Three Ways to Improve Your Remote Work Security
It doesn’t have to be difficult to address remote work security as an employee, team leader, or manager. Often, it’s only a matter of understanding the basics of how data transfer works and how your home electronics are actively keeping you safe.
With a few key tips from VirtualPBX, a leader in business communications that takes its customers’ digital security seriously, you can stay safe at home throughout your work day, and your company will be better off for taking the time to address this important aspect of remote work.
Use Strong Passwords
The biggest improvement you can make to your remote work security is by using strong passwords.
You have a lot of power here because you can pick almost any password you want for your digital identity on sites like Slack, your company Facebook, or your Google Docs. Sure, it can be funny to read through the most common passwords of 2020, but we hope you aren’t expecting “12345” or “qwertyuiop” to keep anyone malicious out of your accounts.
Creating a Password
Strong passwords aren’t difficult to create. Moreover, they’re not difficult to remember if you follow smart guidelines. Google recommends creating passwords of at least 12 characters and using phrases that you can easily remember. Maybe you have song lyrics that are important to you (“therainfloweddownacrosshiseyelids”) or there’s a secret video game code combination you recall (“updownleftuptricirclesquare”).
You can insert symbols, numbers, and capital letters in your passwords to give them greater strength, such as changing that second password to (“updownleftup3CircleSquare”).
Strength Through Entropy
What you’re aiming for is strength through entropy, which means you are looking for randomness by sourcing your passwords’ characters from large sets of data. The set of 26 lower-case characters (a-z) is distinct from the 26 upper-case characters (A-Z), and then another set of 10 characters comes into play when you use numbers (0-9). All told, the use of 26+26+10 characters gives you 62 pieces of information to draw from rather than only 26 or 10 from any of those sets alone.
Entropy is what keeps computers from being able to brute force attack your passwords. The reason that “12345” is a terrible password is, in part, because it’s short and its entropy is low. You want your entropy to be high by using long passphrases and multiple sets of characters.
Defend Against Dictionary Attacks
The other reason that “12345” is a bad password is because it’s common. So-called dictionary attacks are basically lists of known passwords that computers can use to easily test passwords. If your password is in the dictionary, there’s no need for the computer to brute force its way through your character combinations.
You can easily keep your remote work security high here by using phrases that are meaningful to you but not easily recognizable to anyone else. Think about unique events that are a part of your life, such as an important bit of advice a friend once told you or a joke you heard at a comedy show. Any phrase that’s unlikely to be printed somewhere else can make for a great password.
Trust in Your Home Router
You recognize the pieces of equipment that attach to the cable or DSL line for your internet. Right? One of those boxes is your router, and more often than not, it is set to keep you protected from digital intrusion.
Your remote work security may depend on that small box more than you realize. The protections inside there begin with a built-in firewall that will reject all incoming connections unless you specifically allow them.
Unless you’re excited about playing online games with your friends or you enjoy messing with your internet configuration files, it’s unlikely you have seen the dashboard for your router’s settings. You can use your web browser to visit a special website like “192.168.1.1” that gets you into that dashboard, and within the settings you can see sections for your firewall, port forwarding and the DMZ, your DeMilitarized Zone.
Typically, your router blocks all inbound connections by default, so if you have never changed these settings, then you have nothing to worry about. You can trust that a new router will keep you protected. If you’re unsure, though, speak to an IT professional at your company who can help you reset your configuration or make any changes that are necessary.
Use Your Company VPN
One way that many companies are helping their employees improve remote work security is by using a virtual private network (VPN).
More or less, VPNs are secure tunnels where digital information can travel safely between two points. You can use a VPN to connect to a company database, for example, so you know that your connection to that location is safe from anyone who might want to look at that data.
Unlike passwords, which are largely under your control, and router settings, which you can trust to be robust, using a VPN might require that you speak to an IT professional at your company. You will likely have an application you can download to your computer and phone that will send all your internet traffic through the VPN first.
For your part, you can open the app, enter your username and password (which should be strong!), and proceed with your work day. Then it’s your responsibility to make sure you connect to the VPN at the start of your shift and turn it off when you have completed.
It’s not necessary to send your personal website traffic (email, Netflix, gaming) through the VPN, and in fact it might be disallowed. And you might be unable to connect to work-related digital information without having used the VPN to reach it. Your security here depends on using the VPN reliably and keeping your password strong so you are the only person able to connect to the service.
A Little Effort, A Little Trust
With a little bit of effort, you can create passwords that are strong enough for any personal or corporate environment. Your home router is likely built to help you along the way. And with only a few minutes of instruction, you can make sure all your online workplace activities stay safe through the tunnel of a company VPN.
This advice should be well-known to the security professionals at your business. Be sure to follow the guidelines listed here, and for any further questions or more complex situations, speak to your IT department for an individualized take on remote work security and the things you can do to protect your online identity while working outside the office.