A good portion of you have probably gotten yourself and your family more or less situated to working and learning at home, and unless something dramatic happens in the medical community (experts say this is unlikely), we are probably going to need to carry on in this environment through the end of the year. This means that those hastily assembled home offices/classrooms might be less secure than what would be considered safe by industry standards, especially for what is typically the most private part of your life. Cyber criminals know that home networks are weak, but have largely ignored them as business targets are more lucrative. At least they were more lucrative pre-Covid, but now that a large part of the workforce is home, they know that your defenses there are much weaker, and sometimes non-existent.
Bolster your home defense!
You’ve probably built several pillow forts during quarantine already (even if you don’t have kids), and now you can try building your own network fortress. It’s not nearly as comfortable as the pillow fort, but can provide an extra layer of coziness, knowing that you’ve put some barriers between you and the hackers.
- That family computer you are using to remote into the office needs malware protection. So do the computers your kids are using to attend class – virtually or in-person. There are literally at least a dozen different companies selling security bundles, and more than a dozen free malware providers, but we only recommend the following: Webroot, TrendMicro, BitDefender, and with some caveats (we’ve found it to cause performance issues on occasion), Norton. All of these companies offer multiple packages with different levels of security that include various aspects of identity theft protection, content monitoring, password management, etc, and all of them have moved to a subscription model that will require a credit card on file with them. Expect to pay between $60-100/year to protect all the PCs in your house (if you aren’t the Brady Bunch).
- You may need to upgrade from the ISP-provided router to a custom firewall. The devices provided by ISPs are typically fairly simple, and even if they have advanced features, they are not designed to be managed by the average homeowner. If you need content monitoring to make sure younger family members are safe, or advanced features like VPN tunnels, or Quality of Service (QOS) capabilities to make sure business calls aren’t overrun with non-business traffic, you may have to consider purchasing your own router. Though the sellers would have you believe otherwise, this type of upgrade is not for the technically inexperienced. Make sure you consult with a professional before buying and installing anything, especially if you need to factor in better WIFI as well.
- Use better passwords for your home devices. This includes your WIFI password, and if your home machines don’t have passwords for logins, consider adding them as well, especially if they are being used for business purposes. Change your router password if it’s using the default. Don’t know if it’s the default? If you’ve never changed it and your router is more than few years old, it may be using a default that is well known on the internet which means it may be easily hackable as well. Consider using a password manager to keep track of your growing list of passwords – that little notebook or Excel spreadsheet is just as dangerous as using the same password over and over. We can recommend password managers Dashlane, LastPass or 1Password as affordable solutions that offer family subscriptions.
- Back up your data. I’m still surprised how many folks aren’t backing up their personal home computers. Yes, many of you are using cloud-based services like iCloud or Google Photos, or Dropbox, but a good percentage of my clients who do use those services aren’t 100% certain what is being backed up by those services. If you’ve been collecting years of digital photos, prior to owning a smartphone, it’s also highly probable that older media is living in a corner of your hard drive not even touched by a cloud-syncing service. Know what is backed up and by what, and if you are relying on USB attached hard drives or thumb drives for back up, you are living on borrowed time. We can recommend Backblaze and Carbonite as family-friendly solutions that are very affordable and relatively easy to set up and manage.
- Don’t share computers. Especially if you work with client data or financial services. Kids definitely don’t have the same stakes as you do, and even if they are well-trained, are more likely to make poor decisions that could compromise your security. The technology to separate your home network also exists, and is affordable if you want to go the extra-mile, but if you share equipment like printers, this may make things a little more complicated.
Note: all of the products we mention here are not sponsors, nor do we receive any sort of compensation from them if you decide to purchase their services. C2 Technology does offer a line of services that can be extended to your work-at-home PC’s but we do not provide managed services on personally owned devices other than your primary work-at-home device in consideration for your household’s privacy.
Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay