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A new era: Three ways to secure your home office

By Heather Mahalik, SANS Institute Faculty Fellow and Senior Director of Digital Intelligence at Cellebrite

Johannesburg, 05 Oct 2022

Digital safety has never been more important in our increasingly technology-driven world, as the pandemic forces professionals and students to adapt to working and learning from home. People have more connected devices than ever, from tablets, smartphones, laptops, and computers — and with many organisations adopting a work-from-home approach, professionals are spending more time on these devices — which is why it’s critical to take steps to ensure they know the basics of online safety.

Anyone's home can be targeted for a cyber attack. Yet according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure SecurityAgency (CISA), one of the biggest misconceptions about home network security is that home networks are too small to be at risk of a cyber attack. Because your home office is indeed at risk, it is essential to protect your home office from threats to internet-enabled devices. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a cyber security expert to learn how to secure your home office — anyone can do it. Below are three strategies I use in my own home to protect my network from being invaded.

1. Secure your home and personal devices

Every personal device used is a potential entry for system threats. To thwart cyber criminals from infiltrating someone’s computer and connected devices, something as simple as taking inventory of all devices in the home and ensuring they have the latest software updates can help in that endeavor. This includes updating your apps, operating systems, and web browsers regularly to ensure they have the latest protections in place to eliminate or patch possible flaws.

Another way to secure all of your home devices is to update your passwords on a regular basis. Keeping the same passwords or sharing passwords across multiple accounts may seem convenient, but it makes your home a prime target for attackers. As a solution, consider creating a password with a random phrase, numbers, and special characters.

Additionally, companies should consider enforcing the use of password managers to store, generate, and manage their passwords. Password managers are convenient and incorporate privacy measures, by allowing work-from-home professionals to create multiple password vaults across their devices.

2. Secure your personal data

Backing up your data on a regular basis is an essential exercise that people don’t often think about until you’ve lost or compromised important files. New cyber threats such as phishing attacks or ransomware make it imperative that work-from-home professionals keep important files secure by backing them up regularly, either offline on an external hard drive or with a secure cloud provider. This can help protect against data loss, whether a device crashes or personal data is held for ransom.

3. Secure your WiFi

Cyber criminals target networks that don’t see them coming. Work-from-home professionals must be as diligent in security as their in-office colleagues. One of the best ways to safeguard your devices from potential compromise is by keeping your WiFi network secure. Setting basic security measures on your home WiFi network is as critical as locking the doors to your car to stop someone from breaking in. Professionals working from home must change the Wi-Fi network name from what’s on the box, pick passwords that cannot be easily guessed, and change passwords routinely.

One of the biggest mistakes work-from-home professionals tend to make is assuming that they are not worthy of a cyber attack. Risks to digital safety are everywhere, but with the simple strategies detailed here, you can take a proactive role in protecting your home office. From regularly backing up important files to securing WiFi, you can better guard against potential threats when you are armed with information. These practical steps are how I keep my own home office safe and secure. It’s never too late for anyone to start practicing good cyber hygiene.

About Heather Mahalik

Heather is a Faculty Fellow at SANS Institute and Senior Director of Digital Intelligence at Cellebrite. She has worked on high-profile cases, investigating everything from child exploitation to major terrorism cases. As a Faculty Fellow at SANS, she is the author and course lead for FOR585: Smartphone Forensic Analysis.