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Essential work-from-home security tips to keep hackers, scammers out

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As COVID-19 takes the world by storm, employers and institutions are urging their workers to stay home. Social distance has proven to reduce the number of infections. In the era of Slack, FaceTime, and G-Suite, telecommuting is a viable alternative.   

Working from home takes preparation. I put together a comprehensive how-to WFH article that also covers the kids staying home from school. You’ll also find steps to turn on parental controls on Apple, Windows, and Chromebooks. 

The pandemic won’t stop online crime. Hackers, thieves, and scammers are still out in full force. Large organizations routinely train their team members in cybersecurity tactics, and company laptops and software may have built-in firewalls, VPNs, and two-factor authentication. At home, you may end up being the IT department so, be on top of your game. 

Watch out for phone calls from people you know 

You probably know to verify any email and texts asking for sensitive information like passwords or user account details. Attachments and wild links can open your system up to malware, keyloggers, and worse. Now, add to this watch list a very realistic voice impersonation of a company representative who you know. 

Voice-spoofing is new emerging threat. The Wall Street Journal reported an incident involving a CEO who thought he was on the phone with his boss, who asked him to transfer $243,000 to a supplier urgently. It sounded like his boss, so why would he deliberately disobey him? He didn’t, and the money vanished.  

Artificial intelligence technology needs only five minutes of a person’s voice to spoof it. You don’t have to be a computer scientist to use the tools, either. Just type what you’d like the voice to say and it’s done. 

You can get intel like this with my new free newsletter called “The Current.” No ads. Just the top tech news twice a week.

Check your home gear and setup

You have a router, firewall, modem, and probably a few wireless access points in your home. Have you ever updated the firmware on any of it since you installed it? I didn’t think so. 

Much like you need to keep your laptop or desktop’s operating system updated, you’ll want to double-check your gear, encryption, firewall, and DNS settings. The good news is you can do this yourself. The bad news is that it takes an hour or more.

Use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure your connection. A VPN is a layer of protection between your devices and the internet. It hides your IP address and your location. It also encrypts your data after it leaves your device, and travels to whatever website you’re visiting. 

There are many free VPNs available, but often they slow down your connection speed and collect your private data. I’ve used ExpressVPN for years because it does none of that.

Few digital targets are of higher priority than your passwords, which are typically saved in your browser. Instead of jotting your passwords down or saving them in a place where a cybercriminal can easily hack, use an password manager such as Keepass, LastPass, or Roboform 

Watch who’s watching

If youre logging into your work computer from home, anyone in the office can see what you are doing unless you take extra steps. Turning off your monitor is a simple solution. Otherwise, in your remote access software settings, look for options such as “Blank screen” or “Black screen.”  

You probably have a piece of black tape or a post-it note on your webcam so no one can take a peek. When it’s time to have a video call, aside from removing the low-tech security measure, take an extra step.  

 Maybe you have a stand-up board with confidential notes behind your desk. Or perhaps you simply haven’t had time to clean up the place. Skype lets you blur the background for calls. Hover over the video button and select Blur my background. To blur the background for all calls, click your Profile Picture, Settings, Audio & Video and toggle the switch on next to the option marked Blur my background for all calls. 

One more thing 

It’s also a good habit whether you’re in the office or at home to lock your screen on your laptop or desktop when you’re done or taking a break. Here’s how. 

– Mac: Press the Shift, Command and Q keys at once
– Windows: Press Ctrl, Alt, Delete and select Sign out
– Chromebook: At the bottom right, select the time and then Sign out. 

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

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