How to protect your cyber security when working from home

Living Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 08 May 2020

Nine ways to stay cyber safe when in the home office. 

While you’re working from home, so too are cyber criminals who prey on remote workers who may not have an IT hotline to help protect their internet networks and devices.

The federal government’s Australian Cyber Security Centre recommends nine ways to help you stay cyber safe when in the home office. 

Computer on desk at home


Nine ways to stay cyber safe when working from home


Passwords

Forget them. Instead use ‘passphrases’ – sentences or phrases with punctuation, making it difficult for cyber criminals to crack. For example, “I don’t like pineapple on my pizza!”, is long and complex with an apostrophe, exclamation mark and spaces. 

Make up your own unique phrase that you can easily remember. Don’t use song lyrics or popular phrases. Use a different passphrase for each website or app – if you use the same for multiple accounts it puts all of them at risk if one is hacked.

Multi-factor authentication

One of the most effective ways to prevent unauthorised access to computers, apps and online services is using multiple pieces of evidence or ‘factors’ to authenticate who you are.

This can include something only you know, such as a passphrase, PIN or answer to a secret question; something only you have in your possession like a security key; or something you inherently have such as a fingerprint. Criminals may be able to steal a PIN but not your fingerprint to use biometric-identification-enabled devices.

The Cyber Security Centre has a step-by-step guide to using multi-factor authentication.

Update your software and operating systems

Software and operating systems are frequently updated with new security measures to deal with the latest cyber threats. So be sure to turn on automatic updates on your devices to stay protected.  

Use trusted wifi

Use only trusted wifi connections, such as your home internet or mobile internet service from your telecommunications provider. Steer clear of free wifi. Cyber criminals set up legitimate-looking free wifi hotspots via which they can steal your banking details, account passwords, and other valuable information.

Secure your devices when not in use

Never leave your computer, tablet or other device unlocked or unattended, even for a short time. If you share your computer or devices with household members, ensure each one has a separate profile so that each person logs in with a unique username and passphrase. Never allow anyone else to use your work profile.

Use trusted sources

Criminals use trending topics to spread disinformation or scam people by impersonating, cloning or creating websites to look genuine, or producing and sharing false information on social media. Use only trusted and verified information from government and research institutions’ websites. 

Transfer data safely

Avoid using portable storage devices such as USB drives which can be lost and if used improperly can harm your computer systems with malware.Transfer files in more secure ways, such as via your organisation's cloud storage or collaboration solutions. If using USBs and external drives, ensure they are protected with encryption and passphrases.

Use a Virtual Private Network

Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections connect portable devices and remote workers to a work network and secure your web browsing. If your employer specifies you must use a VPN on work devices, you should familiarise yourself with your organisation’s VPN requirements, policies and procedures.

Be aware of potential scams

The COVID-19 crisis has seen a rise in online scams, with cyber criminals attempting to trick people out of money, data and access to their computer systems. Be wary of opening messages, attachments, or clicking on links from unknown senders. Even if they appear legitimate, confirm their identity, perhaps through a phone call, before acting.