Cybersecurity more important than ever as more work from home

Posted on Apr 30, 2020 :: Feature
Posted by , Insight on Technology Staff Writer

It would be a huge understatement to say life has changed dramatically since the February issue of Insight on Technology. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to change the way we do business ­— whether that means temporary closures or switching to a model where everyone works from home.

For those working at home, technology has played a vital role in keeping employees and their employers connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. While surveys show that 43 percent of Americans work from home whether occasionally or regularly, the COVID-19 pandemic has more people than ever taking care of business while at their dining room table, in the corner of a bedroom or some other location inside their home. This has led to a new IT issue: keeping employers’ data safe from cybercriminals while employees work from home.

“The collaborative technology we have now is a game changer,” says Tom Wojcinski, director of Wipfli LLP’s risk advisory services practice. “It allows people to work together even when they are physically apart.”

That technology, however, opens the door to malicious actors who may want to find a way into a company’s network to commit cybercrimes. “When your employees are working from home and using their own computer, the risk of a cyber intrusion increases,” Wojcinski says.

He adds it’s vital employees bring home the cybersecurity practices they use while in the office, including using unique passwords for different sites, updating all software to make sure the latest available version is running with all of the correct patches, and practicing good cyber hygiene, which includes not opening suspicious emails or attachments.

Employers also need to do their part to keep their data safe while their workers are offsite, Wojcinski says.

“Businesses need to take the lead in providing a VPN (virtual private network) for their workers to use. It’s the best way to keep information and data safe,” he says. “Employers need to remember most employees are using their home PCs for work, so it’s good to ensure they have updated anti-virus systems in place and keep their operating systems updated.”

With passwords, Wojcinski recommends trying to use three unrelated words that are at least 12 characters long. And never use the same password for more than one site. “I can’t say that enough,” he says, adding businesses should use multifactor authentication methods when possible.

With more employees working offsite, video meetings have become more popular, whether people turn to Skype, Zoom or Google Hangouts. Zoom, especially, has some security concerns since the connections are not as secure as advertised.

He adds users should blur their backgrounds or put in a fake background. “That protects your personal privacy and doesn’t allow someone to determine where you are by the background. That’s especially true if someone crashes the meeting,” Wojcinski says.

If businesses were not prepared for employees to work securely from home before the COVID-19 virus, “you were definitely back on your heels to get something up,” Wojcinski says. “Once we are through this, I think there will be a lot of postmortem on what went well, what didn’t and how it can be made better because the odds of people being forced to work from home again are high.”

While I don’t mind working from home — I did as a freelancer for 13 years — I will say video meetings are not my favorite, especially since one of my cats tends to make an appearance. It will be interesting to see if the COVID-19 pandemic leads to more people working from home.

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