Online safety for remote workers

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Health Assured team

21 January 2021

Many, if not most office workers have been shifted into remote working at some point over the past year. Excluding key workers, the advice has often been ‘work from home if you can.’ 

While many workers can, there’s a bit of a dearth on the how. Especially when it comes to security and safety online. Not everyone is familiar with shifting all their workload over to emails, the cloud, and a VPN—and as a result, business-critical systems can be a little more vulnerable. 

But staying safe isn’t too difficult—with a little care, your home workers can be just as secure as they ever were. 

Keep passwords secret 

You should keep your work passwords just as secret as the passwords to your personal email—or even your bank details. 

Your work account is valuable to bad actors. Data is bought and sold for impressive sums online—and however uninteresting you might think your work emails are, to some they can be a goldmine. 

Don’t write your passwords down. Think about using a password locker—these are apps which store all your passwords in one, safely encrypted archive, with a ‘master password’ unlocking them all for you to use. 

They’re available for smartphones, web browsers, and your computer’s operating system. They even offer password generation functionality—they’ll think of a password virtually impossible to guess. 

Remember, there are a few good practice rules for passwords: 

  • Never re-use the same password. Make sure every password for every app and site is different 
  • Don’t use personal information, like birthdays or family names, in your passwords 
  • Never share a password with anyone 

Make sure security is up to date 

If you’ve supplied equipment for people to use, it’s vital that it’s kept up to date. Communicate to people that updates to software aren’t a minor annoyance to be deferred, but a critical part of remote working. The few minutes you might lose by letting a piece of software run checks and updates is more than worth it. 

Be cautious online  

Especially when using work equipment! Cyberattacks can be subtle to the point of invisibility. Phishing emails, malware, man-in-the-middle attacks and fraudulent websites can catch out even the most IT-savvy people—unless you take care. 

It’s vital for staff to not only be able to spot a phishing email, but to also know what information they shouldn’t send via email. 

Communication is key—raise awareness about email best practice, and put in place policies about the kinds of conversation that should be kept away from the inbox. 

Use a VPN  

An easy way to keep sensitive data private and secure for remote workers is with a VPN, or virtual private network. VPNs encrypt data, meaning any malicious outsiders can’t see what’s being sent to and from your company. 

VPNs are also necessary for securely accessing on-site equipment, such as shared drives. Any business, with any remote workers at all, really should be using these—they’re one of the most important tools in IT security today. 

Enable 2-factor authentication on your devices 

Explored the password lockers we mentioned earlier? Good. Now it’s time to take it up another notch. 

2-factor authentication (2FA) is a great way to ensure security when it comes to logging in to equipment, accounts or emails. It’s another layer—effectively, like adding another lock to a door. Ever received a text to your phone giving you a second passcode to log in to your social media? That’s 2FA. 

It relies on external equipment—usually a user’s phone, or a hardware solution like the YubikeyIt can be as simple as an SMS message, or as complex as a full biometric scan, depending on the industry and the security required. But a message is more than enough for most remote workers! 

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