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Gephardt: Protecting Yourself From Cybersecurity Risks While Working From Home

PARK CITY, Utah – If you’re working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll likely be doing that for the foreseeable future. That means cybersecurity has fallen on your shoulders, and the bad guys realize that.

For many businesses, there was a mad rush to get their employees’ computers and network access so they could work remotely. Not every business could supply every employee a company device, so many remote workers are relying on their home networks and their own devices.

That’s frightening to cybersecurity experts like Earl Foote.

“So, suddenly everybody’s grabbing the family desktop or the family laptop or the tablet that they’re working on,” he said. “That’s potentially the same device that the spouse is using for their job, or the kids are using for home — or the kids are using to play on.”

The same concern holds for home networks.

“You’re suddenly doing all of your work at home from a less secure internet connection with a less secure router or firewall,” Foote explained. “And oftentimes those personal devices don’t have any sort of antivirus or anti-malware software. There are no real measures taken. Your vulnerabilities kind of go through the roof.”

Foote is the founder and CEO of Nexus IT Consultants, a company that handles the IT needs for dozens of small and medium-sized Utah businesses. These days, handling cybersecurity has become a lot more challenging. 

What we’re seeing is that cybercriminals know that now, because you have these distributed workforces working on disparate devices in disparate connections,” Foote explained. “Now the attack vectors have increased exponentially.”

Earl Foote, founder and CEO of Nexus IT Consultants.

Attack vectors like data breaches, ransomware, malware and phishing emails disguised as urgent memos from the boss are all on the rise. Making matters worse: Recent surveys have found many telecommuters are cutting corners.  

Half of the employees in one survey said they have worked around cybersecurity policies to get their jobs done efficiently. In another survey, 39 percent of the remote workers surveyed said they often or always access their offices’ data from personal devices while 29 percent feel they can get away with using an app not approved by their office’s IT department. 

“People are kind of fed up with COVID as it is right now anyways, in any of the conditions involved. And so taking extra measures — a lot of people are not willing to go that route,” Foote said. “Unfortunately, if they don’t begin to understand, get on board and start taking some different paths, We’re going to see more and more in organizations that are breached.” 

Not every business could supply every employee a company device, so many remote workers are relying on their home networks and their own devices.

Foote said both businesses and telecommuters need to strengthen their cybersecurity policies and practices, immediately.

“How do we mitigate those risks? How do we put policy in place? And then, how do we educate our team so that they understand and they’re not falling prey and not creating these scenarios that are potentially very disastrous for our business?” he asked. 

Here are three things you can do right now at home that will help prevent a disaster for your employer, without hurting your productivity.

  1. Use complex passwords and change them often.
  2. Keep your system and software updated for any device you use for work. Don’t put that off.
  3. Change your WiFi router’s default password. That is often a cybercrook’s way into a home network.
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