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Things to consider while working from home due to COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak

April 13, 2020

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Recently, almost all organizations around the world sent hundreds of thousands of its employees to work from their home in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

However, working from home comes with a unique challenge of safety of information because remote work environments don’t usually have the same safeguards as in the office. When an employee is at the office, they are working behind layers of preventive security controls and it is harder to make a security mistake while at the office. However, when computers leave the perimeter and people work from their home, new risks arise for the company resulting in the need of additional security policies.

Here are some of the tips for you while working from home

Avoid public Wi-Fi; if necessary, use personal hotspots or encrypt your web connection.

Public Wi-Fi introduces significant security risk and should be avoided if possible. If you need to access the internet from a public Wi-Fi location, you have two essential problems to solve. First, other people have access to that network and, without a firewall between you and them, threat actors can pound away at your computer from across the room. Second, any interested observers can monitor your traffic as it goes by. It is important to find a way to protect your PC and encrypt your traffic.

If you work at an organization with an efficient IT team, they may be installing regular updates, running antivirus scans, blocking malicious sites, etc., and these activities may be transparent to you. There is a good chance you have not followed the same protocols with your personal computer which are mandatory at work.

Furthermore, your company can likely afford higher end technical controls that you personally cannot. Without those running in the background, your personal computer is not safe for work because it could be compromised by a third party. Essentially, by introducing a personal computer to a work network, even remotely, you’ve put the company networks at risk, and yourself at risk, accepting the potential liability of extensive corporate damages through violations of policy, practices or both.

There is one way to make using your personal computer less risky. If your employer gives you access to a portal or remote access environment, you could work online and avoid downloading or synching files or emails to a personal device.

Encrypt Sensitive Data in Emails and on your Device.

Sending emails with sensitive data is always a risk. It could be intercepted or seen by a third party. If you encrypt the data attached to an email, it will prevent an unintended recipient from viewing the information. Also, be sure your device is set to have all stored data encrypted in the case of theft.

Use Encrypted Messaging Service for Conversations

While working from home, communications are obvious between you and your co-workers. Make sure you are using an end-to-end encrypted messaging service for all your communications with your staff / colleagues.

There are a few popular encrypted messaging apps available out there but they are not as secured as Signal Private Messenger. It uses standard cellular telephone numbers as identifiers and uses end-to-end encryption to secure all communications to other Signal users. The apps include mechanisms by which users can independently verify the identity of their contacts and the integrity of the data channel.

Signal allows users to make voice and video calls to other Signal users on iOS and Android. All calls are made over a Wi-Fi or data connection and (with the exception of data fees) are free of charge, including long distance and international. Signal also allows users to send text messages, files, voice notes, pictures, GIFs, and video messages over a Wi-Fi or data connection to other Signal users on iOS, Android and a desktop app. The app also supports  end-to-end encrypted group messaging.

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