Navigating the Cybersecurity Landscape: Safeguarding Remote Work Amidst the Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic sent most of the world into lockdown in March 2020, companies quickly pivoted to remote work in an effort to keep their employees safe. While the switch to remote work has allowed businesses to continue operating, it has also added to the threat vectors of cyberattacks. With employees connecting to their home networks instead of secure office networks, hackers have numerous opportunities to infiltrate devices and steal sensitive data.

To prevent cyberattacks and safeguard your personal information, it’s crucial to take steps to protect your home network. This comprehensive guide outlines key ways you can secure your network while working remotely.

The role of employees as home network cybersecurity engineers

One of the realities of remote work is that employees are now responsible for managing the security of their home networks. As a result, employees must take on the role of home network cybersecurity engineer and implement best practices to safeguard their personal and work-related data.

The impracticality of being tethered to a home router

Being tethered to a home router by the length of a cord, in this case, an Ethernet cable, is not practical. However, using Wi-Fi is convenient but is not secure. A better solution is to use a Wi-Fi access point that has wired Ethernet ports to connect to the modem from the internet service provider (ISP) via a physical cable.

The default administrative username/password combination of wireless routers

All home wireless routers are shipped with a default administrative username/password combination, typically “admin” and a password. Since these default credentials are easily accessible, they increase the risk of unauthorized access to your network. Therefore, it’s vital to change the default username and password. Choose a unique and strong password that consists of numbers, letters, and special characters.

The visibility of network name, or Service Set Identifier (SSID)

When wireless routers are configured, they broadcast, or make visible for discovery, your network name or Service Set Identifier (SSID). This broadcasting capability allows anyone to identify your network and attempt to break into it. However, you can change the SSID of your network to something unique and recognizable only to you, which enhances the security of your network.

Disabling the broadcasting of the network name after changing the SSID

Once you have changed the name of the SSID, you should turn off the broadcasting of your network name. By default, many wireless routers broadcast their SSIDs to allow easy discovery of the network. This default behavior allows hackers to detect your wireless network and launch attacks. Therefore, disabling SSID broadcast improves network security, making your network invisible to the public.

Creating a strong and secure password for the home network

Creating a strong password is an essential step in protecting your home network. Avoid using easily guessable passwords such as your address or street name. Instead, create a complex password consisting of a combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Longer passwords are also more secure, so aim for at least 12 characters.

Employers have the responsibility to provide secure remote access through a VPN

Employers have a responsibility to provide their employees with secure remote access through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all network traffic, making it hard for cyber criminals to intercept sensitive data. Before connecting to a work VPN, ensure that your device has up-to-date anti-virus software and firewall protection.

Considerations for restricting local administrative access to company computers

Employers should consider restricting local administrative access to the computers they provide, in order to prevent unauthorized software from being installed. By restricting local administrative access, businesses can limit the chances of internal data breaches.

Advanced security options are available for those with advanced knowledge and skills

For individuals with advanced knowledge and skills, there are more advanced options for adding security. For example, installing a firewall can provide an additional layer of protection by blocking unauthorized traffic. Additionally, setting up a wireless network with separate access points for different devices, such as a guest network, can limit the potential for cyber-attacks.

As remote work continues to be the norm for many businesses, it’s essential to take steps to secure your home network. By implementing best practices, such as changing default usernames and passwords, turning off broadcasting of network names, and using a VPN, you can reduce the likelihood of cyberattacks. Employers also have a responsibility to provide their employees with secure remote access and to restrict the installation of unauthorized software on company computers. Ultimately, safeguarding your home network should be a priority for anyone working remotely, regardless of their level of technical expertise.

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