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How to work from home securely

As we all (try to) work from home during quarantine here are five key steps to ensure your computer stays as safe as you are, according to our own team of IT security experts.

For many of us, the option of working from home once seemed like a treat. Now that it’s an obligation (thanks to Covid-19), we’re starting to miss a few things about the office: human contact, free coffee, ergonomic chairs and never having to think about digital security. Many companies have a team of people working to keep their in-office networks supremely secure, but how can we be sure our home networks are as safe as possible? (Note: using p@ssw0rd for your wifi password won’t keep out hackers). In search of home security tips, we asked Haven Life’s digital guardians, Natasha Dujmovic, head of information risk, and Asia LaBrie, head of information security, how a layperson can make themselves safe. As Asia puts it, “Working from home makes use think about risk in a different way, but there are little things that can make your environment more secure.” Here are those things.

Avoid cross-contamination

When Natasha lists the risks of working from home, she mentions “toddlers” — and she’s only half-joking. “If you have kids that are homeschooling there will be situations where they need to get on camera or maybe have a Zoom class,” she says. “We recommend you don’t use your work laptop for that, so there’s no cross-contamination” between that device and the rest of your life, she says. Why is that? The more your work computer is used for non-work tasks by you and other people (particularly little people), the more likely it is that security will be accidentally compromised. Try to reserve that company laptop exclusively for your job.

In that same vein, don’t connect your personal devices to your work computer. “A lot of times you’ll be at home and you want to charge your phone, so you’ll connect it to your work computer,” Asia says. “But if there’s any vulnerability on the phone,” that can compromise your work computer. Because of Covid-19, you should already be thinking of your phone as something unclean that can pick up germs. Just extend that thinking to the digital realm.

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Keep your software updated

One way of making your phone safer is to keep its software and operating system updated, and the same is true for your computer. In general, the most recent version of the software you use will include patches (fixes) for vulnerabilities that hackers might have been able to exploit in older versions. Says Natasha: “When you see that box telling you to update, do it immediately.”

Think (and think again) before you click

Software updates are the only time when you should click quickly, though. Do not click on unfamiliar links — “especially stuff that says you should click on it,” says Natasha. “Phishing is the number one attack method of bad actors. As soon as Covid-19 started becoming news, hackers jumped on that and created so much content about it: links to malicious sites, fake diagrams, phishing emails that tell you to talk to your HR about the virus. So ensure that you look twice at any email that seems suspicious and is in a format you don’t typically get from your organization.”

Ensure your privacy

Even legitimate downloads and software extensions can be troublesome. “When you download an app, look at the privacy settings,” says Asia. “A lot of those settings are off by default.” You should also be wary of browser add-ons. “For example, if you’re using Chrome, there are a lot of extensions that you should probably think twice about adding because of the things they request access to that you may not be aware of,” says Asia. “If you want to do an add-on so you can play video games online, it might be asking for permission for access to your email list or your calendar. You want to pay attention and to try to limit that.”

Secure your network

“The easiest and most impactful thing to do is to change the default password on your home network,” says Natasha. If you’re still using the network name and password that are written on the box your modem came in, you probably think they’re secure, since they’re a jumble of letters and numbers that are impossible to remember. Unfortunately, however, “There are hundreds of libraries out there that steal that information,” says Natasha. “Hackers or bad actors tend to collect that data. They’re looking for the easiest way in, and that’s one of them.” To fix that, all you have to do is go to the admin page for your router. “They try to make those user-friendly,” says Natasha, “so even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can still see what the default settings are” and change your network password.

Consider using a password manager for this, to make sure it’s good and strong. Asia uses Dashlane, and she also recommends the Google Password Strength Checker. You should also use multi-factor authentication whenever it’s an option. “It’s annoying, but it’s much safer,” says Natasha.

It may be tedious to follow some of these tips, but it would be way more frustrating to get hacked. You’re already at home avoiding a real-world virus — you don’t want to get one on your computer instead.

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About Michael Davis

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Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

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