It adds an extra layer of protection before signing-in and ensures your data is more protected from hackers.
2. Ensure Your Home WiFi Is Secure
Raise your hand if the WiFi network you're connected to is named something similar to "NETGEAR-81" and has a simple password that's easy to remember. (We won’t tell!)
While this is great for your family, it's poor practice in general for cybersecurity. Why? Well, manufacturers tend to use similar passwords for the same routers since they mass-produce them. So, that nifty router you bought at Best Buy probably has a very similar password to all the others on the shelf. If a hacker was in your neighborhood and saw your generic WiFi network name, he or she could figure out your password. Then your entire home is vulnerable, including your work data!
Luckily, there are steps you can take at home to protect your network. These are done through your router's admin console. If you search "netgear router login info," or whichever router you have, on Google you'll find the right link and username & password to access the router's settings. A side note: once you log-in, it's probably a good idea to change these admin credentials to something else.
The first thing you want to check is your network's security setting. For your WiFi network, make sure that WPA2 (or WPA3) is used. This is the current standard for networks and is the most secure. After switching your network to the proper security standard, move onto its name, or SSID.
You’ll want to name your network something else than the generic, out-of-the-box name. You could name it after one of your favorite movies or celebrities or anything you want. There are plenty of lists out there of clever names you can choose for an added laugh.
Once you change the name, change the password too. It's recommended that you use a password generator for your Wifi, but if you want something you can easily remember, then think of a phrase with a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. So, you could turn "DarthVader" into "dARth_Vad8er!"
The final thing you need to do pertains to a guest network. Some routers come with a guest network, others do not. If you have the option to turn-on a guest network, do so. It's best practice to keep unknown devices off of your primary network; you do not know what security (or lack thereof) is on your guests' devices. You can turn this network on and then go through the above steps to set it up correctly.
3. Keep Work Separate From Everything Else
Tech marketers likely have a handful of devices they use each day. From a work computer to a home computer to a tablet to a cell phone, we rely on so much technology to aid our workflows. One thing we want to watch for is ensuring that our work data stays on our work devices. This seems like common sense but is easy to forget, especially when working at home.
This also applies to other family members you have in your home. We repeat: do not let your child watch Netflix on your work computer. Treat your remote work environment just as you would the actual office. Make sure you are the only one accessing your work equipment in the house.
4. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
In simple terms, a VPN is a way to protect your internet traffic. They tend to get a bad rap in society since bad actors use them a lot but they are actually a great resource for your home. Since most tech marketers’ work is done online, it's important to surf the web safely.
In the simplest sense, our IP addresses are public. Your IP address is what identifies your computer and location when you are online. If a hacker tried hard enough, your IP address could be traced to a single computer and user in a specific location. You can imagine your internet searches and work as cars traveling on the open road. You see the other cars just as they see you.
A VPN acts as a tunnel inside a mountain. Instead of your traffic being visible to everyone, it's hidden and routed through a server somewhere else besides your present location. For example, I could be sitting in Cleveland but my IP address would show I'm in the Rocky Mountains. So, if a hacker got a hold of your IP address it would not trace back to you. It would trace back to a small encampment in the mountains!
Some employers already have VPN solutions so that employees can access servers and other internal assets remotely. When you use your company's VPN, it's still best practice to save your work to the network, rather than your local desktop. If your company does not use a VPN, you can purchase a respected solution online. While VPNs cost money, the extra expense leads to more protection. Be wary of free or low-cost solutions as these likely have security flaws.
5. Remember the Basics…Update and Back Up
The above solutions pertain to the security of your devices and online work. As a tech marketer, there are also things that you should do continually as regular maintenance on your devices. Install software updates whenever there are some available as these often contain security patches. Plus, back-up your data to the cloud consistently just in case something happens at home.
When choosing a back-up solution, look past the marketing jargon that says that a company is the "best back-up solution" or "has super-fast upload speeds." While this is great, the more important piece is getting your data restored if you need to access the back-up. So, look at how quickly your data can be restored when researching online back-up providers.
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There are lots of challenges that come with transitioning from a physical office space to an at-home work environment, but cybersecurity shouldn’t be one of those issues. Now kiddos who interrupt your conference calls or a cat who walks all over your keyboard…we can’t help you there. Stay safe and healthy!