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How to Work Securely from Home During Quarantine

Posted by BulletVPN on 25 03 2020.

The new COVID-19 virus is spreading in an indescribable way. As of March 23rd, 2020, there have been 392,907 Coronavirus cases and around 17,150 fatalities. This resulted in public hearth experts urging everyone to clear their offices and work remotely. Working from home is convenient, comfortable, and guarantees self-safety. However, being online all the time subjects you to several threats as well. We’ve come up with this guide to help you as you wait out this pandemic crisis at home. Here are some top tips for working securely from home during the quarantine.

How to Work Securely from Home During Quarantine

Quarantine is Crucial – Work From Home, Save Lives

We’ve mentioned how widely the virus is spreading. People around the world did not take this virus seriously, which lead to global infection.

At first, it started out in Wuhan, China. Now, it went global, reaching pandemic state. The virus was indeed spreading, but as time passed, it found its way to more individuals at an excelled rate.

The statistics as of March 23rd, 2020 are as such:

  • China: 81,171
  • Italy:  63,927
  • USA: 46,168
  • Spain: 31,260
  • Iran: 24,811
  • France: 19,856
  • Switzerland: 9,117
  • South Korea: 9,037
  • UK: 6,650
  • Netherlands: 5,560
  • Austria: 4,839

The cases mentioned above are the most in terms of numbers. China declared self-quarantine, and lately, it hasn’t witnessed any new cases. It’s a serious matter that anyone should take seriously as the numbers are still rising.

Corona Total Cases
COVID-19’s state is still unknown to science, which is the main reason why there hasn’t been any vaccine yet. The maximum countries could do is urge their citizens to lock themselves at home and work remotely.

That’s exactly what they did. Employees are now working from their homes in never-seen-before numbers. But as they work online, they should never underestimate the threats roaming the World Wide Web.

In other words, they should never ignore their online security while worrying about personal safety. Take a closer look at the next part. It’ll help you secure yourself, not only physically, but also virtually.

Tops Tips on Working Securely At Home During Quarantine

Aside from hygiene, employees working from home during the Luzon-wide COVID-19 lockdown should keep a keen eye on their personal information.

After all, it’s their work’s data, and if any of it is compromised, the results can be devastating to both the employee and the company.

Online security has been our core job for years now, which is why we came up with this guide to help you out. Here are the top tips you can follow in order to work securely from home during the pandemic crisis:

Avoid Clicking Links in Emails

The emails you get won’t always redirect you to where they’re supposed to. During the Coronavirus quarantine, cybercrime will definitely rise.

Some employees are working from home for the first time, meaning that they have no prior experience in the matter. This sudden transition would lead them to mistakes while working online.

It’s more strain on the employees, and more opportunity for hackers/cybercriminals shooting to trick them into submitting their passwords and personal information.

Hackers are disguising themselves as legit companies, sending official-like emails to internet users. These emails contain links that will direct you to a page where the hacker can harvest everything you submit.

In fact, researchers have found hackers disguising as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an attempt to break into emails or swindle users out of bitcoin.

The best thing you can do here is to avoid clicking any link you come across in an email. Don’t trust any email you get. If you’re that curious or it’s necessary to follow the link, visit the official website manually.

In other words, type the company’s URL on your own or contact their support. It’s the long route, but that’s the safest one during this pandemic.

Also, if you get an email from a fellow colleague, make sure to double-check his/her email address before clicking on any link provided within. Contact them personally if necessary.

Beef Up Your Network’s Security

Now that you’re working from home, you must know that you’re not just using it for your personal browsing anymore. In fact, you now have your professional life included.

You have to make sure that your network is up for the task by enhancing its security. There are a couple of things you can do:

Strong Password

Since your work is added to the mix, a normal or just-safe password is not enough. You need a strong one to protect the sensitive information you’re sharing.

Make sure you assign an unhackable password using every utility you can get your hands on. You don’t even have to remember it, just use a password manager to do the job for you.

Memorable passwords are easily guessed, be it a birthday, family member’s name, and the likes. However, if you use a Password Generator, you can create random, strong, and even customized passwords that are hard to decipher.

That’s one way to create a strong password. Another would be if you prefer to do it yourself using a Password Strength Meter. This way, you choose what to add to it, and the meter will tell you if it’s good enough or not.

Creating a strong password is only the first step towards securing your work while in quarantine. However, it’s an essential step to take.

Keep Your Wi-Fi to Yourself

Whenever you set up a new router or Wi-Fi network, it comes out raw. In other words, the router comes with a default password, no encryption, and broadcasts the SSID publicly.

SSID is enabled by default so that devices with a wireless network adapter can see your connection and attempt to connect. Technically, you use a password so no one can connect, so why make it public, to begin with?

Disabling your SSID broadcasts makes it harder for anyone to find your home network, especially those you don’t want lurking around waiting for the right moment to hack it.

