How to protect your data when working remotely

More than 30 million Americans work from home at least once a week, which makes data security increasingly important to many people. Whether a storm is keeping you from the office or you work from home, there are a number of considerations to make when working remotely.

These are necessary for both your safety as a professional and the safety of the information you handle. It can seem initially overwhelming, but it only takes a few simple tricks and new habits to drastically increase your data security.

Use isolated backups to protect data

Sensitive information, whether personal or professional, is big business in the digital era. Get in the habit of keeping backups of your work on an external hard drive or thumb drive. When dealing with sensitive data, you should only keep the work on these devices.

By keeping the data on these external devices, your data will remain secure even if your computer is compromised by an outside source. Cloud storage services like Dropbox are a good option for less sensitive data.

 Thumb drive

Practice personal browser security

Browsers such as Chrome and Firefox have a large selection of add-ons that allow users to customize their experience. These include security options. Script blockers, cookie erasers, and even the humble pop-up blocker can help protect your computer.

This is especially important for anyone used to working behind an industry firewall who is now out on their own.

Use a virtual private network (VPN)

Specific services are available that allow roaming workers to connect to corporate servers securely. These VPNs provide a secure tunnel between your device and their server. This tunnel effectively keeps hackers from being able to steal the information passing in and out of your computer, smartphone, or tablet. It also assigns you a new IP address. This new IP will allow you to get around any content blocks due to regional restrictions or network administrator barriers.

A VPN is extremely important for data security, especially if you’re going to be doing anything over the net using public Wi-Fi. There are many different kinds of VPNs on the market, so take a little time to find the best one for your particular needs (see Secure Thoughts VPN Review).

Keep an ear to the ground

Like everything in technology, threats constantly evolve and new trends emerge overnight. Remote workers don’t need to remain as aware of threats as an information technology (IT) specialist, but it is useful to keep an eye on technology news sections.

Staying aware of game-changing threats reduces your dependency on software protections and means you don’t need to wait until after you’ve already been attacked for a fix. By doing so, you further guard against unexpected expenses.

Don't volunteer information readily

Sometimes legitimate seeming e-mails appear in your inbox, but just doesn't feel right. Trust your instincts. If a URL doesn't match the site it claims to be representing, don't download anything it asks you to or volunteer any data. These are common, but misleading scams (see Wikipedia - Phishing.

While inadvertently downloading any malware might not overtly harm your computer's functionality, it will attempt to gather all data it can by gathering from files or logging typed information depending on the malware.

Scan early, scan often

Keep your antivirus software up to date without fail. Consider including a dedicated malware scanner like AVG Antivirus in your scans as well to add an extra layer of security against your computer being compromised. Set scheduled scan times and don't stop them unless you genuinely must turn off the computer.

If you have left a particular computer off for an extended period of time, always make sure you allow it to update its virus definitions before you launch your browser.

 Security locks

Encryption is your friend

When you have the option to use encryption, take it. Certain websites, e-mail services, and cloud storage companies offer data encryption as an option. These make it harder for people to run off with your data. Additionally, encrypted password management software like KeePass is available as well.

Combining one or two of these options helps you keep your work data secure as well as offering options outside of professional life.
In the end, maintaining data security when working remotely does not involve a high tech digital fortress and IT department levels of computer skills. Good habits are essential (see National Cyber Security Alliance) because most means of compromising data involve the target being unaware and unprepared.

Combining simple awareness habits with a few minor, often free, bits of software is a sure way for any professional to improve their security. Improved security eventually saves you not only time, but money as well by avoiding simple, but costly mistakes.

Author: Isa C.

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