Data Doctors: Working remotely? Here are some best practices

Q: I’m new to working remotely — any dos and don’ts that I should be aware of?

The ability to work remotely has become easier and more efficient than ever, but there are some very important things to consider: What you’re using as your remote computer, where you’re connecting from and the security protocols set up by your company are all critical elements.

Remote device security

The computer that you use to remote into your company’s network is one of the biggest vulnerabilities because it’s not under the direct control of your IT department.

You must absolutely be sure to keep all your software updated and should have some form of internet security program running for both Windows or Mac-based computers.

Should a remote hacker gain access to your computer before you connect to your company network, it’s as if they are standing over your shoulder recording everything you type.

When possible, avoid using the same computer for personal use, especially if you have younger users in your household. If it can’t be avoided, make sure that you create a separate user profile with limited rights for the kids to use and another one just for your remote sessions.

An inexpensive Chromebook (~$200) that your kids use to get online may be an affordable way to separate your kids from the computer you’ll be using remotely.

Be mindful of where you’re saving files so that you don’t accidentally save work-related data to your local hard drive. When that’s unavoidable, make sure you have an automatic cloud-based backup set up to secure work files from any ransomware threats.

Your company will likely provide you with instructions on using some form of VPN (Virtual Private Network) software, but if they don’t, using one on your own is highly recommended.

Make sure you have a long, strong password required to access your device, especially if it’s a laptop or tablet that can be stolen easily.

Get in the habit of locking your screen whenever you walk away to keep other members of your family from using your remote computer.

If your router has the ability to set up a guest network with client isolation, that’s the best connection to use when working remotely as it will prevent other devices on the same network from having direct access to your computer.

Avoid public Wi-Fi

The method you use to connect to the internet is very important, and public Wi-Fi is one of the least secure connections.

If you’re on the road and need to connect, use your smartphone as a hot spot so you aren’t sharing your connection with strangers.

Follow company rules

In their purest form, usability and security are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. The more secure something is, the more hoops you’ll have to jump through to gain access.

As inconvenient or complicated as it may be, not following the guidelines created by your IT department is an absolute no-no.

Using a VPN may make things slower in some cases, but you must understand that it’s a trade-off for security that you’ll have to accept.

Finally, watch out for clever phishing scams that are more commonly going to appear as if another person in your company is sending you an email. Always use a second communication channel, such as the phone or text messaging, to confirm any request that seems odd or urgent.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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