The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the lives of millions and has induced a global change in how we work, play, interact, and communicate with each other. Students are attending virtual online classes, many of us are working remotely from home, and social media messaging apps have become the standard for communicating with friends and family. The pandemic has kept many of us in quarantine, and thus we have been using our computers and the internet more than ever. 

With our increased use of the internet, it is important to think about cybersecurity, and the best practices while working or studying from home. 

Start with Updating and Securing Your Devices

You are bound to find yourself searching the internet more, whether it’s for entertainment, work, or research. Not every site has top of the line security, so it’s best to make sure you have updated your device’s security settings, antivirus and configured your firewall to protect yourself. Cyber-attacks often target devices with outdated security or little to no antivirus software. Enabling automatic updates – despite how annoying they may be – is the best way to ensure you have the most recent security updates. Most computers will have this feature, along with antivirus software and a firewall automatically enabled, but there’s nothing wrong with checking to make sure. 

Network devices are also prone to attacks, even if you have a password on them. Devices like smart TVs don’t have the same security features as computers so make sure you generate a strong password with a mix of capital and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters. The same should apply to your Wi-Fi password.

Some applications will require two-factor authentication. On important websites and applications, we highly recommend enabling a two-step verification process if it is available. Either a mobile authentication or email verification is safe, but your best option will be a biometric authentication like a fingerprint or facial scan. 

Be Careful With Giving Permissions and Privacy

Every app you use will ask you for a number of permissions. Apps may be requesting access to save files to your device, access to your camera or microphone, permission to post to your social media, or have admin privileges. Before giving apps these permissions, take a second to think whether or not it makes sense for that app to need certain permissions. A drawing app, for example, does not need permission to access your microphone.

Online chat and virtual conference calls are becoming more common in the remote workplace and to keep yourself and your information safe, you should consider the following:

  • How long will chat logs be saved?
  • Will video chats be recorded?
  • Who has access to the chat/conference call?
  • Are files shared through virtual conferences scanned for malware?

In an isolated chat room, you are likely to know everyone in the chat, which can help ensure privacy inside your company and keep information confidential. If you will be connecting with new people from outside your company, be wary of links or files they are sharing. Some links may lead to a phishing website or contain a key-logger. Some people may hope you click on a link so they can get your IP address. With this, they can get information about internet service providers, your country and city, and deny your internet access. Persistent cyber attackers may go as far as contacting your ISP and try to get your personal information through them. If you will be communicating with individuals you don’t know, it is wise to have a VPN running on your device to mask your real IP address. 

When you have to share your camera, consider investing in a virtual backdrop to hide your home background. The most popular corporate video and messaging tools, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams allow you to blur or change your background. This can help you maintain your home privacy and further draw the line between work and home.

Data Sharing 

While working from home, personal and work files can often get mixed up. If you download a file to the wrong folder enough times, and it is easy to blur the line between the two. When you are not working directly on a network or server, files are bound to get saved to your personal computer. To minimize the file clutter, and the potential data leak, we recommend using resources like Google Drive, OneDrive, or SharePoint. 

Be Aware of How Attackers Are Using COVID for Phishing Scams

With more people using the internet more frequently than ever, the number of malicious attacks have also increased. Phishing attempts using URLs close to high traffic domains are popping up more often. Fake ads leading to phishing sites have increased. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Be careful of websites asking you to log in, especially if you have settings to automatically fill in your login information. 

Technical support scams have been around for decades now and they are becoming an even bigger issue. Many users do not know that Microsoft and Apple will never contact you directly about a technical issue or problem. Error messages, or pop-ups claiming to be from your internet service provider or computer manufacturer, are not to be trusted.

Awareness and good computer security practices can help keep your data safe while in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we move towards normalizing remote work, maintaining safe online habits will keep you and your information safe.

If you have any other questions about computer repair or computer security please contact us.