Safety in the age of remote working

Courtesy Photo.

As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters.

As more people than ever are working remotely because of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, the cyber protection typically offered by the office computer is lacking. Hackers know this and are working overtime to access vulnerable computers. That’s why it’s important to be aware of cyber hygiene and how we can improve and safeguard our personal computers.

Working from home can present unexpected challenges, such as we saw with “Zoombombing,” when bad actors hacked into Zoom video conference meetings to cause trouble. When using telework/remote conference applications, make sure it has robust security features and that those features are enabled so that unwanted people don’t show up in your remote meetings. 

Below are tips to help you maintain computer safety. 

Strengthen your personal security:

• Always use a strong password. Hint: not the name of your pet or children. Instead, use a combination of letters upper and lower case, numbers and symbols. 

• Have anti-virus software on all devices.

• Safeguard home Wi-Fi by having the network encrypted with the WPA2 security option. Instructions on how to do this on your home network can be found online through a simple web search.

• Never use a public Wi-Fi network to complete job assignments.

• Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to further protect your home network. Some employers may even have corporate VPNs that you may use to access your company network.

• If your company has a VPN, always use it. 

• If possible, keep your personal devices separate from the devices used for remote work.

• Use Mobile Device Management software so that you can remotely wipe or delete sensitive information if the device is stolen or lost.

• Always be vigilant when working with sensitive information. Look around your workspace and block any sight lines from nearby windows or hallways.

Keep your computer and other devices up to date:

• You may be used to having your work computer updated by the office IT department, however, with your personal computer only you are responsible for keeping it up to date.

• Be sure that all your computer’s programs are up to date and that all your devices have the latest security patches.

• All other devices, like routers and tablets, should be up to date as well so that your home network can be thoroughly safeguarded from hackers.

• Encrypt removable media on your devices so that they can be protected in case the device is stolen or lost.

Use two-factor authentication:

• Two-factor authentication is when a website or app has the user enter two passwords to log in. One password may be a normal password you enter at a login screen and the second may be random number code sent to your smart phone or a fingerprint scan.

• If you have the option to use two-factor authentication, always use it.   

Avoid Phishing Scams:

• A phishing scam is when a fraudster attempts to use an email or text message to try to obtain personal or sensitive information from you.

• Be observant when you receive an unexpected email or text message. Scammers often send emails or text messages that look like they’re legitimate, even posing as a coworker or supervisor.

• If you get an email from a co-worker asking you click on a link or transfer sums of money, call the co-worker to verify before acting.

• Never click links in unsolicited emails or text messages.

• Do not give out personal identifying information in response to an unsolicited email, text message, or phone call.

• Look out for spelling mistakes, suspicious email/web addresses, and immediacy. Most phishing scams try to instill a sense of immediacy and panic to scam you into acting.

As many of us are now working from home, it’s all the more important to practice good cyber hygiene so you can be sure that your remote office is safe as your real office.

District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 29 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor.