Whether you work full-time from home, telecommute once-a-week or use your study to catch up on paperwork during your evenings and weekends, setting up a functional and secure home office is essential. In 2016, 43 percent of employed people worked remotely at least some of the time, according to a Gallup poll. According to data analysis by Quartz, telecommuting has grown by 159 percent since 2000 and a record 2.6 percent of American employees work full-time at home.
While a home office can be a boon for your work-life balance, it also comes with some added responsibility for the security of your data as well as keeping information associated with your business colleagues and clients private.
Eight steps for a safer home office
If you haven’t settled on a home yet and know you’ll be working from home, be sure to check out connectivity in the area. If you need extra bandwidth for communications and downloading large files, investigate available internet service before you rent or buy your next place. Then you can follow up with these steps:
- Invest in a security system for your property. While protecting your family and your home are even more important, a home security system can also protect your office equipment.
- Set up your devices securely. First, make sure all your hardware and software are less than five years old, says Robert Siciliano, a security awareness expert and CEO of Safr.me.
"Older devices and software won’t support the latest security systems and won’t be protected," says Siciliano.
- Install up-to-date software. Siciliano recommends anti-virus, anti-phishing and anti-malware software as well as a firewall.
- Protect your internet connection. Make sure your Wi-Fi is properly encrypted with a password, says Siciliano.
- Choose the right router and modem. "Make sure your internet provider gives you the newest version of available routers and that it has basic security to keep your data protected with a firewall," says Siciliano.
On the other hand, Siciliano says, you should set up your own wireless modem rather than use the one that comes from your internet service provider.
"A modem from Linksys or D-Link will have more built-in security and better Wi-Fi," he says.
- Don’t forget patch management. Most people use multiple devices, such as a smart phone, a laptop computer, a desktop computer and a tablet, for work and personal communication or research. "Patch management" refers to updating all software on all devices, says Siciliano.
"Even things like Adobe Reader, which is free software, need to be updated so you get their latest security protection," he says.
- Set up administrative privileges on your devices. While it’s best to ban family members from using devices you use for work, if that isn’t possible, Siciliano recommends installing an administrative system that restricts access.
"This means anyone other than you is a ‘guest’ on the machine and can’t install software or visit unprotected websites," he says. "This helps prevent malware attacks."
- Use password manager software. Passwords are a huge vulnerability for people and businesses, says Siciliano
"You need to not use the same password on any two accounts and the easiest way to do this is to invest in password manager software," he says. "The system will generate much better passwords than most people can come up with or that they can remember. The software remembers all your passwords. These systems are all pretty easy to use."
Once you’ve invested a little time in setting up these systems, all you need to do to stay safe is to keep updating your software when requested and occasionally replace your hardware with a newer model.