coronavirus

New to Teleworking? Here’s How to Secure Your Computers, Networks

NBC Universal, Inc.

While you might be enjoying the comforts of working from home, cybersecurity experts warn you shouldn't get too comfortable.

"You kind of have to turn your paranoia meter all the way to high and be extra diligent while you're working from home," said James Lee, chief operating officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center. 

Many companies have spent the past few weeks scrambling to transition the majority of their employees to telework while at the same time ensuring corporate information is protected as it travels over home computers and Wi-Fi networks.

"The bad guys know we're all working from home, too," said Lee. "So they're working overtime to try to defeat whatever security that companies and individuals have put in place."

Lee said most companies have employees log in remotely through something called a VPN, or virtual private network.

"But those VPN networks also have security flaws, so it's very important that companies update that," Lee said.

He says as an employee, you have responsibilities too and your personal cybersecurity habits are now more important than ever.

He says one easy thing to do is make sure all your software is up to date. More recent versions or programs often contain security patches.

Another easy vulnerability to fix: Make sure you are using passwords you selected. Never use the ones that come with a device.

"If you've never updated your router password, that's a weak point. Somebody can get in and get your information, and they can get into your company's network," Lee said.

He said a weak Wi-Fi password, or none at all, puts companies in greater danger.

Teleworkers should also make sure to use separate passwords for their personal computer and their work accounts. Even if it seems efficient, never use the same password for both systems.

"Let's just say most everybody does it at some point, and that's very dangerous both for you personally and for your company," said Lee. "If the bad guys get a hold of your personal email and your personal passwords, they then try to get into company networks using that information."

It's also more important than ever not to click on things you don't recognize, especially when all of your systems are linked together.

"Phishing is more than email these days. It's websites and social media posts, it's texts," said Lee, adding that hackers know everyone is anxious right now and could try to capitalize on that with the promise of products or services to help keep you safe. He says be skeptical and consult your company before trying anything new.

And maybe you've noticed your systems run slower in the morning or freeze up altogether?

Internet providers have said there's plenty of bandwidth; the problem is everybody trying to log in all at once.

"To lessen your frustration, if you can space those things out, don't start every conference call at the top of the hour," said Lee.

Lee said companies have had to move very quickly to get everyone up and running at home, so there may be errors or security gaps they haven't even realized yet.

He said it's best to contact your IT department immediately if you notice anything strange and accept that you bear a significant responsibility for your own cybersecurity.

"This is the time when people are realizing their personal actions can make their company safe, their families safe, themselves safe," Lee said.

Reported by Jodie Fleischer, produced by Rick Yarborough, and shot and edited by Steve Jones.

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