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So you’re working from home. Here’s how to stay safe digitally

Protect your devices and your network from scam artists..
Working from home? Consider your digital security. Pictured is Dan Lafferty, a teacher with Florida Virtual School, on Jill Rogier's laptop in 2012 as she worked from home in Palm Harbor. [CHRIS URSO | STAFF]
Working from home? Consider your digital security. Pictured is Dan Lafferty, a teacher with Florida Virtual School, on Jill Rogier's laptop in 2012 as she worked from home in Palm Harbor. [CHRIS URSO | STAFF] [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Mar. 20, 2020

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If you’re one of the many employees able to work from home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, consider the health of your devices, too. Attackers may want to take advantage of the vast number of remote workers to gain access to home networks and devices, which often have fewer security measures in place than businesses do.

Update your software

One easy way to make it more difficult for attackers to compromise your accounts is by setting up two-factor authentication. Typically, you only need a password and username to access an account. Two-factor authentication requires an extra step of verification.

The extra step is often a prompt sent to a phone number you provide, a text with a code or a code from an authentication app such as Google Authenticator. This can help prevent unauthorized people from getting in, as they would need physical access to the second device where the code is generated or sent.

To add this to your accounts, visit the security settings.

Check your router password

You may have a strong password on your computer or your internet connection, but what about your router? Your router allows your computer to connect to your WiFi network through a WiFi password that you set up. But the router has its own password.

“That’s probably the biggest entry point for (digital) home invasions,” said Chris Kirkland, CEO of CyberTeamUs.

Routers often come with a default password that manufacturers make public. This allows you to configure your router’s technical settings when you purchase it. But if left unchanged, the default password could also allow someone to access your home network surreptitiously, giving them access to your web traffic and potentially sensitive information you send. They could also use it as a jumping point to access any machine connected to the network.

To change your password, consult your device’s user manual or search your specific model online for instructions on changing it.

While we’re talking passwords...

Update important account passwords such as email in case an attacker tries to remotely access your accounts. The Federal Trade Commission recommends that passwords are a minimum of 12 characters and a mix of numbers, symbols and letters both lower and uppercase.

Beware of coronavirus-themed phishing emails

Phishing emails – emails that purport to be from a trusted source that contain malware or direct you to a malicious site – are one of the most common ways computers can be compromised. That threat is particularly heightened during a pandemic, said Rob Cheng, CEO of antivirus company PC Matic. Scammers can pretend to have vital updates on the virus or resources related to the virus, tricking people into clicking on a malicious link. The Federal Trade Commission warned of fake emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.

“It’s almost perfect for the bad guys,” Cheng said. “We’re all trying to get information about coronavirus every day.”

To avoid such scams, get news and updates from verified, trustworthy sources and avoid clicking unexpected links or attachments in emails. Pay attention to the sender’s email address, and beware that a malicious email address could be very similar to a legitimate email – “Amazon” versus “Amaz0n.”

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