How to safely Work From Home

How has WFH changed our work habits and how to keep a functioning and safe IT environment?

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Still marginal a year ago, the COVID-19 has revolutionized our approach to WFH and has pushed it to a never seen before popularity. The promise of avoiding commuting a whole hour to work is music to everyone’s ear, but it does come with its own share of challenges. How to keep a functioning office environment to work when there suddenly isn’t any colleague to share a coffee break with? How to keep a good IT environment when the IT department suddenly isn’t as easily available?

The issue of keeping a safe IT environment at home will be addressed.

Separate work from private IT

If you aren’t tech-savvy, it is hard to maintain a safe and virus-free computer. You might even receive viruses and phishing attempts daily to your e-mail address. It is therefore of utter importance to make sure your work documents aren’t compromised, and this is often only achievable by physically separating work from your private environment, which is possibly already compromised. This is why companies often will, and should, provide you with a work computer.

Secure your Internet connection

When working over WiFi, the Internet connection to the router is wireless. This implies that anyone on the same network can listen to the computer talking to the router and then intercept the transmitted data: the websites you access, the e-mails you receive and send, etc.

Most websites, especially those dealing with banking, use nowadays an SSL encryption (the s in https) to ensure the data can’t be read or tampered with, though it isn’t always the case. E-mails often aren’t encrypted and so can be other services you are using daily, both at home and at work.

You can, for the most part, assume a home connection is safe if you trust your neighbours and every person who passes the street, but you should never assume a public connection (restaurant, hotel, plane…) is safe. A VPN encapsulates an internet connection in a secure and encrypted tunnel, so the data is unreadable for a potential attacker on your network. This is why you should always use a VPN when working.

Secure access to your computer

Your computer is probably, and hopefully, secured with a password. You might even have the habit to lock (Win + L) your computer when you leave it for a coffee break. Although these are very good measures, they aren’t enough.

You can easily find on the web tools to remove your account password, without even logging in. Another possibility for a potential attacker is to launch his own system on your computer and access your documents. To only way to prevent this is to set up a BIOS password. When starting your computer, you might notice for a couple of seconds a screen suggesting to press F2 or some other key to access more options. This is where you can set up a password before the system starts, or boots.

Another possibility for a potential hacker is to only steal your hard-drive. This way, he doesn’t need to break into your system but will gain access to all your sensitive data. The only way to prevent this is to encrypt your hard drive. Windows, fortunately, provides you with an easy to use tool to encrypt all your drives: BitLocker. On Mac, you can use FileVault. Be aware that if you forget your password or the recovery key, your data will be lost.

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