If you work from home — whether you’re a small-business owner or a freelancer — you know it’s crucial to keep your home office secure. Here are seven tips to safeguard your data and ward off potential intruders, both online and off.
1. Insure your assets.
As soon as you make the decision to work from home, you need to figure out your insurance situation. A homeowners policy may not cover all of your business-related assets, so check with your employer to make sure any work-owned equipment is insured by the company’s policy. If not, you may need to purchase supplemental coverage.
If you are a small-business owner working from home, you should look into getting a business owner policy that covers your equipment.
2. Install smart security.
Did you know more residential burglaries occur during the day than at night? Prowlers assume homes will be vacant during work hours, but since yours won’t be, it’s especially important that you take proper security measures to keep yourself safe.
Many home security companies now offer smart security options that allow you to monitor activity from your smartphone. If a camera or motion sensor captures anything unusual happening around your home, the system will notify you so you can see what’s going on and alert the authorities if needed — all without leaving the safety of your office.
3. Have a plan for break-ins.
Even with a state-of-the-art security system, break-ins are still a possibility you should be prepared for.
If you are at home during a break-in, the best plan of action is to stay calm, call 911 and quietly get to a safe location — either outside the house or in a locked room. The intruder could be armed, so do not draw attention to yourself.
After the break-in is over and you’ve spoken with local authorities, contact your insurer to file a claim for any damaged or stolen items.
4. Encrypt your data.
Encryption software scrambles your data, making it unreadable to anyone without the encryption key. As such, these programs are crucial for securing sensitive information.
PC users can purchase encryption tools like CertainSafe for a monthly fee. You can choose to either encrypt your entire hard drive, individual files or files in bulk. For Mac users (operating on OS X Lion or a later update) FileVault comes pre-installed.
Aside from implementing encryption tools, you can also keep your data safe by password-protecting your computer and any other work-related devices, and signing out when you’re not using them. It’s a simple yet effective additional safeguard.
5. Secure your internet connection.
One of the most important ways to keep your business data safe is by using a secure and reliable internet connection. If you want to use a wireless connection, create a unique name (SSID) and password for your Wi-Fi network, and consider setting up a separate, dedicated guest network for all non-work activities to further limit access.
A virtual private network, or VPN, also helps to secure your connection against hackers. If you work for a larger corporation, your employer may provide you with a VPN so you can access company portals from home. If your company doesn’t provide VPN access or if you’re self-employed, you’ll have to sign up for the service on your own.
Some internet plans include additional security features, so check with your provider for more details on how to secure your connection.
6. Use a password manager.
It may be tempting to use the same password for everything, but doing so makes it easy for hackers to access your information. Strong passwords can be difficult to remember, though, which is why password managers like LastPass or iCloud Keychain come in handy.
These management tools help you create optimal passwords and store them for you. They also make it easy for you to change passwords frequently.
7. Install programs sparingly.
One of the most common ways to contract malware is by downloading corrupted files and programs. Some links contain viruses that could overhaul your entire system or make you susceptible to a DDoS attack. To mitigate this risk, simply avoid downloading anything unless you are certain the source is reliable.
Additionally, the most dangerous downloads often come in the form of email attachments, so be cautious before opening any file attachments from senders you don’t know. And even if you do know the sender, be wary of any suspicious-looking emails that ask for personal information or require attachment downloads.
Working from home can be great — it offers a lot more flexibility than a traditional office job. And while there are some unique security vulnerabilities, if you implement the safety measures outlined here, you’ll be more secure in no time.
Sage Singleton is a home and community safety expert for SafeWise. She has written for a variety of audiences ranging from government sites to lifestyle magazines. She can be reached at email@example.com.