Cybersecurity Concerns During Work-From-Home

If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the business world, it’s disruption on a level we haven’t seen in decades.

One of the hallmarks of this disruption was the sudden move to working remotely, and millions of workers around the world suddenly embraced the work-from-home culture, whether they had planned to, or not.

Whilst many of us scrambled to adapt to working from home, cyber criminals and other types of attackers were busy preparing to target our computer systems. Many companies were ill-prepared for their workforce to suddenly operate remotely. Hurried-in solutions to allow access into company networks were deployed sometimes leaving weaknesses ripe for attackers to take advantage of.

Some workers were now forced (or chose) to use their home computers to carry on working. These systems typically don’t have the same level of protection that corporately managed machines do. Since we use home computers for all manner of things beside work, the so-called ‘threat surface’ is expanded: there are now more ways for attackers to get our business data.

So, what was the impact of this?

A recent study by security vendor MalwareBytes reports 28% of workers admitting they use their personal computer for work more often than their work-issued computer. 24% of businesses had paid unexpected costs to address a cybersecurity breach or malware attack during work-from-home. And 20% of surveyed businesses faced a security breach as a result of a remote worker.

As we can see, this is significant. It’s a threat faced by many solopreneurs who simply have a single computer they use for everything. If one of these nefarious hackers gets access to that computer, they now have not just your photos and personal documents, but all your work product too.

To reduce the risk, we can think about compartmentalization. Think of a submarine: it’s designed so that if a part of the vessel is breached and the water comes flooding in, that section can be sealed off to prevent other areas from impact.

The best solution is to have independent computers for personal & home use, versus business use. Lock down the business computer as much as possible, keeping your games and other personal activities limited to your personal device.

If that’s not possible or practical, consider using Virtual Machine technology (magic that allows your computer to run a second ‘virtual’ computer at the same time). This way you can create a second computer running on the same hardware you already own… essentially two (or more) computers in one! Some common options for this type of working are VMware Workstation Player, VirtualBox, Parallels or Hyper-V.

Whatever you choose, securing the computer is vital. That includes not installing software you don’t absolutely need, and then only from trusted sources (i.e. not random web sites on the Internet!). Keeping your system(s) up to date, with backups you can rely on are key to keeping things protected against the threats we face.