While different work environments have existed for years and years, the pandemic’s abrupt shift to remote work has forever changed the working landscape for so many industries, even as the world continues its return to normal.
Many companies have found that they can successfully operate most, if not all, of their business functions remotely — freeing up office space for those areas which cannot operate from home all while providing employees with increased flexibility in their work environments and schedules.
Some businesses have decided that they would like to return to their pre-COVID work setups where employees work in-person in the office; this may be due to the nature of the work completed by the employees (something they cannot easily do from home) or in hopes to maintain a collaborative company culture where employees are around each other, as they would have been back in 2019.
Other businesses still have opted to find what they see as being the happy medium between the two work environments, known as hybrid work, where employees work certain days or hours on-site, in person and other days from home — this option allows for some of the flexibility of remote work but also the community and perceived increased productivity of working in-person.
Regardless of the work environment you currently find yourself in, cybersecurity remains a major area of importance for all job types. It is important to understand your role in maintaining your accountability when it comes to cybersecurity at your company. Below we’ll take a look at some of the considerations that apply to all of these areas as well as some that are unique to the newer work environment you might currently find yourself in.
- Keep your home network updated – While your employer is in charge of keeping the company network up-to-date, it is your duty, not only as a person wanting strong cyber protections for their family but as an employee as well. If you keep your devices and networks up-to-date, it means that you have taken the simple step to ensure that whatever the manufacturer has decided needed to be fixed or improved upon for the device or software you are using, is implemented.
- Use a VPN – A VPN, or virtual private network, is essentially a function you can add to your device to add an extra layer of protection and privacy while doing anything online. It creates a sort of encryption shield around your device when connected to the Internet and it hides your IP address from anyone who tries to access it. This can also protect any of your Internet activity from being picked up by hackers. This helps you to be even more protected while working on your home network.
- Do not connect to unknown or public WiFi – Remote work does not just mean working from home, but can extend to any place where you are able to be productive – usually while connected to the Internet in one way or another. If you find that you would like to work from a local coffee shop for example, it is important that you do not under any circumstances connect to the shop’s public WiFi. You never know who else is on this WiFi and these are usually unsafe connections for this reason. If you do need to work outside of your home, try to either tackle a task that does not require that you connect to WiFi or operate off of a hot-spot which you control and can password protect. The lack of a secure, private password is the main concern with the public WiFi; we will see shortly that password protection is among the most fundamental cyber protections we must take.
- Protect your devices – As you take your work devices, such as laptops and smartphones, to and from the office, be sure that you protect them, both physically and with security updates. You need to be sure to keep your work dat on your work devices and personal on your personal devices. This separation not only helps you to maintain a healthy balance between work and home, but also helps to protect your data in each realm. If your employer suffers a data breach (hopefully they won’t, but in case), your situation would be 10x worse if your personal or family data was also tied up in such an attack. Be sure to keep your devices in secure places in your house where they are not in danger of a spill or a drop – life is hectic and messy, especially at home, but keeping your work stuff out of the way when not in use can help to make the difference between you getting to continue working on a hybrid model and being forced to work on-site until a replacement laptop is available. Protecting the data on your devices as well as the physical devices themselves will help make hybrid work easier for you.
All Work Environments
While some tips will be more unique to those working remotely or in a hybrid setting, some cyber tips apply to employees whether they work in the office 40 hours a week or have never been on-site at the company’s before.
- Proper password hygiene – The basic building block of cybersecurity best practices is proper password hygiene. Be sure that for every single password – be it work or personal – is unique (unlike any of your other logins’ passwords) and complex (not an easily guessable password, made up of different cases of letters as well as symbols and numbers). This can seem like a hassle – you may think, “Is anyone really going to want my data? It’s not like I’m a presidential candidate or a spy or something.” Though this may be the case, it does not mean you are not still on the radar of a malicious actor and, to be honest, hackers and other cybercriminals don’t usually care who they are affecting, just that they are taking data that they can either sell, hold for ransom, or use to their advantage in some other way. They may also target you as a way into your company’s networks, so it not only benefits you personally to take on proper password hygiene, but it also benefits your employer as well.
- Ask questions – No matter where you work, be sure to take in the trainings your company offers and ask questions when you are unsure about something. Your employer should have a dedicated team such as IT to answer any of your questions about a phishy email or a device issue, and if they do not, ask them about getting one so that you can have a dedicated team to ask your questions to. If you do not have an IT team or something like that at your company currently, be sure to still ask your management any questions that you have related to cybersecurity in order to be a strong team member and to help yourself operate safely.
- Lock your devices when not in use – Whether you are at the office using your desktop or working from home on your laptop setup, be sure to lock your device when you get up to grab a cup of coffee or to head to the restroom. It may seem like such a simple step that it can be difficult to understand its importance, but if you physically leave your desk with your devices unlocked, you leave all of the information which you have access to open to any passerby. Though you assume most people at your company will ignore such a thing as an unattended, unlocked desktop, there is a threat of others accessing your work if they do not have a need to know or an internal employee with malintent which puts both you and the company at risk. This step may seem even less necessary when working from home, but many of us find ourselves working from home alongside children home for the summer or young, pre-school aged kids home with us always — just imagine what a curious child might do with an open computer; it is likely not something that you would like to happen to you on your work device. It is a quick little step to take when you first stand up from and come back to your desk, but can make the difference between a safe device and a compromised one.
What is your preferred work environment? Has this influenced your job satisfaction in your current position?