Chinenye Anuforo [email protected]
With millions of people around the world under orders to stay home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, many more people are now working in their personal space, sometimes on their personal computers or phones. That makes a much wider target for hackers, cybersecurity experts say.
At home, it’s less likely you are protected by the corporate software that can scan every link you click and file you download for signs of danger. Additionally, your brain might be occupied with worries over the spread of a disease that’s threatening to overwhelm health care systems around the country, and by all the logistical problems that staying inside present.
There are simple steps you can take to limit the risk
Cybersecurity firms say it appears hackers have become more active lately. Researchers at Zscaler say since January, they’ve seen a 15% to 20% increase each month in overall hacking incidents and an increase in hacking threats that use terms like “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” to trick users into handing over sensitive information or installing malicious software. While Microsoft said in a blog post that the overall volume of attacks that reference the pandemic is “very small,” the company said it’s still a good time to protect yourself from hackers.
Limiting hacks could help prevent headaches at work, and it could also stop hackers from stealing data that your company is holding on to. And since your personal and professional life are all mixed up at the moment, you can stop yourself from handing over your own sensitive information to hackers at the same time. Here’s what you can do to work from home more safely.
Update your software
Because you are not in your office, your company could have a harder time keeping your software updated automatically. And you might not realize it, but professionals whose job it is to stop hackers say that keeping your software up to date is one of the most important things you can do.
When software companies release updates that fix security flaws, they’re essentially handing hackers a key that helps them access devices running the older version of the software. If you update your software, you’re changing the locks, and it’ll be a lot harder for hackers to get in.
It’s not just the applications running on your phone or laptop that need updating. You can also make sure the operating systems on your devices are up to date. Even routers need to be secured, though router makers often install these updates automatically.
Use two-factor authentication
If hackers do manage to infiltrate your system, they might be able to steal your usernames and passwords. That sounds scary, but there’s something you can do to make that information much less useful for hackers. It’s called two-factor authentication, and it requires you to enter a onetime code or use a hardware token to finish logging in after you enter your login credentials.
When you hwave this feature enabled, stealing your password isn’t enough for a hacker to log in to your personal bank account — or your company’s payroll system. It’s an extra step, but it’s one of the most effective ways to stop hackers. The security settings in Microsoft and Google cloud services used by many small businesses let you turn on two-factor authentication and review other options for keeping your accounts secure.
Avoid phishing scams
Just like you need to be on the alert for scams and bogus information about COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, you should keep your guard up against suspicious messages that could come from hackers and scammers.
According to Microsoft, 91% of hacking attacks begin with a malicious email, in what’s called a phishing attack. The emails can take all forms.