When you are using your employer’s computer and business network, you might be extremely careful with how you handle yourself online. Many businesses maintain best practices for employees, penalizing those who navigate to off-limits websites and contract different digital diseases. If you don’t want to get in trouble with your boss, you stick to the websites you need to use to get your work done and avoid jeopardizing business property.
However, working from home is a different story. You are likely using your own devices and your own internet services, and without superiors and peers breathing down your neck, you might be more likely to wantonly explore the web. Unfortunately, doing so not only risks the safety of your device; in these days when you can’t just pop back into the office, a malfunctioning computer could very well interrupt your career.
Staying safe from malware while working from home should be a top priority, so without further ado, here are some tips and tricks for keeping your devices malware-free.
Separate Work and Fun Devices
The best strategy — not just for security but also for productivity — is to have separate devices for work and play. When you are using a device for work, you are likely performing familiar actions on software you are accustomed to using; it is unlikely that you will need to venture into unknown corners of the web or take any sort of risk with unknown emails or downloads. In contrast, when you are relaxing and enjoying your devices during your off time, you are more likely to accrue malware by navigating to dangerous sites, clicking on unsafe email attachments, wantonly downloading apps and more.
By keeping your work completely separate from your play, you are ensuring that none of the risk of your play jeopardizes your work. Plus, you get the added bonus of increased mental focus when using your dedicated work device, and you likely won’t be distracted by apps or bookmarks used only for fun. You might request a work device from your employer to use for the duration of isolation, or you might invest in an additional laptop or tablet to use for either work or play.
Install an Antivirus Tool
This should go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway: Download antivirus software! Antivirus tools from trustworthy sources like Trend Micro, Norton and McAfee are literally designed to keep your devices and data safe from malware. Ideally, every device connected to your home network should have some sort of antivirus protection, to include mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Then, if any of your devices come into contact with a dangerous program, they can neutralize the threat before it spreads to other devices and impacts your work.
Always Update Everything
As annoying as it might be to install updates every few weeks, these updates are necessary for closing security gaps that emerge over time. A common way for malware to find its way onto your devices is through outdated software; in fact, this method was used by many of the most successful malware in recent history, to include the WannaCry, NotPetya and Cerber ransomwares. Unfortunately, there is no preventing vulnerabilities from developing on your devices and in your software — but you can eliminate those vulnerabilities by downloading and installing updates for software as soon as they are available. If possible, you should set updates to download and install automatically during your off-hours, so they don’t interfere with your work.
Be Skeptical of Emails
You are probably finding yourself sending and receiving more emails than usual, trying to keep in contact with your co-workers as you all shelter in place. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are trying to capitalize on this increase in emails by releasing a deluge of spam and phishing emails designed to trick you into clicking corrupt links and attachments. These days, fake emails more often contain information about COVID-19 and links to additional resources — but not only is that information typically untrue; the links give malware access to your device.
Now more than ever, you should be skeptical of any emails you receive. You should look for signs that an email isn’t from whom it purports to be, like misspellings or grammatical mistakes, and you should avoid clicking on links or attachments, instead of entering in URLs yourself or sharing files through a secure cloud platform.
It is a good idea to work with your employer on tools and strategies that will keep you safe and productive while working from home. Developing cyber hygiene — alongside traditional hygiene — is a good way to stay safe from malware now and into the future.