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Remote work in the age of cyber paranoia

by Kayla Matthews | December 1, 2018December 1, 2018 6:30 am PST

Remote work, or telecommuting, is becoming more common thanks to modern technological improvements. Today, it’s not just possible to work from home or from another remote location — at times it can even be more beneficial.

In the past, physical boundaries and limitations stood in the way. You couldn’t work collaboratively with others on a team, for example. It was difficult to conduct meetings or client calls without being face-to-face. It was also challenging to create, modify and distribute documents and project materials. That’s not to say it was impossible — videoconferencing technologies have existed for years — it just wasn’t convenient.

That’s no longer the case. Mobile allows for always-on connections to those around us, including clients, colleagues and leaders. Many solutions provide collaborative, real-time support. There are online office tools, for example, where multiple people can work on a document simultaneously from different machines.

Remote work does rely on an open internet connection, which introduces many challenges for privacy, security and authentication. Digital protection is a priority in the state of operations today.

Paranoia is abundant too, brought on by the frequent attacks and cybersecurity problems we see happening.

Since there are many elements of remote work that can compromise security and privacy, it’s important for you to understand how to protect yourself.

What you need to know about protecting remote work

Many tools and applications you’ll use for remote work rely on cloud computing technologies. Naturally, you should become familiar with protecting data stored in the cloud. In addition, be aware that there’s a clear difference between general cybersecurity and cloud-based security.

1. Enable two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication offers an additional layer of security for online accounts and services. The function requires you to provide both a custom password and an auto-generated key to access your account(s). The key may be sent to your email, delivered on your mobile device via an application or set in advance.

As it stands, two-factor is one of the best ways to protect your accounts from outside tampering, especially any that might come as a result of poor or cross password use.

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2. Follow strong password guidelines

For many accounts and services, the only thing stopping an outside party from accessing content is a password. If you use a weak password or reuse the same password across services, you’re making a hacker’s job easy.

Always generate strong passwords by incorporating the following steps:

  • Never reuse passwords across accounts or services.
  • Use a strong mix of lowercase and uppercase letters as well as symbols and numbers.
  • Remember: The longer, the better. Never create passwords fewer than eight characters, as 12 or more is ideal.
  • Instead of a single word, use a full phrase.
  • Never share passwords with anyone including friends, family and colleagues.
  • Never store a password in a digital file or physically near your terminal, such as on a sticky note.
  • Use password management tools with encryption, such as LastPass or RoboForm.
  • Enable two-factor authentication when it’s available.
  • Never follow links to log in to a service or platform. Instead, navigate to a portal directly using the nav bar. Phishers will provide false links via email.
  • Regularly scan for malware, viruses and infected files using the appropriate tools, including on mobile devices.
  • If biometric authentication is available — like a fingerprint sensor — opt for that instead of conventional passwords.

3. Stay up-to-date

Those Windows update notifications you love to dismiss in lieu of other tasks? Stop doing that. Ensure that any devices, applications and software you use regularly remain up-to-date and that you install the fixes as soon as possible. Typically, security and vulnerability patches are delivered through new software updates, which can eliminate potential areas of attack. The infamous WannaCry ransomware was able to wreak havoc because there were so many systems out of date.

4. Lock down your network

Make sure the Wi-Fi network you’re connected to is secure. In fact, don’t even connect to an external, unsecured network — ever.

Free public Wi-Fi is especially vulnerable to attack, which is unfortunate because it can also be super convenient to use. If you’re visiting a coffee shop or working on a day off, resist the urge to use such networks. Instead, use a more secure method like a personal hotspot with a strong password, an enterprise network or a private network that’s properly encrypted and secured.

5. Use a VPN

A VPN, or virtual private network, will keep your internet traffic secure and free from snooping. How? It masks your real IP address with a faux one, the latter often located in another country or region. If and when someone looks up your IP, they see the remote address, keeping your real identity hidden.

A VPN is especially important if you’re connecting to a corporate file server or application via a remote location. Using such a tool will keep your identity hidden along with traffic to and from the network.

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6. Secure your email

As a remote worker, you’ll be spending a lot of time sending and receiving emails as well as communicating with a variety of clients, partners and colleagues. To truly protect everyone involved, you should be using an email encryption service such as Virtru or Tutanota. They include encryption protocols to help keep emails and communications safe and locked down, whether they’re going out or coming in.

While this time is rightfully filled with paranoia, you don’t need to worry about your cybersecurity if you’re following these tips. Stay safe, and enjoy that remote position!

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Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews is a writer and tech blogger, talking about connected devices and smart tech on websites like MakeUseOf, VentureBeat, Motherboard and...

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