Published: October 26, 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic forced local governments to rapidly convert many office employees to work-from-home employees. While some have returned to the workplace, many employees continue to work either fully or partially remotely. Working from home has many benefits, but it also brings additional risks because remote workers are more vulnerable to cybercrime than those who work in the office.
In this new reality, employees who work from home need to keep their households safe and secure from cyber threats. Below are three tips you can share with your employees to help them better protect themselves and your government.
1. Secure your wireless router – Using a wireless router is an increasingly convenient way to connect multiple devices to the internet from different areas of your home. However, unless your router is secure, you risk the possibility of outsiders accessing information on your computer, and worse, using your network to commit cybercrimes. Remember, all wireless devices using this router are vulnerable if it is not protected. To secure your router:
- Change the name of your router. The manufacturer typically assigns the default ID, so changing your router ID to a unique name that others won’t easily guess is a simple way to keep your router protected.
- Change the preset passphrase on your router. Leaving the default password in place makes it significantly easier for hackers to access your network. Instead, use unique and strong passwords to secure your router and other devices from all types of cyber threats. Be sure to store this information in a safe location because your government’s IT staff or managed provider won’t have it.
2. Install firewalls and security software on all devices – Firewalls are essential because they help keep hackers from accessing sensitive information on your devices. Up-to-date security software, web browsers and operating systems are the best defense against online threats, such as viruses and malware.
- If you are using an employer-provided computer, then the firewalls and security software are already configured on it, but you may still need to configure the firewall on your router.
- If you are using your personal computer to access work documents or files, then it is important to ensure you are using security software. Many wireless routers have built-in firewalls that are configured to increase protection.
- Make sure all devices that are connected to your wireless network, such as smartphones, game consoles and smart TVs, have up-to-date firmware and, if available, have security software systems installed. Many of these devices have automatic update features, so you should make sure they are turned on for all available technology.
3. Back up all data – While you can take steps to prevent your network, devices and accounts from being hacked or compromised, they can never be 100 percent effective. It’s important that you back up your data, especially your work-related files, in the event of a cyber incident.
- Make electronic copies of important files and store them safely. You can do this using cloud software or on storage devices like USBs and backup drives. Storing data in an alternative location that is safe and secure provides another layer of protection. If you are storing confidential, sensitive, or personal information on a mobile storage device, you should use encryption.
- Store your personal and work files separately. Don’t store work files on your personal computer or in your personal cloud storage. Work files should only be stored in locations approved by your organization.
The goal of cybersecurity is to keep your sensitive information safe from hackers. Cybersecurity is everyone’s job, whether you’re working in the office or from home. Here are additional SAO resources to help improve your government’s cyber defenses:
How to reach us for more assistance
Do you have questions about cybersecurity? SAO’s Center for Government Innovation has a cybersecurity specialist available to talk with you about best practices and resources. For assistance, reach out to us at Center@sao.wa.gov.