Preventing a digital home invasion

May 30, 2017

Your company keeps their information technology practices in top form, but does that protection extend to when you’re working from home? Small businesses and entrepreneurs may not have the luxury of an IT team and must maintain their own digital security. These suggestions can help you maintain a safe environment for your electronic information.

It’s likely that your employer has taken a lot of precautions in making sure company information is secure. The IT department has probably implemented firewalls, anti-virus, anti-malware, mobile device management and data encryption just to name a few. This is great if you only use computers at your office, but there’s a good chance you (and other family members) are using multiple devices within your home at well. Looks like you just became your home’s chief security officer.

There are many steps to take in making sure that your home’s digital infrastructure is secure.

Secure the devices

Make sure all internet-enabled devices have the latest operating system, security software and web browsers. Many security patches are contained in the system updates, and running periodic scans on the devices help to make sure that no unwanted files have been downloaded.

When setting up mobile devices, be sure to utilize the phone’s security features. Your phone should require a PIN entry or fingerprint swipe at a minimum. Additionally, setting up Find My iPhone or Android Device Manager will allow you to remotely erase all your personal data should your device be lost or stolen. Be sure to wipe any devices prior to recycling them as well!

Secure the network

Change the preset password on your router. Create a password that is long and strong, containing a mix of numbers, letters and symbols. Additionally, be sure to change the name of your router. The default service set identifier (SSID) was set by the manufacturer, and you should choose a name more unique to you.

Email security

While it’s easier to use the same password for multiple applications, never reuse your main email password! A hacker who has cracked your main email password can reset passwords from the other sites you visit via your mail account. A hacker can trawl through your emails and find a treasure trove of personal data like banking and tax information, all of which enables ID fraud.

Think about creating multiple email accounts to further protect your information. Since email accounts are free, consider creating one specific email for your bank and other financial accounts, another for shopping and one for social networks. If one account is hacked, you won't find everything compromised. This method also helps you spot phishing emails when a hacker pretending to be your bank sends an email to your social media email account—you’ll know immediately that it’s a fake.

Perform backups

Losing a lifetime of photos or your wedding video could be disastrous. While there’s always a risk that a hard drive will fail, there’s increasingly more risk of a malware attack or ransomware that holds your data hostage. Be sure to create an electronic copy of your files and store it in a safe place, preferably not on top of the computer. I’ve heard of instances where a fire wiped out both the computer and the backup simultaneously.

Debit and credit cards

It may seem like a hassle, but when a website asks if you want to store your credit card information on the site it’s just best to pass. Mass data security breaches are increasing, and why take the risk? The extra minute or two it takes to key in your financial information each time is a small price to pay.

As an extra layer of security, make sure that any payments you make online are done via a secure website (you should see the web address change to https//) and use a credit card versus a debit card. A credit card has built-in fraud protection under the Consumer Credit Act, with teams of security experts looking for fraudulent activity. A hacked debit card, on the other hand, can easily empty your bank account rather quickly and involves a cumbersome process to have the money refunded.

Enable two-step verification

Many email and cloud service providers are offering two-factor authentication for added security. In addition to entering your password, you are also asked to enter a verification code sent via SMS to your phone. Some providers only ask that you enter a new code every month or if you log in from a different device. While your password could become compromised, it would be impossible to access your data without your mobile phone in hand.

Educate everyone on social engineering

As always, the best technology and security can be rendered useless if a family member unknowingly downloads malware or sends sensitive information to a bogus website. Take the time to set up parental controls on your children’s devices and educate the entire family on how to be safe on the internet. After all, you’re the chief security officer of your home now.