Working from home is great but it comes along with great responsibility. You often work with clients whose personal information is sent your way, and if your data gets compromised, your business can be devastated. Online security is not something to be taken lightly. It could mean the difference between operating your business smoothly and losing clients because of data breaches.
The problem is that it’s not uncommon to forget something here or there when adding protection to your devices. An anti-virus program is the bare minimum when it comes to protection, but did you know that there are other ways to protect your data as well? To remove any guesswork on your part (and save you time), here’s a guide on how to protect your data when working from home.
Stay Connected To A VPN
If you stay connected to a VPN, it’s nearly impossible for your data to ever come under attack. What’s a VPN, you may ask? VPN stands for virtual private network.
A virtual private network is a service that acts as a middle-man between you and the rest of the net. VPNs hide your actual location, which allows you to unblock websites. It also encrypts internet traffic passing between you and the rest of the internet, which allows you to browse the web anonymously.
Because of the anonymity, hackers won’t be able to tell who you are or where you are, making you an unfavorable target for their trolling. VPNs cost less than $15 per month, with some even being as low as $4.99 per month. They are available for every one of your devices as well, so you can protect your business’ personal information regardless of which device you are using at the time.
To easily locate a VPN suited to your needs, I suggest checking out these reviews. The best VPN for you may not be the best for everyone else because they vary in what they offer; some VPNs are better suited for specific countries, for example.
Change Your Passwords Regularly
Not only should you change your passwords on a regular basis, but you should also check your passwords to ensure that they’re considered strong. A strong password includes both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols (like !&$#@, for example) when possible. Make sure that your passwords are no shorter than eight characters as well.
Avoid using any personal information as your passwords; never use your name, address, birthdate, business name, etc. When you use passwords that are easily identifiable, you leave your data open for the taking.
Use a Secure Website for Online Payments
If you’re sending or receiving online payments, it’s best to use a secure website. For any type of online transaction, a website such as PayPal is a good choice. Not only do they offer a secure site, but they also allow you to add a button to your website that can make check outs a breeze for your clients; it’ll be more secure for them as well.
PayPal also allows you to dispute any transactions that show up on your summary. If you are unsure of something, you’re able to refund payment or file a dispute for any payments taken. Secured websites are naturally encrypted, which makes them a good option for both you and your clients, especially since your client is most likely not using a VPN and they may even be paying from their smartphone.
Keep Your Software Updated
Although automatic updates are common, there is some software that requires you to manually update them. It’s best that you check for and install any updates, when available. By keeping your software updated, you’ll avoid hacker exploits and compatibility issues.
The longer software has been around, the more likely hackers have discovered security vulnerabilities.
Avoid Working on a Shared Computer
A super easy way to protect your data while working from home is to avoid working on a shared computer. Even if the people around you appear to be trustworthy, they may not be as computer savvy as you and can end up accidentally deleting some of your files, or worse, acquiring a virus on your computer.
Another good piece of advice is to always keep your precious data backed up on an external hard-drive, SD card, flash drive, or something similar; even if you’re using a Cloud storage service, it’s wise to keep your data backed up on a physical piece of hardware.
Don’t Fall For Online Scams
It’s easy to fall victim to online scams, whether you’re a seasoned computer user or not. This can sometimes wreak havoc on your devices and wipe out your data. Avoid clicking on links that you’re not familiar with, especially when they come to you in a nicely wrapped email that looks almost legitimate.
A common email scam is one that will appear as a message in your inbox from someone you know; you’ll open the email, and it will usually include some sort of link, prompting you to “click here.” Even though these emails appear to be sent from someone you know, they’re typically not (the person may have been a victim of a hacker, for example).
If you ever come across a link that you’re unsure of, hover your mouse cursor over (don’t click!) the link to reveal the URL. Sometimes it can be hard to determine whether or not a website is legitimate. Luckily, there are a few ways to tell the “real deals” from the phonies.
One other popular online scam is the Nigerian 419 Scam. You may or may not encounter this one while working from home, but nearly everyone who uses email regularly has received an email or two that fits the description. In the emails, there will usually be some sort of message as to why someone needs your help to gain access to their large sum of money; if you help them by transferring some of your own hard earned cash, you’ll be able to cash in on some of the benefits…in the form of millions, of course.
Although it can sound alluring, it is most definitely a scam every time. You are not going to become a millionaire by sending your money overseas to a Nigerian you’ve never met before (although it may sound nice). For those working at home, it can sometimes be even easier to fall into the traps of this scam because the emails sometimes claim they want you to be their business partner.
Lastly, be sure to scan all documents and files you download before you open them. A free anti-virus program will do the trick for this.
Hackers are sometimes closer than we’d really like to believe. This is why it’s important to follow all of the security tips mentioned above, as well as keep your home Wi-Fi password protected. Being that clients can sometimes be members of the same community as you, it’s important to do all that you can to protect the information they have entrusted to you.
Not only will it save you some headaches in the long run, but it will also create a strong home-based business that others can be confident in.
[The author Caroline is a technology enthusiast and a blogger at securethoughts.]