Security Tips When Working From Home

Apr 17, 2020

With so many people working from home right now, it’s more important than ever to ensure employees are extra mindful of security within their home workspace environment. Even if your firm has enforced IT policies in place for remotely connecting to office resources, employees themselves need to be vigilant to ensure their work devices are just as secure as if they were within the walls of a protected office environment.

Here are some security best practices every user should be diligent about when working from home:

Use a dedicated computer for work, versus another computer/device (such as a personal laptop or iPad) specifically for personal use. Same goes if you have kids or other family members at home with you during this time. If your kids are doing remote learning for school, make sure they aren’t using your work computer, and vice versa. Basically, treat your work devices at home the same way as if you’re in your physical office, not allowing others to use them.

Ensure your work computer being used at home receives regular operating system (OS) and anti-virus updates. Often times when there’s an OS update available, it’s due to security patches that have been released, so it’s vital to ensure you either allow your computer to automatically update or be sure to pay attention to any notifications that it shows for available updates. If the computer you’re using at home for work is company-issued, it should already be loaded with your firm’s standard anti-virus software. At Abacus, we deploy and manage SentinelOne anti-virus software across all managed machines. If you are using your own computer, even if you’re connecting to your company’s data and email via a VPN, be sure that your personal computer has anti-virus software.

Restart your computer on a regular basis (at least weekly). But, be careful which computer you restart… if you are using Remote Desktop (RDP) to connect to your computer that’s sitting in your office, be sure NOT to shut down your actual office computer. Rather, restart just the actual device you’re using at home.

Whenever you walk away from whatever computer you’re using at home for work purposes, be sure to LOCK it. Someone else in your household, unknowingly, may want to use your computer while you’ve stepped away without you realizing it, comprising your device. Basically, treat your home office setup the same as if you’re in a public place. If you have a completely separate room in your house to use as a home office, go so far as to keep the door locked when not in use, for an added level of security. You wouldn’t leave your office unsecured, so why leave your home office unsecured?

Use your company’s remote connection tools and only save documents to your company’s secured servers. Be sure you aren’t saving documents “locally” on the hard drive of your computer, both due to security as well as back-up. Your company should have a way for you to access company apps and files remotely, whether via a cloud storage option or secure remote connection to company-hosted servers, which should automatically be backed up. And these should require you enter your network password each time you try to access them, along with a standard time-out policy forcing reentry of password after a certain amount of inactivity. Whether our clients use our Abacus private cloud file server option or our public cloud file storage option via OneDrive, we provide all of our clients with remote access capabilities, depending on their particular firm’s needs and setup. We also ensure our client users have access via links to all remote access resources to connect via web in case access via a company-issue device isn’t possible. And all of the remote access resources we provide to Abacus clients are inter-connected and managed by our team, enforcing network password policies and ease-of-use with single sign-on.

Passwords. Need we say more? “Passwords are like underwear. They should be changed frequently and not be shared with others.” Your firm should have a strong password policy, in both regards to strength and change frequency. At Abacus, we have a standard password policy enforced across all of our clients. But, just because maybe your firm requires you to change your password every few months doesn’t mean you can’t opt to change it more frequently yourself. With so many people currently working from home, it’s a good idea to change your password more often than usual. And, whatever you do, DO NOT share your password with anyone in your household. Whatever devices you use for work at home, should be password protected, and it may be tempting to share your device password with someone else who wants to look something up on your computer, but would you do that in a regular office? No. So don’t do it at home.

Use two-factor authentication (2FA) when working outside the office. These days, 2FA is very simple from the user experience side. At Abacus, we provide DUO as a 2FA option for clients using our private or hybrid cloud solutions, and Microsoft 2FA for those using our public cloud solution. They’re so simple to use that there’s really no excuse for an employee to not be comfortable gaining quick access to what they need for work when 2FA is enforced.

Make sure your home Wi-Fi is password protected, with a STRONG password. There are also ways to setup a separate secure network within your house for work. Some of our clients prefer to have as seamless and secure an experience as possible when working from home, to mimic the exact experience of being in their actual office. To do this, we can provide them a hardware Meraki secure Wi-Fi access point, which we manage for them remotely, that gives them a network password protected direct access to their company’s applications and files, as if they’re sitting in their physical office. The same with phones – we can provide VPN Cisco phones to clients who want to have a secure office phone line in home office. Both the Meraki and VPN phones come with additional costs, but some firms find it well worth it for a seamless home office experience.

Now, more than ever, is also a time when every firm should ensure they have clear policies, procedures and guidelines for employees using company resources when working remotely. These written policies should include for instance how and what data certain employees can access, acceptable use of certain websites, and which applications they can or can’t download onto devices used for work.

It’s also a good time to revisit who has access to which files in a shared file environment, what devices are authorized to connect to your company network, and what software programs are being used on company devices. Tracking reports are available to our clients via our proprietary Abacus Client Portal.

No matter what a company has in place though, it’s up to each employee to do their part to ensure a home office setup is secure and treated the same as if back in the office.

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