The U.S. is on track to break the single-year data breach record in 2021, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). That’s not even the whole story. For every high-profile data breach you hear about in the news, dozens of lower-profile attacks occur. These smaller breaches might not compromise millions of records at a time, but they’re still devastating for the people and companies they impact.
Data vulnerability is an even bigger concern now that many of us are working remotely part- or full-time. Your average home WiFi network isn’t equipped with business-grade security features capable of thwarting determined attackers. If you’re transmitting sensitive company data from your home office, you need to do more to keep it safe from prying eyes.
1: Use a Secure Home WiFi Network
The best way to protect your company data when you work from home may be to change up your home WiFi network.
Consider swapping your off-the-shelf router (or your cable company’s router) for a network that delivers responsive, AI-based WiFi security around the clock. A smart WiFi network proactively adjusts to threats as they arise, adding extra layers of protection that complement everything else you should be doing to keep your company data safe.
2: Don’t Reuse Passwords, Ever
As far as what else you should be doing to keep your company data safe? This one is absolutely vital. It might as well be the golden rule of password hygiene.
Never reuse passwords. Ever. Especially not for work accounts.
Don’t stop there. Your unique passwords should be impossible for a human to guess, no matter how long they keep at it. They should be random strings of letters, numbers, and characters that make no sense to you or anyone else — not your spouse’s or pet’s name followed by a single number and special character.
3: Change Your Passwords Frequently
Change your passwords often. At least once a month is good; once a week is better. Use a secure password manager if you have trouble remembering them all, or write them down by hand and keep them in a secure location (not your wallet or car). And if a particular account prompts you to change your password, do it right away to avoid putting your data at risk.
4: Use Two-Factor Authentication for Any Business Accounts
Strong passwords are important, but they still represent a single point of vulnerability. If an attacker knows your password and doesn’t need any other information or verification to access your account, they’re in.
Keep that from happening by activating two-factor authentication on any account that allows it. Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, adds another security step before or after you enter your password. You might have to enter a unique code sent to your email or phone, scan your fingerprint, or enter a second security phrase. Unless they have access to your phone, email, or fingerprint (eek!), a would-be hacker can’t complete the challenge.
5: Use a Virtual Private Network to Connect to the Internet
A reliable virtual private network (VPN) masks your IP address when you surf the Internet. It can also make it more difficult (though not impossible) for certain types of attacks to exploit your device. While it’s not the magic bullet that some would have you believe, there’s little harm in using a VPN to connect to the Internet when you work at home or anywhere else with questionable WiFi security.
6: Whitelist Trusted Websites
If you really want to protect yourself from Web-based threats, make sure you can’t connect to any websites your computer doesn’t trust.
To do this, you’ll need to “whitelist” specific websites through your computer firewall or browser (or both). This significantly limits your ability to surf the Internet freely, so if your job involves research or otherwise requires you to visit lots of different websites for the first time, you might want to think twice.
However, if your work mainly takes you to a few websites or you mostly use app suites like GSuite and Microsoft 365, this is a great strategy.
7: Never Open Email Attachments From People You Don’t Know
You probably know this one already, but it bears repeating. Malicious attachments remain a major source of malware, including scripts capable of reading and stealing the company data you transmit online. When in doubt, delete suspicious emails. And if you think a trusted contact has been hacked, contact them by phone or some other means (not email) to confirm.
8: Keep Your Anti-Malware Software Up to Date
Finally, keep your anti-malware software up to date. Apply patches as soon as they come online. Run full-system scans often, at least once per week. And if you use your home network for work, don’t allow random visitors to connect to it, even if you trust them. You don’t know what sort of malicious programs live on their phones.
Is Your Company Data Safe on Your Home Network?
Your home WiFi network is just fine for everyday personal activities: streaming, social media, product research, whatever. But as we’ve seen, it’s not adequate to protect sensitive company data when you’re working from home.
Fortunately, you have plenty of tools at your disposal to secure your home WiFi network and the data you transmit on it. If you can follow these eight best practices, you’ll be in much better shape than most at-home workers. That’s good news for your employer and your livelihood.