Even prior to the pandemic, we relied on the internet for many of our daily tasks. With 51% of all website traffic coming from organic search, we depend on Google to serve us valuable information. But even if you consider yourself to be relatively tech-savvy, this transition to remote work may have thrown you for a loop.
Although work-from-home programs have become more prevalent in recent years, many businesses felt wholly unprepared to let their employees work remotely at the start of the pandemic. This setup is one that’s preferred by many employees, as they can have more control over their surroundings than in a conventional office. Despite the fact that OSHA standards mandate that indoor workplace temperatures need to stay between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit, working from home permits individuals to figure their own personal preferences and best practices for productivity into account. Plus, you could theoretically work in your pajamas.
That said, there are some inherent risks that often come along with remote work. The combination of more vulnerable computer networks and a national economic downturn has meant that cybersecurity threats have been on the rise throughout the pandemic. In 2018, cybersecurity incidents resulted in $45 billion worth of business losses. In 2020, those costs could be even higher — and the consequences could be even more severe for businesses that are already struggling to survive.
So what can be done to prevent the worst-case scenario? Being proactive about your cybersecurity can solve a number of problems before they ever occur. But if these digital protections are falling by the wayside, business owners could suffer as a result. Whether you own a business and are trying to manage your workers remotely or you’ve recently adjusted to working from home for your long-term employer, here are a few cybersecurity concerns that often get overlooked.
Although we consider passwords necessary to keep our information safe, the reality is that too many of us are reusing passwords on numerous platforms or forgetting to change our passwords regularly. Experts say that every password you’ve ever had has been found and made available for purchase on the dark web — so you need to change passwords frequently in order to stay one step ahead. You should also maintain individual passwords for each site or network, rather than sharing passwords across different platforms. Investing in a password manager can keep these passwords straight without posing a security risk. Ask your employer about implementing a password manager program if they don’t already have a system set up.
In this new era of remote work, meetings aren’t being canceled; they’re just being moved for virtual platforms. There are a number of different ways to video conference, but Zoom has emerged as one of the most popular during the pandemic. Although it was relatively unknown before 2020, Zoom has now become a household name. The problem, however, is that Zoom meetings aren’t as protected as you might think. Zoom meetings have been infiltrated by people who are not invited, which can be a safety concern in some situations. There are also countless fake sites that have been set up to look like Zoom in order to make phishing attempts. If you’re using Zoom, it’s best to have Zoom issue an ID for each meeting that involves the sharing of confidential info; rather than be tied to your unique Zoom ID, using a Zoom-issued ID for every meeting will mean that ID has no value once the meeting is over. Be sure not to share your personal Zoom ID with anyone, either. Always use a password for all meetings, as well. Hosts should utilize the Zoom waiting room, which allows you to admit guests one at a time and retain control over who attends. It’s also best to upgrade to a paid account, as this offers end-to-end encryption. Your employer may want to invest in paid accounts — or they may want to consider an alternative that can safely be used by all employees when working remotely.
You might already use a VPN to ensure your network at home is secure, but it’s possible that other tools you use to share data with coworkers may not be quite as impenetrable as you’d hoped. APIs, or application program interfaces, are used to allow two different devices or platforms to “talk” to each other. They can make the data sharing process go much more smoothly. But while the system endpoints are typically secure, APIs are much more vulnerable to cyberattacks. If an API is broken or breached, all of the data passed between applications can fall into the wrong hands. Companies that maintain a dashboard that pulls information automatically from other sources or that uses apps to share data should focus on strengthening the security of any APIs used. Don’t assume that the “connective tissue” of data can’t be hacked.
Since COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, it’s likely that remote work won’t be, either. If you’ll be continuing to work from home in any capacity throughout 2020 and 2021, it’s important to make cybersecurity a top priority. By paying attention to these often-overlooked vulnerabilities, you can do your part to protect your personal data and proprietary information shared by your employer.