I know, I know. Data security is not exactly the most exciting topic. However, when you work from home or work remotely in general, is it your duty to make sure your data is safe. So to make it as easy as possible for you, I’ve collected a list of 18 of the most important work-from-home cybersecurity tips to protect your data. These tips are very simple to implement and easy to understand. So no excuses anymore! ;)
On top of it, you can find a list of 4 data security apps to keep your data safe when working remotely.
Most Important Work-from-Home Cybersecurity Tips
When you work in an office, your employer makes sure your equipment and data are safe. But when you work from home or remotely, it is up to you to secure your sensitive data.
Just imagine your system gets hacked and someone steals important information about your clients, customers, or your company. This can cause tremendous damage and lead to serious legal consequences for you and the company you work for.
So make sure to implement as many as possible of the following data security tips when you work from home.
1. Raise Awareness
Many people who work online don’t treat data security as important as they should. The first step is to become aware of the vulnerability of data. You need to understand the importance of keeping your passwords, internet connections, and files safe.
This is particularly true when you are dealing with confidential information. Remember, you have a huge responsibility towards your employer, clients, or customers. Plus, you don’t want to get yourself into legal troubles. So make sure you implement a professional data management system.
2. Use Work Devices
If you are employed and your company provides you with devices, such as a laptop or smartphone, use them! These devices have most likely software installed that secures work-related data.
I know it can be tempting to quickly use your personal phone to reply to a work email. But stick to your given devices. If something goes wrong, you are liable because of violations of policy.
3. Use Anti-Virus Software
If you use devices provided by your employer or client, you probably won’t have to take care of this.
If you don’t, you need to make sure you have anti-virus software installed on your laptop and smartphone to protect you from any kind of malware like trojans, spyware, worms, or rootkits.
There are free versions out there, for instance, Avira, which is quite popular. However, you might want to consider going for a paid version to get more features, such as browser safety, phishing protection, or online account protection.
You can get basic packages for about $50 per year, which is a great price considering what you have to pay (and the hassle you have to go through) in case something happens to your data.
4. Keep Your Software Updated
It is not enough to have good anti-virus software in place, you also need to make sure to update it regularly. This goes for pretty much any application you have on your computer, tablet, and phone. Even the ones that you don’t use for work, such as private social media.
If you don’t update them, security leaks may appear that make it easier for potential malware to infiltrate your entire network.
5. Secure Internet Connections
You may think your internet connection at home is always safe. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Especially when you live in a central location with many other residents or cafés around, people can hack your network. So it’s a good idea to encrypt your web connection.
When you are traveling, it’s even riskier. One option would be to use a personal internet hotspot, like your phone, or a mobile hotspot, like Skyroam Solis. (You can find my detailed Skyroam review here to find out all the pros and cons of this global hotspot).
On top of this, try to avoid unsecured public WIFI connections, e.g., at airports or cafés. If that is not possible, it is essential to use a reliable VPN, which brings us to the next tip…
6. Use VPN Services
A virtual private network (VPN) creates an encrypted tunnel between an external server and your device and directs all web traffic through this tunnel.
Sounds complicated but it has many advantages. Just to mention a few:
- Not even people who are using the same network as you can see your data.
- Malicious operators can’t tap your information.
- Malicious operators can’t route you to phishing pages.
- Online advertisers have a harder time tracking and profiling you.
All you need to do is to download the software, adjust the settings as you like, and hit the “connect” button. The VPN becomes active and you can use the internet exactly as you did before. The only difference is that now it is safe.
VPNs aren’t too expensive either. Popular ones, such as NordVPN (my all-time favorite!) charge only around $3-5 per month.
7. Use Secure and Varied Passwords
Another security step is to use highly secure passwords. Use special characters, numbers, and capital letters. Don’t use any logical words.
You could use password generators to come up with abstract combinations. For example, LastPass offers a free tool that generates very strong passwords.
Also, make sure you use varied passwords. Don’t use the same password for every online account you have!
On top of that, you should change passwords regularly.
8. Keep Passwords Safe
Now you are probably wondering how to remember all those strong passwords. Definitely don’t write them on a piece of paper and stick it to your monitor!
There are password managers out there, that take care of this issue, for example, LastPass. These vaults store access details, such as usernames and passwords, and allow you to automatically fill in login forms with one click.
These services are also very handy when you work in a remote team. All you need to do is share the desired account in your vault with your team members and they can access it. They don’t even need to see the password if you don’t want to share it with them. The access still works.
In case you need to change a password, simply change it in your password manager and everyone has the new password automatically. No need to inform everyone manually about the change.
9. Use Two-Factor Authentication
More and more accounts today move from one-factor authentication to two-factor authentication (2FA). This means that to log into an account, you not only need a username and a password but also an additional piece of information for identification.
That can be a PIN that is sent to your smartphone or the answer to a random security question, for instance, “What was the name of your first pet?”.
Someone may be able to steal your password. But it is very hard to make it beyond the additional second security step.
Whenever you have to chance to use this extra layer of security, make sure you do so.
10. Store Your Data Safely
Another topic you should consider is data storage. When you work in an office, your work is usually saved on a central server. In case your computer breaks, you can still access everything.
Make sure you have a solution like that for your home office or your travel office, too. The easiest option would be to get a cloud-based service, for example, Dropbox, that is compliant with your industry regulations.
