With so many of us working from home, it’s important to protect against security weaknesses you might have in your home office set‑up. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security notes that cyber threat actors often take advantage of high-profile events, particularly those that cause worry and concern, to launch frauds and scams. Here are some simple tips to ensure you are maintaining good security protocols at home, even if your home office consists of a laptop and your couch.

Protect your devices

If you are working from your personal computer and mobile phone, make sure you take precautions to protect your devices:

  • If you can, try to work only using the devices assigned by your employer. You will benefit from the security measures they have in place to protect you and the privacy of your work-related information. Check with your company for guidelines on ways to access your company’s network and files.
  • Make sure your devices are protected with strong and unique passwords for each online account that accesses sensitive information. This is important since a security breach at one site means your reused password could be handed to criminals who may try to use it at other sites.
  • Get in the habit of checking your mobile devices for old apps you don’t use and delete them. Switch on "Offload Unused Apps" if available and check whether your mobile device offers any other app security controls. Old apps could be unsupported by the developer and could pose a security risk.
  • When available, use multi-factor authentication to access your devices.
  • Protect your software. Install anti‑virus and anti spyware software on all your connected devices and keep them up to date. And don’t delay on software updates and patches - install software updates as soon as they are available so you’re protected against the latest threats. Even better – automate the updates so they’re installed regularly.

Secure your home WiFi

Scammers know that many people are now working from home and will take advantage.

  • Change the default name and password for your home router to something strong and hard to guess. And be sure to automate installation of any updates and patches for your router to protect against threats.
  • Set-up a guest network for visitors.

Protect your privacy and the privacy of others

It’s important to separate work from home to protect your privacy, adhere to the privacy guidelines of your employer and protect the privacy of the members of your household.

  • Separate work from home. Don’t save work‑related documents or data on your personal device. Keep work separate and don’t let other members of your household use your work devices.
  • Only print what you must and securely shred all documents with personal information about you, your clients or your employer.
  • Protect your privacy and limit what appears in the background during your video meetings.
  • Backup your personal files frequently to an external secure source. Also make sure you know how to restore your files from your backup device and have a checklist in place to ensure those backups are happening regularly – very often you can schedule them to happen automatically.
  • Only install apps from official or trusted sources. Malicious code, like spyware (that secretly monitors what you do online) and keystroke loggers (that secretly track what you are typing) can be hidden within the downloaded file or app and used to access personal information, such as passwords and financial information.
  • Consider turning off devices such as smart speakers that might overhear confidential discussions.

Spots scams taking advantage of the pandemic

Scammers are taking advantage of the pandemic by sending fraudulent emails and texts with COVID‑19 misinformation that attempt to trick you into revealing your personal information or clicking on malicious links or attachments with promises of emergency government benefits you may have applied for.

Be skeptical. Fraudulent texts and e‑mails can look like they come from a real and credible organization. Banks and government agencies never send emails, texts, or call you asking for personal information or account details, and the Canada Revenue Agency will not advise you of your benefits by text or email if you have not applied for emergency government benefits.

Resources

The Canadian Anti‑Fraud Centre has compiled a list of the reported scams exploiting COVID‑19.

The CBA’s Cyber Security Toolkit for consumers has a cyber hygiene checklist and tips on how to spot common scams.

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security has tips on how to stay cyber‑heathy during COVID‑19.

The COVID Alert application is the Government of Canada’s app for mobile devices to help notify Canadians of potential COVID-19 exposure.

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