Whether you’re in the office or working from home, you need to be careful about information privacy and data security and follow basic computer security protocol. It starts with developing good habits, so we’ve put together some tips on how to make sure you can work securely and safely with confidential data.
Paying Attention to Data Security
With many of us now working from home, it can be hard to pay attention to things like data security, especially when we know and trust our family members or friends and know they won’t do anything with any data or information they may see accidentally. However, you want to make sure that you are avoiding any potential security or privacy breaches, which means paying attention to proper privacy and security protocols. Locking away confidential files, password protecting your computer, and ensuring that no one can access confidential information unless they are authorized are all good “better safe than sorry” habits to follow!
Privacy vs. Security
A security breach refers to unauthorized access to an organization’s protected systems and data. In a security breach, someone’s personal information might be viewed (which is then a privacy breach). So, if a family member uses your company laptop and sees confidential information because you left a client file open, this is a privacy violation. It may not lead to any immediate consequences, but you still want to prevent this from happening to ensure the safety of that data. One way to do this is to use proper password security.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Password Security
Use a different password for each website. If you use the same username/email address and password across multiple sites and just one of those sites is compromised, that login information is more likely to be taken by hackers and tried on other sites.
Use two-factor authentication when it’s available. Many sites use the option to send a code either to your cell phone or email address, which provides a secondary level of security beyond your password. You type that code into your web browser or app to access your account. It’s also a good idea to use biometric security like fingerprints or facial recognition if available.
Don’t share your passwords with anyone. Although you may save yourself time, if you save your passwords in your web browser, anyone who accesses your device will also have instant access to your accounts. It’s also important not to use common personal information like your children’s names or anniversaries as your passwords, as this information is easy to find via social media and other online resources.
Keep your passwords secure. Don’t write down your passwords and leave them next to your device (this happens more often than you’d think)! Consider using a password manager like 1Password or LastPass, which work by storing your login information for all the websites you use and help you log into them automatically using one ‘master’ password.
Accessing Internal Work Networks from Home
Another way to secure information is to pay attention to how you’re accessing that information. You may need to use your work email or cloud-based services like G Suite or Microsoft 365, or you might need to access your internal work network. Remember, when you’re working from home, even with password-protected WiFi, you no longer have the same level of security as via work networks. For that reason, it’s important to use a Virtual Private Network or VPN.
This is more secure than password-protected WiFi as it makes your online activity virtually untraceable through encrypted connections. To use a VPN for work network access, your workplace will also need to have this in place. Learn more about how to set up a VPN.
Following Other Best Security Practices
Use antivirus software and firewalls. A good security software suite will protect you from viruses, spyware, malware, and ransomware, and should also include a firewall. Windows includes its own antivirus and firewall, but you might want to invest in a security suite for extra protection. If you use a Mac, it’s best practice to still run an antivirus program. While Mac-specific malware isn’t very common, when it does hit, it hits hard because many Mac users aren’t using antivirus programs.
Keep your operating systems up to date. Make sure that your operating systems are up to date – on your computer as well as your phone. Security flaws in operating systems and software are routinely discovered by hackers, and the companies who produce operating systems and software create updates or ‘patches’ to fix security issues. If your software is out of date, you may have missed one of those patches and the data you work with could be at risk.
Consider encrypting your devices. Encryption is the process of converting all of the data on your computer into unreadable code that can’t be easily accessed unless someone has the key. This means someone can’t remove the hard drive or storage from your computer or mobile device, insert it into another device, and access the data on it without having the key to decode the information. iPhones from iOS8 on and most Android devices, for example, are automatically encrypted. Macs have FileVault software that needs to be activated manually, and Windows PCs usually need more expensive versions of Windows in order to use their BitLocker encryption feature.
Developing Safe Habits
Keeping data safe and secure boils down to developing and maintaining good habits, which also includes
- Turning off automatic logins for devices and applications
- Locking or logging out of devices when leaving them unsupervised
- Setting devices to auto-lock when not in use
It’s also best not to download any information to a personal device.
Outside of your home, it’s important to remember not to leave your devices unattended. For example, if you work at a coffee shop sometimes, watch who can see your device screen and don’t leave it unsecured if you need to get up.
Putting in a bit of effort and following best practices can help you prevent security and privacy breaches, maintain your clients’ confidence, and ensure a stress-free work situation!