With that said, let us show you how you can deactivate it:

  1. First, type in your router’s IP address in the URL section on your browser.
  2. Sign in with your router’s credentials.
  3. Go to Wireless, followed by Settings or Advanced, depending on your router.
  4. We’re going to give you two examples based on separate routers.
    • If you’re using a NetGear router, disable the Wireless Radio option.
      NetGear Router
    • If you’re using Linksys, click on the disable box next to SSID broadcast.

Some routers don’t have either of the choices above. For example, Technicolor routers label it as “Allow New Devices to Connect.” In any of the cases, disabling the function makes your network more secure and private.

Additional Wi-Fi Tips

The steps above are essential for a more secure network. However, you can beef it up a bit more if you filter Mac addresses. This type of address is assigned to a specific device.

There’s no other device that might even have the same Mac address no matter what. Now, this goes to routers that support Mac address filtering, as it becomes harder for any unwanted device to even try to connect to your network.

On the other hand, every router has certain abilities to apply different security measures. If you don’t want guest devices to be connected to your highly secured Wi-Fi, just set a new guest network.

That way, you’ll have a network with the most stringent security measures while working, and one with a user-friendly set of rules to those who’d like to connect, such as your family members. We’re not talking about visitors as it’s not recommended to have any during the quarantine.

Don’t Use Personal Devices

Every time we apply for a job, one of the conditions in the contract states that you should separate your professional life from your personal one.

That might be for different reasons, but during this pandemic, we’ll be targeting devices. Never use your personal device to get work done, and vice versa.

If you use your work’s device for personal matters, your account or device might be breached, compromised, or even infected with malware.

The company should provide convenience to employees working from home. If they used a computer back at the office, chances are it’s a laptop. So, it would be in their best interest to take that laptop and work on it at home.

At least, they’ll know that the security tools the company has provided are present, and their work can go smoothly. If that’s not the case, keep your professional life away from your social one.

Finally, never install unnecessary applications on your work’s device. You never know who’s behind them, to begin with. It might be hackers posing as official apps waiting for the right moment to steal your data.

Check the software before you install it. In fact, if it doesn’t help you out during quarantine, it can wait.

Hygiene Can Be Cyber As Well

While you use sanitizers, masks, soap, and gloves to keep yourself safe, your device also needs some sort of protection against its own threats.

Viruses are all around, and we expect them to spread during quarantine as hackers take advantage of such situations. If your computer/device gets infected, the virus might do the following:

  • Make your device slower.
  • Prevent your device from booting up.
  • Damage parts of your system (Without your knowledge).
  • Harvest personal information.
  • Spread to other devices on the same network.
  • Send unauthorized messages.

These programs are written in order to damage other people’s machines or steal information. In other words, they’re created by high-skilled programmers who decided to use their skills in a malicious way. We’re talking about the likes of worms, Trojan, and malware.

To prevent that, make sure that the device you’re conducting your work on is fully protected with a reputable anti-virus.  An anti-virus software acts as a guard to your computer system.

It protects the device from such threats, destroys worms, and even warns the users of possible infections. Having an updated anti-virus on your device is pretty vital as today’s internet has provided many different ways for virus attacks, and there are thousands of threats out there.

And since you’re working from home, using none of your company’s security measures, not having an anti-virus allows hackers to cause havoc or steal your sensitive data.

If you haven’t installed an anti-virus program on your system yet, we highly recommend you do it immediately.

Update Your System and Take Proper Precautions

Make sure that everything on your device is up to date, be it the antivirus software or your device’s OS. Such updates are there for a reason, mainly to fix previous bugs.

Therefore, update your software regularly, and if it’s not on automatic update, do it manually. Moreover, don’t connect your device using any Bluetooth connection you might find. This is an easy way for hackers to connect to your device.

Also, make use of the multi-factor authentication (2FA) on the accounts where it’s available. That way, if your account gets hacked or stolen, you’ll know immediately so that you can take the proper precautions needed.

Use HTTPS Websites Only

Whether you’re at the office or at home, HTTP websites are to be avoided regardless. These are considered unprotected requests, which can potentially reveal information about your browsing behaviors and even your identity.

Visiting an unprotected website once might not seem like a big deal, but in reality, it is. In fact, employees working from home might inadvertently disclose sensitive information to whoever is monitoring them by just reading certain online articles.

It takes one letter to change everything and a padlock next to the URL. Websites with (HTTPS) are secure to visit as the prevent intruders from tampering with your communication with the websites you visit.

By intruders, we mean the likes of malicious attackers, ISPs, and even companies that try to inject ads into pages. Cybercriminals take advantage of unprotected communications to trick users into submitting sensitive data or infect their devices with malware.

Since you’re working from home, your eyes should be wide open when it comes to such matters. Always use HTTPS websites. Otherwise, some third-party entity might potentially break into your device and create security vulnerabilities, resulting in devastating effects to your work/company.

Use Military-Grade Encryption

High-level encryption is an excellent way to secure your files while working online. You might not know this, but your company’s servers and networks might be secured with encryption.