If your computer gets stolen or dies, you can still access your data in the cloud from anywhere in the world. (Extra tip for all travelers: Check out this blog post on the best Safety Tips for Digital Nomads and Their Equipment)
On top of that, it is also safer than storing it locally because nobody else has the access details to your cloud storage.
A third advantage is that you can easily share files with coworkers or supervisors. You don’t need to send it via email but can simply upload it to the cloud and give the other person permission to access the file.
11. Perform Regular Backups
It is crucial to perform regular backups of your data. This is particularly important for the information that you store locally.
The backup can either be on a hardware device, such as an external drive or USB stick, or online. Keep in mind that, if you prefer offline storage, you need to make sure you always keep the device in a safe place. If it gets stolen, your data is gone (and potentially in bad hands).
If you go for an online solution, there are plenty of providers to choose from, for instance, iDrive. Here you can set automated backups on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis for several devices, such as laptops and phones. This means you don’t have to remember anything anymore. Once you’ve set a backup schedule, the software works automatically.
12. Encrypt Information
If you send emails with confidential information, make sure you encrypt these emails. This can be personal data, access details, or important attachments.
The same goes for documents and files that contain confidential information. Make sure to encrypt them properly upon saving or sending them.
13. Watch out for Phishing Emails
You know what spam emails look like and you know that you shouldn’t open random attachments or click on links if you don’t know the sender.
However, cybercriminals are getting better and better at creating emails that look legit or look like they come from a trustworthy source or even a sender you know. Make sure you watch out for strange requests or misspelled email addresses.
14. Be Careful on Social Media
It’s not only emails that can be dangerous. 83% of all phishing attacks happened on platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or other social media channels, according to CSO Online.
This means you need to be extra cautious. It’s not only your work-related applications or email accounts that are targeted.
15. Keep Your Device with You
This is for everyone who works while traveling or enjoys occasional work sessions from a coworking space or café. Never leave your laptop or smartphone unattended! Even if you only use the restroom for a minute. Not everyone is as trustworthy as they look.
Also never leave your devices in the car. When you pay at the gas stations, lock your car. When you go grocery shopping on your way home, take your laptop to the supermarket with you. It can be annoying, but it also saves you a lot of trouble.
16. Use a Screen Protector
When you work a lot in public places and work with confidential data, you can also use a screen protector. This is a portable filter that you can attach to your screen.
With this protection, you are the only one who can read your screen. If someone else is looking at it from behind you or from the side they only see a black screen, nothing else.
17. Mind Your Words
The same goes for what you are saying in public. Having business calls in trains or cafés can be tricky, especially when you mention companies or names. Try to avoid these calls when you are not alone in a room. When in doubt, re-schedule calls for later.
Many coworking spaces offer soundproof phone booths where you can speak as loudly as you want to and still have enough privacy to keep confidential information safe.
18. Use a USB Data Blocker
When you need to charge your phone at a public phone charging station, let’s say an airport, make sure you use a USB data blocker.
Criminals may use your charging attempt to exchange data or place malware on your device. If you are using a USB data blocker, your phone or tablet is protected when you plug it in.
Popular Data Security Apps for Remote Work
There are many great apps out there, that help you keep your data safe and share your files with coworkers. I’ve already mentioned a few in the list of tips. Here are the ones that I personally use and find extremely helpful:
1. VPN: NordVPN
Will I ever stop gushing about NordVPN? Probably not. I really think that it’s an incredibly useful tool.
NordVPN creates a safe network so you can enjoy secure and private internet access from home and even from public WIFI connections.
On top of that, you can access websites that are normally not available in your country due to regional or governmental restrictions, for instance, social media or Netflix. You can connect up to 6 devices, like your phone, laptop, tablet, or a friend’s device, with one account.
It only costs around $3 per month and I personally think it’s well-invested money.
2. Anti-Virus: AVG AntiVirus
AVG AntiVirus is one of the most popular security software out there that helps you keep your laptop and mobile devices safe. It protects you from harmful viruses and malware and comes with a lot of additional features, such as a file cleaner, photo vault, or app lock.
You can use it for your laptop and your phone and it is absolutely free to use.
3. Data Backup: iDrive
iDrive is a backup service that covers all your devices – desktop, tablet, and mobile. Files are synced in real-time because the software automatically recognizes modified parts of documents or folders and backs them up.
Of course, your data is transferred and stored with a safe 256-bit AES encryption using a user-defined key to secure your security and privacy.
All you need to do is to download the software and set a timer on how often you want a backup, for instance, once a day, once a week, or once a month. iDrive then automatically runs the backup and you don’t need to do anything anymore.
The basic version is free but only includes 5 GB. If you need more storage, you can upgrade to 5TB for less than $60 per year.
4. Password Manager: LastPass
LastPass generates very strong passwords for you, stores your access details to all your online accounts, and auto-fills them when needed.
If you want to, you can even share selected access data with your team members, without them seeing the actual password.
The basic version is free and available for both desktop and mobile devices. I personally couldn’t work without LastPass anymore. Too many online accounts with different passwords – no chance to remember all of them.
Data Security for Working from Home: You’ve Got This!
As you can see, securing your data when working from home or working remotely is not that complicated. Today, there are many apps and tools you can use that help you keep your data safe. These apps are often free to use or come at a very reasonable price, like NordVPN or LastPass.
You only need to sit down once, go through the list of the work-from-home cybersecurity tips, and implement them. Once they are set and everything is taken care of, the data security topic is really not that scary anymore.
I hope you’ve found this list helpful. If you have any data protection tips to add, please share them with us in the comment section below!