The coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown in South Africa have forced a large number of employees and businesses into unfamiliar territory - not just navigating working remotely casually, but into a full-time working from home culture.
Cybersecurity becomes an increasingly critical issue when working from home, as an office, your information and laptops are secured through the company’s networks and Firewalls. This protection however is not full proof when you’re working from home, nor are your personal devices secured with this kind of robust security.
From online banking to hacking critical information assets, online threats have risen up to 6 times higher as a result of COVID-19 pandemic provides criminals with innovative opportunities to take advantage of the internet and the naïve user. As you’re at home, spending more time browsing you’re the internet, naturally your risk is increasing too. It seems as everywhere you browse and every site you’re visiting, your information is being shared and harvested by some other marketing company to sell you something or advertise their products – giving you the feeling that you’re being watched all the time. This isn’t far from the truth and while we’re not here to scare you and sometimes these ads are helpful as you find what you’re looking for, we’d like to share some insight into the tools and how you can ensure your business information or personal files are not breached by criminals.
Let’s talk about Antivirus Software.
Installing antivirus software helps to detect, prevent and remove malicious software from your computer. Typically, antivirus software will assist in identifying unwanted spyware and adware and remove them as well. For the most comprehensive protection, we recommend a paid for antivirus protection as there are many benefits and automated scans these kinds of software provide and will action in the background without you even realizing there was a problem. However, there are also free antivirus options out there that you can consider if your finances don’t allow, but remember you’d still be at risk of your information being breached without a proper security software protecting your information and your privacy.
Cybercriminals are constantly exploiting weaknesses in applications and operating systems. Ensure your operating system is always running the latest version as these have all the bugs fixed. Enable automatic updates to make sure your systems are safe.
The biggest change in working from home is that many users are now connecting to personal Wi- Fi routers and modems to enjoy a faster and more efficient working experience. These personal routers end up becoming security risks to your entire organization if you have not taken enough care to secure them. Your first guard of defence with having a home network connection should be to encrypt your Wi-Fi network. This means that as your router is sending and receiving information on what you do online, this information is then scrambled so that it cannot be accessible to anyone. Using an encrypted router is the best way to ensure that anyone within range of your connection cannot access information on your devices that are connected to it. If your Wi-Fi asks anyone connecting to it for a password, the connection becomes encrypted and secures whatever actions you’re taking. WPA2 is your best choice as it provides stronger data protection and network access control. Remember, wireless routers often come with the encryption feature turned off. You must turn it on.
If you are still using the default user password on your Wi-Fi router, you’re immediately vulnerable to an attack. These default passwords are a series of alphabets and number arranged in only so many ways for a specific number of characters. If a hacker knows the model of your router, they know the characters of the default password and therefore, it’s only a matter of time before they can guess the easy sequence. While cyber criminals are less likely to go door to door to pick up a router signal to breach, your neighbour may have a dodgy visitor who’s seen your nice house, and knows that your banking app may give them a little chance to score.
The rule is, change your router’s default router password as this is what it is meant for. Check your router manual for directions on how to do this and protect your network as you would your home.
If you’re extra cautious about your online activity, you can protect yourself by using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). It secures your connection and encrypts your data regardless of your network settings. When using the internet with a VPN connection, your sessions are protected despite your network settings, thus protecting information and your data that can’t be accessed by anyone you don’t want to. Note: always use a VPN connection when accessing public Wi-Fi networks as this is prime hotspot for hackers to look for their next opportunity.
The bottom line is, times are increasingly tough during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak and criminals have to become even more thrifty in their activities. Being forced to stay home, means more of our connection and information is being shared remotely though an internet connection. In addition, as we’re forced into lockdown, online transactions have also increased as we adhere to social distancing. We advise you to be alert to any potential Clickjacking (tricking you into an action that you did not intend) activities while browsing the internet and ensure you’re accessing your online banking through the apps and verifying your one-time-pin before transacting. This is our norm for now, so we have to do what is required in order to protect ourselves and our family’s information.
Stay safe and secure!