According to U.S. Census data, 5 percent of Americans – or about 8 million people – work from home at least part of the time, and that number is rising. With more people asking for work flexibility as a benefit, and improved internet access and other tools to boost productivity, it’s expected that the number of people working from home will increase significantly in the coming years.
Although working at home has many benefits to employers, including lower turnover and higher rates of productivity, many companies have been reluctant to implement large scale telecommuting or flexible work arrangements for one simple reason: Security. However, even without an official remote work program in place, many employees are still taking work home with them or bringing work on the road when they travel for business.
Unfortunately, the lack of formal arrangements for remote work means that many people could be putting their employers at risk, even unintentionally. Some companies have taken steps to close the security gap created by remote workers, including those who work outside the office on an as-needed basis, by developing strict policies related to device usage, network access, etc. Following those policies is of paramount importance, but if you are one of the people who only work from home occasionally and your company doesn’t have a policy in place – or even it if does and you want to be even more secure – follow these tips for working from home securely.
1. Secure Your Home Wireless Network
When you work from home, chances are you are logging on to your work accounts using your home wireless network. Unless you have your network locked down, though, it’s possible that hackers could be spying on the information you’re sending and gain access to your company’s corporate data. To secure your home wireless network, at the very minimum you need to secure the router with a password (not the password that it came with) and be sure that your router’s firmware is up-to-date. If you want to allow visitors to your home to use your network, set up a separate guest network to keep your work information separate.
Also? Avoid using public Wi-Fi when doing anything work-related. If you have to work while on the go, use a secure VPN instead.
2. Secure Your Devices
Generally speaking, it’s best to keep your work activities on your work computer, but in the real world, that’s not always possible and there may be times when you need to get something done on your home computer. If that’s the case, be sure that you have the maximum security installed on all of your devices. Your antivirus protection must be up-to-date, but also consider using tools for encryption and endpoint protection to keep your computer secure.
An alarming number of data breaches have been caused by lost or stolen computers and smartphones. However, your company data can be at risk for other reasons as well. For instance, your child may want to play a game on your company-issued tablet – and her multiple failed attempts to log in trigger a security warning and your tablet is automatically locked and wiped. Or perhaps you are on your way to a conference and putting some finishing touches on a presentation, but a competitor is reading over your shoulder in the airport waiting area and writing down what he sees. Securely working from home means more than using technological tools to protect your devices. It means also being vigilant to your surroundings, keeping a close eye on your equipment, and doing everything you can to keep the information safe from prying eyes. With this in mind, use passwords or two factor authentication and lock your devices when not in use, be mindful of sightlines when you are working in public, and restrict anyone else from using your devices.
4. Follow Best Practices
Finally, follow some simple best practices to keep your work data safe at home. Some of these are things you might do on your personal devices, but they can be risky to your employer. For example:
- Turn off sharing on your devices, to prevent anyone else on the network from seeing what’s on your device
- Change passwords regularly, and do not use the “Remember me” feature on accounts or websites. Use a secure password manager instead.
- Save data in the cloud instead of on devices.
All of these tips will go a long way toward keeping your data secure no matter where you are working and will help prevent a massive data breach that could cost your company time and money — and possibly cost you your job.