With more employees working remotely across the globe due to coronavirus COVID-19, breaches will continue to increase at an almost unprecedented rate. The World Economic Forum says the COVID-19 pandemic poses the risk of increased cyberattacks—as hackers are taking this opportunity to target people’s increased dependence on digital tools.

The World Economic Forum also encourages all of us to step up our cyber hygiene standards right now. You can’t help but appreciate that analogy. In addition to washing our hands after every physical contact, we need to take this time to thoroughly examine our digital hygiene habits.

It’s no wonder many are all struggling with some very tough questions and asking: How can we continue to protect our businesses from nefarious characters? Why weren’t we more prepared, considering we talk about bad actors and cyber risks all the time? Why didn’t we have the right systems in place to enable our people and/or teams to work remotely prior to the pandemic?

The Intl. Assn. of IT Asset Managers is warning that most employers may have rushed into making their decision on remote work without thinking through how to secure their sensitive data. Now, I will argue that some companies didn’t have a choice, but it brings up a really good point. The scary reality is that roughly 54% of people use five or fewer passwords for all of their accounts. What’s more, home networks tend to be a weak point in most remote, work-from-home systems. This opens the door for hackers to get in, and of course do the greatest amount of damage.

On my last episode of The Peggy Smedley Show, I shared some tips and advice from others on how to secure business during the coronavirus outbreak. Let me summarize the top 10 here.

  1. Ensure your Wi-Fi connection is secure and check that you have a long and complex router password. Also, make sure that your system firewalls are active on your router.
  2. Ensure anti-virus is in place and fully updated. Also, do make sure to update your system software and patch any weaknesses that may be exploited. Further, check to see if you have encryption tools installed.
  3. Consider VPNs (virtual private networks) and multi-factor authentication.
  4. Don’t reuse passwords. I have said that so many times, even before this pandemic. But as a reminder, just don’t do it.
  5. Do not open emails from people you don’t know. Digital viruses spread much like physical ones. One mistake could contaminate others in your organization and have a dangerous ripple effect.
  6. Building on that, don’t open emails asking to renew passwords or for login credentials. Also, while you are at it don’t give personal information over the phone to someone you don’t know.
  7. If you do see suspicious emails, make sure to share it with your company’s IT team.
  8. Lock your screen if you work in a shared space. Also, have a discussion with your family members and children about the potential threats and how to handle them. I spoke about how to educate our kids about cybersecurity on my show last month. Your children on a mobile device downstairs could unknowingly let hackers in.
  9. Make sure to track all IT assets that are being taken home. You might even consider requiring employees to sign a non-disclosure agreement about the data they will have access to outside of the office. In some cases, consider monitoring employee data use and other remote practices. This also might be a good time to tighten up the reins on those bring your own device practices.
  10. Provide education and training to employees about how to manage their equipment and data at home. Set up those expectations now.

Lastly, remember this, the longer employees are working remotely in a vulnerable state, the bigger a target they may become for phishing and other attacks. Prepare them as best as you can now. Are there other best practices you are doing during this time? I would love to hear about them.

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