Why cybersecurity is crucial while working from home

Posted at 8:41 AM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 09:41:26-04

Americans around the country are being instructed to work from home during the worldwide, COVID-19 pandemic.

Jonathan Arnold, an IT instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College, said failing to take some basic precautions while working from home could leave you and your employer vulnerable to a hack.

For starters, Arnold recommended avoiding using any of your personal storage devices, like flash drives or hard drives, to move files on and off of your work computer.

"That's how malware can sometimes spread," Arnold said.

He said malware, stored in previous photos, music or other files you've previously downloaded from the internet, can stay inactive or dormant on a flash drive until it finds a new, uncompromised network it can spread over to.

So Arnold said it's best to use services like Drop Box or Google Drive when moving any files from a personal device to a work computer.

He also said it's important to make sure any websites you're visiting with your work computer are secure.

"You'll see a little padlock icon up in the address bar, and you'll notice the website URL starts with "https," which means it's secure," Arnold said.

Arnold said another simple way to protect yourself is to make sure your home WiFi network requires a secure, strong password to connect.

Leaving your personal internet unsecured while working from home makes it easy for hackers to enter the network and steal information from you and/or your employer.

"Think of these like the signals of a TV, or a radio," Arnold said. "Those signals are out in the open, and you can just intercept them if you have a device capable of receiving them. So we want to make sure those signals are encrypted with a strong encryption and a strong password."

"You'll have to look up how to do it, but you'll also want to go inside your router itself and change the administrator password to something that's not the default password, because a lot of routers that get compromised, it's because they leave the default administrator password that the factory puts on," he added.

While all the precautions Arnold mentioned are relatively simple, he said they could save you - and your employer - a serious headache.

"If a cybercriminal gets into a company's network, that person can copy any number of personal, sensitive pieces of information or data, and they can use that to extort or blackmail you," Arnold said.

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