However, when you’re at home, there’s a high chance that yours is not. Internet users take online security very lightly, but now since their work is added to the mix, such measures should be taken.

There are tools that encrypt sensitive files you send to your company or co-workers. In fact, these tools protect your entire traffic with military-grade encryption, which is next to impossible for any hacker to decipher.

They’re called VPNs, a cybersecurity tool that allows users to secure their internet connection and surf the internet anonymously.

It works by rerouting your internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel, making it invisible (scrambled data) to those who try to monitor it, including ISP, hackers, and even the government.

Work Securely from Home - How Does a VPN Work
Aside from encryption, a reputable VPN hides your IP address, anonymizing your internet browsing in the process. That way, no online entity can determine what you’re seeing, sharing, or where you’re physically located.

Certain VPN providers offer applications dedicated to routers. This helps users secure their whole network instead of just a specific device. This allows every device that connects to your Wi-Fi to benefit from the security enhancement a VPN offers.

Some companies have their own Virtual Private Networks, which means that if an employee is not connected to it, he/she can’t use their websites, emails, or work-related applications.

Since employees are working from home now, they should connect to their company’s VPN servers in order to conduct their work remotely. Otherwise, it’s not possible.

No VPN Service?

If the company you work for does not have its own VPN, it should subscribe to a reputable one, especially during the quarantine.

Never opt for free services as they tend to do you more harm than good. Free VPNs don’t offer their services without a cost. In fact, users become their main source of income as they sell their data in exchange for revenue.

Such providers claim that they don’t collect any logs, but the question is, how do they pay for the servers they operate? Simple, with your personal information.

And now, since work is added to the mix, more sensitive information is up for grabs. Premium VPNs such as BulletVPN follow a strict no-logging policy, which ensures that none of the users’ browsing activities are being monitored and stored.

Moreover, BulletVPN applies the industry’s standard 256-bit AES encryption – one of the most secure encryption methods. If hackers try to get your data, they’ll have to go through thousands of different combinations, which is virtually impossible to be broken by even the fastest computers.

Furthermore, data leaks happen a lot. This brings us to BulletVPN’s kill switch and Bullet Shield. If you enable the kill switch option, your data won’t be exposed to the ISP’s servers if the VPN connection suddenly drops – it cuts off your internet instantly.

As for Bullet Shield, users working from home will have secured Wi-Fi all the time as it doesn’t allow them to connect to the internet without a VPN connection already in place.

Such measures shouldn’t be taken lightly by companies around the world, especially during these times. If there’s no VPN is used by the company yet, they should opt for one right away.

Avoid Public Networks

Whether it’s during these times or any other circumstances, you should never use public Wi-Fis while working and sending sensitive information to your colleagues.

Avoiding going to public cafes, restaurants, and hotels is the entire purpose of the quarantine. However, finding a non-secure network on your device’s list can be very tempting.

You never know if a hacker resides within your area, preying on those who connect to a network of his own creation. There are several reasons why you’d connect to it, be it to save up on your own quota, or the fact that you don’t have internet access, to begin with.

However, you must know that if you connect to that network, the host can see everything you do, submit, send, and receive. If your work’s sensitive information ends up in the wrong hands, it might lead to severe results.

So, under no circumstance, you should connect to public networks. Talk it out with your company, maybe they’ll provide you with internet access if you don’t have one at home.

Use Trusted Websites/Apps for Online Shopping

While you’re stuck at home, online shopping might be the only way to get your stuff delivered without exposing yourself. You’re going to have to sanitize what you receive, but at least you won’t be exposing yourself out in the open.

However, exposing your credit card info is what we’re talking about here. You may not know this, but a lot of online stores (fake ones) are designed by hackers to get a hold of your billing information.

2018 saw a lot of such incidents, recording 16,128 cases of online identity theft and 65,116 cases of non-payment or non-delivery fraud. Here’s what was reported to the U.S. Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Work Securely from Home - CyberCrimes 2018
Hackers don’t care about the situation everyone’s in. On the contrary, they take advantage of it. You just have to make sure that the app or website you’re using is legit, that’s all. As reports state, 37% of Americans do not check a website’s authenticity.

There’s another thing we urge you not to do. Never, under no circumstance, follow coupons that pop up on your social media. In these times, anything could be a scam.

Not long ago, McDonald’s fell victim to such scams as fake coupons bombarded the Brazilian Facebook. The coupon leads users to other pages asking them to submit their personal information. We all know how this one ends, right? Avoid clicking these coupons, stick to the bundles, and offers the official shop posts on its website, and you’ll be safe.

If you can shop from an online store that allows paying upon delivery, it will solve your problem easily. And as a final tip, don’t use your work’s device to shop online – keep personal stuff on separate devices.

Work Securely During Quarantine – Final Words

Working remotely is one of they best ways to face and limit the spread of this Coronavirus pandemic. However, it doesn’t come without its own set of threats to personal information and sensitive work data.

The guide presented above includes top tips to work securely from home. Once you’re done, you’ll know exactly what to do to protect your online information while working in quarantine.

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