Even as many companies reopen offices to employees, surveys show remote work is likely here to stay, at least part of the time. It’s important to understand that working from home adds responsibilities for employees to secure the data flowing through their home information networks.
Nearly 1 in 4 Americans employed in February 2021 worked at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. High-speed internet access, collaborative software and video conferencing have made it easier to keep work teams productive from far-flung locations.
Criminals are taking advantage of this change. According to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report, criminals are targeting businesses and individuals with a variety of scams. As a result, remote workers must secure not only their own personal data, financial transactions and social networking, but their employer’s business information as well.
Should you find yourself in this position, these six tips may help secure your home network:
- Enable Encryption – Most wireless routers have encryption disabled by default. Contact the company that manufactures your router to verify your settings – this information is likely available on the company’s website. There are several wireless encryption options, but WPA2 provides the best security if used with a long password.
- Change the SSID name – The Service Set Identifier (or SSID) refers to the name of your wireless connection, or what you see when the “Available Wireless Connections” list pops up on your device or computer screen. Give your network a unique name that is not identifiable to you. Some devices generate unique names by default, but don’t use your last name, street address or any other name that could give away its identity and location.
- Change the password – Your wireless router will come with a default password from the manufacturer. As soon as you can, change your router password and make sure that it meets the specifications of a strong password:
- Choose 12 characters, minimum: You need to choose a password that’s long enough. You won’t need to enter your password again once you add it, so make it as long and complex as possible.
- Include numbers, symbols, capital letters and lowercase letters: Using a mix of different types of characters makes the password harder to crack.
- Example of a weak password: Susie1
- Example of a strong, easy-to-read password: OurGreAtHom3Network!
- Example of a strong, hex-based password: Ac67a61Cd61bB3712A73feCCd13A0
- Use security software – Check whether the router interfaces with a mobile app (for example, the voice-activated Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, etc.) If so, it may have an open port to the internet for administration. If it does, make sure the vendor bundles some security software with the hardware. Newer devices from security companies may include built-in software offered either perpetually or on a subscription basis.
- Consider using a VPN – A Virtual Private Network provides a secure way to transfer sensitive material such as financial data, proprietary documents or medical data. If your employer provides an enterprise VPN, it may be incompatible with a home VPN. Consult with your company’s information technology specialists to assure compatibility.
- Protect your computer – The FBI’s Simple Steps for Internet Security advise that you keep your firewall turned on, make sure your antivirus and antispyware software is up to date and assure that your operating system is current.
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.