Working from home amidst the COVID-19 outbreak

Wherever possible, companies are letting employees work from home to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. While this is generally a sensible decision, it adds cyber security risks to the company’s network, requiring staff to shift quickly to a new work routine which specifically addresses additional risk protection.

Fraudsters are likely to take advantage of vulnerabilities created when employees work from home instead of the office. Experts expect a rise in malicious campaigns specifically targeting remote workers. Phishing campaigns may impersonate IT teams or direct recipients to fake login pages ostensibly to provide remote access to work networks or accounts. Other phishing scams purport to be new updates from government authorities or public health organizations, directing recipients to click malicious links for updates on the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, new containment measures ordered by governments, or local advisories. Companies should inform their employees about the heightened risk and ask them to be even more careful when opening suspicious emails or answering cold calls.

Further, many workers will be forced to use personal devices and home networks for work tasks. These can often lack the tools built in to business networks such as strong antivirus software, customised firewalls, and automatic online backup tools. This increases the risk of malware finding its way onto devices and both personal and work-related information being leaked.

Most workers will be working out of their home where they can secure their wifi. But some may have to use unsecured public wifi networks which are prime spots for malicious parties to spy on internet traffic and collect confidential information.

Cyber protection tips for employees working from home: 

  • Use strong passwords for your devices

  • Connections should be through a virtual private network (VPN) and a private wifi connection where possible

  • Familiarise yourself with your employer’s banned applications

  • Look out for phishing emails

  • Lock your device if you are away from it

  • Use encrypted communication when sending emails

  • Don’t use unauthorised portable media

  • Do not send company data to personal email addresses.

Management should be coordinating with the human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) departments to establish security controls and ensure employees are properly trained on those controls in the remote work context.

Working from home for extended periods will be new to many and can bring about stresses and strains not previously encountered. 

Employees may have to balance working with family or pets who are also in the home, performing routine household chores during the workday, or even getting distracted by television and other personal electronics at their disposal. Such distractions can also add to a risk profile for falling prey to phishing attacks. Employees should be reminded of these issues through training or handy guidelines issued for remote users. If employees have children who are now at home rather than school, managers might provide flexibility to ensure suitable cover for their work, childcare and home teaching responsibilities.

General tips for working from home:

  • Establish a regular working routine

  • Wake up more than five minutes before your workday starts to get ready both mentally and physically

  • Get changed out of your pyjamas every morning as part of your routine

  • Create a suitable quiet space where you can focus - sofa surfing will cause a bad back in time

  • Block out your time into 2 – 3 hour slots and take regular breaks

  • Communicate with your team and colleagues (WhatsApp chats, morning and afternoon team check-ins)

  • Use headphones and mute your microphone during conference calls (unless you're speaking) to minimize the amount of audio feedback and times that random sounds interrupt the conversation.

  • Don't do household chores randomly throughout the day, since it can get distracting

  • If you lose focus, call your line manager and ask for help or guidance

  • Use your lunch hour to get out of the house and get some fresh air

  • Keep your bedroom as a sacred space for sleeping where work is banned

  • Sign out and turn off notifications for work-related email and instant messaging when the day is over

  • There are numerous free resources available for example, through LinkedIn giving guidance on working from home (opens a new window)

  • Be sure to socialize after work, even if it's just a video call, to keep the loneliness at bay.

  • Finally, stay active. If you can't access a sports centre, there are plenty of effective workouts you can do at home.