cyber smart at home

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted millions of Americans and forced businesses of all shapes and sizes embrace a work-from-home policy. This was a concept that most people had little to no experience with at the time. Now, after over two years of the “new normal,” many employees have returned to the office. However, a recent study found that 72% of workers surveyed would like to continue working from home at least two days a week. 32% said they would like to work from home permanently. In this new reality, keeping your household secure from cyber threats needs to be a top priority. We’re going to teach you how to be cyber smart at home in just three easy steps!

This new era poses new challenges for organizations that lack the processes and technologies required to secure a remote workforce. Furthermore, it puts an even greater burden on families who must quickly adapt to working and learning from home safely. Technology alone cannot protect an organization from today’s cyber risks, and security is now every individual’s responsibility. 

With technology leading a lot of our daily interactions both personally and professionally, there are three steps you should take to be cyber smart at home and better protect yourself against cyber-attacks.

1. Secure your digital devices.

Technology is all around us, and it’s become increasingly personalized and individualized. Rather than set up desktop/laptop computers, many are moving in the direction of tablets, smartphones, smart-TV’s and gaming consoles. More people are starting to interact with devices like the Amazon Echo Dot or other Alexa/Siri type devices. By and large, the average home is demonstrating frequent interaction with technology on a variety of devices in the home.

Most of these devices rely on wireless technology to get connected to the Internet. Therefore, our first important security step for being cyber smart at home is securing the wireless router. Using a wireless router is increasingly becoming the norm for most homes, allowing families to connect multiple devices to the internet. However, unless your wireless device is secure, you are at risk of cyber criminals taking advantage of you.

These are the simplest ways to secure your wireless device:

  • Update your wireless devices regularly.
  • Change the default settings, like password and network name.
  • Turn off network name broadcasting.
  • Turn on filtering capabilities that limit exposure to websites that steal personal information.
  • Turn on Wi-Fi network encryption options like WPA2 or WPA3.
  • Add layers of protection like a VPN to add both security and privacy for your family.
  • Add a home guest network for friends and family.
  • Turn off your Wi-Fi network when you leave home.

2. Browse the web securely.

The Internet is an excellent place to conduct business, research information, or seek entertainment. It can also be a dangerous place for those who are careless or unaware. As you send emails, interact on social media, or use cloud services, you must learn how to protect yourself.

People think of web browsing as “going” to a web page, but what they’re doing is “getting” the web page and bringing it to their computers. The often-seamless process of finding and transferring a web page involves a lot of bidirectional communication between several systems. Safe web browsing encompasses doing safe things on the web and handling the mandatory communications safely.

When was the last time you checked to see if your web browser was updated? You can do that here.

Most browsers have security features that are enabled by default to help minimize security risks. Well-known, professional browsers have teams of developers that are always watching out for and patching vulnerabilities in their products. However, browsers will not stop all attacks. The biggest risk comes from users clicking things that may seem harmless but are malicious in nature. You can add browser extensions like Privacy Badger and Cookie AutoDelete to help maintain a more secure and private browsing session. Make sure to be on the lookout for suspicious websites that have similar names or misspellings like yahooo.com or citi-bank.com. This is a tell-tale sign of a fake website built to seem legitimate in order to deceive people and try to steal personal information.

These are the simplest ways to safely browse online:

  • Use a current and updated web browser.
  • If you’re using a mobile device, use the link preview feature to see the website before you click on it.
  • Hover your mouse over a link before you click it to see the real website address.
  • Utilize websites like PhishTank or VirusTotal to check the website before visiting.
  • Utilize security and privacy extensions like uBlock Origin or Privacy Badger to secure yourself when browsing.
  • Be vigilant in checking that the websites you use to input sensitive data are using HTTPS as a protocol.
  • Avoid websites that are reported to have an issue viewing the website.
  • Utilize privacy-based Internet search engines like Duck Duck Go or Start Page.

3. Back up all household data.

In today’s digital world, most of us trust our most important documents, photos, and movies to hard drives that don’t last forever. We want to make sure our digital data is always available, no matter when or where it’s needed. Just as vital is a solution that can protect our most valuable digital assets and store them safely and securely. We need a backup plan that can insure our digital assets against unforeseen events and allow us the capability to restore files after an attack.

These are the simplest ways to back up your data safely:

  • Follow the 3-2-1 rule with backups (3 different backups, 2 different backup types (e.g., cloud and hard drive), and 1 stored offline).
  • Schedule regular backups.
  • Store offline backups in a safe place (climate controlled and locked up).
  • Consider encrypted cloud backups.
  • Perform regular restores of the digital backups.
  • Don’t forget to backup all digital devices.

There are many ways to back up your data, but none of them are foolproof. Ideally, you should have multiple backup plans in place to fully secure your work. Options like external USB drives to cloud storage are good for storing or transferring digitally stored information, but they aren’t great for every situation. 

Centralize NAS devices can be a strong part of backup plan and strategy, whereas using a cloud storage service like Microsoft OneDrive can help you keep a copy of all your information in a remote location. Used together, these strategies can help keep your data safe and secure from any form of incident.

This makes sense not only in case your personal device is stolen or your hard drive fails, but it also gives you more options for recovery should your computer become infected with ransomware or become a victim of natural disaster. Today, there are plenty of options available for people looking to back up their data. The most important thing is executing backups on a regular basis and making sure those backups are secured through data encryption and available when needed.

In a Nutshell

The work-from-home movement has changed how we do life in this digital age.  Attackers are constantly looking for ways to compromise your personal information and get your digital data. For that reason, it is important for you to be cyber smart at home. Perform these best practices to reduce risks and increase your chance of staying safe and secure in the online world at home.

Taking simple, proactive steps to stay safe from cyber criminals inside your household should no longer be viewed as optional, but rather a necessity. Between digital devices being introduced and updated at a rapid pace and employees continuing to embrace working from home in some capacity, we are all responsible for actively minimizing the risk of breaches and attacks inside our homes. The key is ensuring all of us are working together to strengthen our own security posture.