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Working safely from home - part 2: a safe working environment

Some organisations have allowed employees to work from home for one or more days per week for years. Others are suddenly faced with quarantine measures. Whatever the situation, working from home should not create a greater risk of falling victim to a cyber attack. With clear rules, the right equipment and sufficient preventive measures, online working at home can be as safe as working at the office.

Organisations that have been working remotely for some time have provided their employees with laptops and possibly also company smartphones. This is an absolute must to ensure safety. In exceptional situations when employees unexpectedly start working from home, they may have to use their own equipment. This brings with it increased risks. But with the right rules, these risks can be limited.

A safe working environment

Lock your computer when you leave your work station

Both at home and at the office, you should always lock your computer when you leave your work station, so no one gets a chance to browse through your files. Also with children playing nearby, curious adolescents or a cat that is crazy about your keyboard, it is wise to always lock your device when you are away for a while. You can lock your computer easily with the WIN+L or Ctrl + Shift + Power keys for Mac users.

Don't leave passwords lying around

Obviously, don't stick a Post-it with your passwords on your screen. But even a discreet piece of paper under your keyboard is not a good idea. It is clearly impossible to remember all your passwords for your personal and professional accounts. So, keep your passwords in an online password safe you secure with a strong passphrase. From then on, you only have to remember this one passphrase. Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) where possible https://www.safeonweb.be/en/use-strong-passwords

Make confidential calls out of eavesdropping range

If you make telephone calls at home or on the train, make sure that third parties cannot listen in. Information about your work, your customers or your company should not be made public that way. Make sure you also have a place at home where you can make a discreet phone call.

Encrypt the data on your computer

If you regularly take a laptop home from work, it is advisable to encrypt the data. If you forget your laptop on public transport or if it is stolen, no one can access your data. You can use different tools to do so. BitLocker Drive Encryption is a disk encryption program for the Microsoft operating systems. A MacBook can be encrypted with FileVault.

Shut down your computer every night 

Resist the temptation to put your computer in sleep mode at night so you can get back to work quickly in the morning. If you shut down your computer, new updates will be performed. Some of those updates will mean an improvement in security. It is important to perform these updates regularly.

Ask your company to install secure communication tools if you share a lot of confidential information with colleagues

To send messages, colleagues often use WhatsApp. Threema or Telegram are less known but more secure alternatives. For video calls, there are alternatives to Skype. Ask your employer.

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