Cybersecurity and Fraud Protection

How to Cyber-Sanitize Your Home Office

Learn how digital spring cleaning can help keep your devices safe while you work from home.


One afternoon, Kristen’s son downloaded a free app from an unsecured, third-party website to add special effects to selfies. The app contained malware, and when the phone was connected to her home network, the virus was able to spread to other devices, giving cybercriminals access to valuable financial data.

Email accounts used to log into apps often contain sensitive information, including banking information that cybercriminals can use to commit fraud. By the time Kristen discovered several suspicious transactions on her personal bank accounts, the cybercriminals had already transferred funds to an account out of the country.

This is just one example of the increasingly sophisticated techniques that cybercriminals are using to access personal information. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to work from home and use personal technology—including devices and networks—to access critical business information. Unfortunately, working from home can put your personal and business information at risk. Consider using these best practices to help you and your family stay secure while working, learning and socializing remotely.

 

Getting started

Cybercriminals use malware to infect personal devices through apps and downloaded files. Below are some examples of securing your digital presence by cleaning your personal work computers and mobile phones. Encourage your family to do the same.

  • Delete apps you are not using to help save space and keep your phone secure.
  • Purge files from folders that contain downloaded or deleted files because these may contain sensitive information.
  • Unsubscribe from emails and newsletters that you do not regularly read to help reduce the risk of clicking on malware or suspicious links.
  • Download and archive emails you want to save; delete those you don’t need—including sent items.
  • If possible, use one Wi-Fi network for devices to conduct transactions with sensitive data (e.g., work, banking, online shopping). Set up a separate network for your children to use for school, gaming or socializing with friends.
  • Protect all Wi-Fi networks with unique and complex passwords and remember to change the default password on your wireless router.

 

Practice safe video conferencing

With the rapid adoption of video conferencing platforms for work meetings and social gatherings, hackers have discovered new ways to become uninvited guests. Some additional best practices to help you practice safe videoconferencing include:

  • Set passwords for meetings and monitor the participants. Remove unrecognized or unauthorized attendees immediately.
  • Do not publish meeting invites in public forums. If you attend a public video meeting, consider modifying your profile name to protect your identity (e.g., John Doe).
  • Consider the background of your live video camera and ensure it does not expose too much personal information (e.g., diplomas or family photos).
  • Protect your video-capable devices with a webcam cover to block the lens when not in use or if you are not attending a video meeting.

 

Protect your devices

Best practices include, using reliable protections to encrypt files and passwords, such as:

  • Install mobile security software to help keep the device secure from cybercriminals.
  • Update your anti-virus software and operating system on all devices, including laptops, personal computers, tablets and phones.
  • Encrypt files on laptops and PCs, so that no one can access information without your permission.
  • Ensure all personal and work devices are updated to the most recent software versions.

 

Stay anonymous online

Less is more when it comes to social media. Cybercriminals use what data is posted, such as location, hobbies, family pictures, etc., to find potential victims and harvest personal information that can help them gain access to your financial accounts.  Some best practices to protect yourself include:

  • Use of separate email addresses for communication, shopping receipts and subscriptions.
  • Review the privacy and security settings on your mobile devices, apps and web browsers.
  • Limit who you share information with and confirm apps are only accessing information they need to work accurately, such as your location for mapping apps.

 

Strengthen your defenses

Here are some additional best practices to help keep your data safe:

  • Only download apps from secure sites. Inform your children about the dangers that rogue apps pose to the entire family.
  • Use a combination of numbers, letters and special characters to create strong passwords, and consider using a reputable password manager to help manage all passwords.
  • Use two-factor authentication to protect your email, social media, banking and retail accounts.
  • Sign up for alerts on credit card and banking accounts to help identify potential fraudulent activity as quickly as possible.
  • Put a freeze on your credit with each of the three major credit-reporting agencies to prevent cybercriminals from opening new accounts in your name.
  • Verify, verify, verify. Whether it appears to be an email from a known contact or an invoice from a trusted vendor, you should remain cautious. Call the sender using a phone number from a system of record to validate authenticity.
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