Keep hackers and scammers out while you work from home
As COVID-19 takes the world by storm, employers and institutions are urging their workers to stay home. Social distance has proven to reduce the number of infections. In the era of Slack, FaceTime and G-Suite, telecommuting is a viable alternative.
Working from home takes preparation. I put together a comprehensive how-to WFH article that also covers the kids staying home from school. Tap or click here for ways to collaborate with coworkers and use free remote work tools offered by Google, Microsoft, LogMeIn and others. You’ll also find steps to turn on parental controls on Apple, Windows and Chromebooks.
The pandemic won’t stop online crime. Hackers, thieves and scammers are still out in full force. Large organizations routinely train their team members in cybersecurity tactics, and company laptops and software may have built-in firewalls, VPNs and two-factor authentication. At home, you may end up being the IT department so be on top of your game.
1. Watch out for phone calls from people you know
You probably know to verify any email and texts asking for sensitive information like passwords or user account details. Attachments and wild links can open your system up to malware, keyloggers and worse. Now, add to this watch list a very realistic voice impersonation of a company representative who you know.
Voice-spoofing is a new emerging threat. The Wall Street Journal reported an incident involving a CEO who thought he was on the phone with his boss, who urgently asked him to transfer $243,000 to a supplier. It sounded like his boss, so why would he deliberately disobey him? He didn’t, and the money vanished.
Artificial intelligence technology needs only five minutes of a person’s voice to spoof it. You don’t have to be a computer scientist to use the tools, either. Just type what you’d like the voice to say and it’s done.
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2. Check your home gear and setup
You have a router, firewall, modem and probably a few wireless access points in your home. Have you ever updated the firmware on any of it since you installed it? I didn’t think so.
Much like you need to keep your laptop or desktop’s operating system updated, you’ll want to double-check your gear, encryption, firewall and DNS settings. The good news is you can do this yourself. The bad news is it takes an hour or more. To find out how to optimize your home network to keep hackers at bay, tap or click here for the steps in my detailed guide.
Use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure your connection. A VPN is a layer of protection between your devices and the internet. It hides your IP address and your location. It also encrypts your data after it leaves your device and travels to whatever website you’re visiting.
There are many free VPNs available, but they often slow down your connection speed and collect your private data. I’ve used ExpressVPN for years because it does none of that. Tap or click here to learn more about VPNs and how they work.
Few digital targets are of higher priority than your passwords, which are typically saved in your browser. Instead of jotting your passwords down or saving them in a place where a cybercriminal can easily hack, use a password manager such as Keepass, LastPass or Roboform.
3. Watch who’s watching
If you’re logging into your work computer from home, anyone in the office can see what you are doing unless you take extra steps. Turning off your monitor is a simple solution. Otherwise, in your remote access software settings, look for options such as “Blank screen” or “Black screen.”
You probably have a piece of black tape or a post-it note on your webcam so no one can take a peek. When it’s time to have a video call, aside from removing the low-tech security measure, take an extra step.
Maybe you have a stand-up board with confidential notes behind your desk. Or perhaps you simply haven’t had time to clean up the place. Skype lets you blur the background for calls.
Hover over the video button and select Blur my background. To blur the background for all calls, click your Profile Picture, Settings, Audio & Video and toggle the switch on next to the option marked Blur my background for all calls.
One more thing
It’s also a good habit whether you’re in the office or at home to lock your screen on your laptop or desktop when you’re done or taking a break. Here’s how:
- Mac: Press the Shift, Command and Q keys at once
- Windows: Press Ctrl, Alt, Delete and select Sign out
- Chromebook: At the bottom right, select the time, then Sign out.
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.