A Quick and Dirty Guide To Home Office Cybersecurity

Your data deserves to be protected — even at home.

John Teehan
Jan 18 · 6 min read
Photo by Standsome Worklifestyle on Unsplash

If you thought cybersecurity was a concern only in businesses and governments, you’d be wrong. Your home network can be just as tempting a target as any office, and with more people working from home these days, cybercrime continues to be a growing concern.

With so many poorly protected home networks conducting business — oft-times with sensitive business data — there has never been a greater need for awareness of security risks and how to counter them.

Why is your home office such an attractive target?

To begin with, there is a lot of exploitable tech already in place. Nearly everyone owns a cell phone these days, and around 75% of people have laptops or desktop computers at home. When you take into account tablet devices, that number goes up considerably. Of all those networked devices sitting in private homes, very few have any serious cybersecurity measures installed. Whether the reasons are lack of budget or time, many people leave their home networks wide open for attack.

It doesn’t have to be that way

There are a good number of actions you can take to make your home office more secure, protect your data, and save you a lot of grief.

Strong passwords are crucial. If you’re creating smart passwords, you’re leaving yourself open for all manner of attack.

  • Use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Don’t group numbers or special characters at the very beginning or end of a password.
  • Avoid using names — even the names of pets.
  • Do not share your password with others.
  • If you must write down your passwords, keep the paper in a secure location.
  • Do not use the same password across multiple services.

These simple tips will go a long way toward keeping your network safe from unfriendly eyes.

Photo by Cookie the Pom on Unsplash

If your workplace lays out a remote work policy, take that policy seriously. Besides general cybersecurity concerns, your business may regulatory compliance issues — particularly if you work in healthcare or finance fields. Failure to follow remote security policies — especially if they result in a data breach — could mean your business facing severe fines and loss of business, and you losing your job and possibly criminal negligence charges.

Before clicking on any incoming links, preview them by hovering your mouse arrow over them to examine where the link intends to send you. Does it seem like a legitimate site? Are there odd misspellings or unusual domain locations showing up?

Don’t click that link. Bad, bad things will happen.

Regard emails or text messages with generic language or filenames as suspicion. If you’re not sure about the source of an email or text but think it might come from a legitimate source, verify by phone or in-person if possible.

To reduce the potential for attacks on your network, delete or block any applications or services that aren’t necessary for you to do your work. This will lower the risk of a piece of software with security vulnerabilities being exploited by cybercriminals.

Use caution when downloading applications or mobile device apps unless you are confident they are secure and necessary for your work. Consult your company’s remote cybersecurity policies, if available, to make sure you’re in compliance.

An hour or two researching and installing the latest antivirus and anti-malware software on the market may save you days and weeks of trouble should your home network get attacked. A chore handled now means not having to deal with damaged or stolen data. While you’re at it, set up the latest firewalls on all your devices. Make sure that your online traffic is operating the way it’s supposed to be.

Photo by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

Tech developers continuously work at making improvements, fixing vulnerabilities, and closing security holes on your devices and software. As soon as you receive a notification that an update or patch is available, try to apply that update or patch as soon as you conveniently can.

If your software or device does not send automatic notifications, schedule time at the beginning of each week to scan the latest news regarding cyber threats and see how vulnerable you may be. Then take steps to protect yourself based on that news.

Common advice to social media users is not to broadcast information on vacation plans or expensive purchases. This is because you can’t always be sure who is noticing this information and who may decide breaking into your place might be an enticing idea. Likewise, you shouldn’t share too much information on how you’re spending your day at home. It’s really no one’s business but your company’s as to what you’re doing at home, and they’d much prefer you keep it to yourself.

This is especially true if you work with sensitive information or a business with regulatory compliance policies.

Look over the user permissions on all your devices and adjust as necessary. Permit access only to those individuals who need to be tied to your network. Remember to change the default passwords for devices and smart appliances that connect to your home network. In fact, it would be a good idea to change those passwords every few months. One rising cybersecurity threat has been data breaches via IoT smart devices — including such innocent items as refrigerators and thermostats.

Ensuring you’ve created secure copies of your data is more about common sense than just about security. Back up all vital information regularly — weekly at a minimum. A daily backup plan is better. Some businesses even program automated backup routines several times a day. This leads to less downtime should you find yourself the victim of a ransomware attack or destructive computer virus. Having adequate backup files on hand will save you a lot of time and trouble.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

When life returns more to normal…

While the purpose of this article is how to guard your data while working from home, things will eventually return to a semblance of normalcy, and you may find yourself working on-site once more rather than at home. What’s more, you’ll be able to roam free and even work in coffee shops again if that’s your thing. Try not to get too comfortable when this happens. Consider these simple precautions as well.

  • Avoid using public WiFi. See if you can set yourself up with a VPN.
  • Don’t leave papers with passwords written on them out in the open.
  • When not home, keep your doors locked and your computers physically secure. Keep laptops and tablets in drawers and not visible through any windows.
  • Don’t insert strange, found, or otherwise-suspicious thumb drives into your computer.

Guarding your data

Even after nearly a year, working from home is still fresh territory for a lot of people. Cybercriminals know this and are eager to take advantage of the situation. You can stay ahead of these threats by taking simple, straightforward steps and make working from home as safe as working at a secure facility or high-tech office.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to share more with you via my Bi-Weekly Word Roundup newsletter sent to subscribers every other Sunday. It will feature news, productivity tips, life hacks, and links to top stories making the rounds on the Internet. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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John Teehan

Written by

Writer specializing in tech, business, parenting, pop culture, and gaming. Visit wordsbyjohn.net for more info and rates. Twitter: @WordsByJohn2

Technology Hits

Important, high-impact, informative, and engaging stories on all aspects of technology.

John Teehan

Written by

Writer specializing in tech, business, parenting, pop culture, and gaming. Visit wordsbyjohn.net for more info and rates. Twitter: @WordsByJohn2

Technology Hits

Important, high-impact, informative, and engaging stories on all aspects of technology.

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