How to be Proactive around Protecting your Personal Devices and Information

With the social distancing requirements continuing during the pandemic, more and more people are moving over to the work-from-home or WFH, option. One of the unexpected realisations is that, as individuals, we need to now more than ever take on the responsibility of protecting our devices as we are no longer working behind the protection of our work or office Firewall.

Let’s break this down into 2 sections, starting with your home internet connection and then exploring how to safe-guard your personal devices.

1. Your Home Internet

There are two bases to cover when it comes to your home internet:

1: Is your router secure?

2: What on your home Wi-Fi could be a risk to your device’s safety?

The one recurring problem we see, and this is the one that causes the most concern, is routers being left with default login details after installation and setup.

All routers are sold with the default username and password. When you leave your router on its default settings, anyone can simply connect to it.

If a smart person with the wrong intentions connects to your router, they can gain access to the following information:

  • Any open shares on your network

  • Your device IP and Mac address

  • Depending on the make of router, they might see your outgoing connections

  • Access to your CCTV system (if it is connected to your home network).

To prevent this, a simple but important step is to make sure that your Admin password to your router is changed to a secure password.

What I would recommend is staying away from using plain passwords such as:

  • A cell phone number

  • Home address

  • Names of other people in the house

  • Names and surnames

Instead, it's best to use a random password generator to give you the most secure password, and a password keeper such as LastPass to store the password securely instead of writing it down. The same applies for your Home Wi-Fi password.

This sounds like a simple but inconvenient step to take, which explains why most people take this guideline for granted. However, a secure router password is highly effective in increasing the security of your home networks.

2. Your Devices

Most people consider a firewall as not being feasible for home use due to the high cost of these devices. However, there are options for smaller devices built to add firewall like protection in a home.

The Firewalla and Bitdefender Box devices both come in at a price point between $80 and $149. Considering that these devices give you firewall-like protection on your home network as well as more control over what can be accessed over your home network, these are really good investments.

They would both block items such as the downloading of torrents or, in the case of kids, blocking their devices off from accessing adult content.

Protecting your Devices when Working from Home

When you are at the office you are most likely behind the safety of a firewall that protects you from suspicious emails as well as various other threats. When it comes to working away from the office, you still need to be sure to protect your devices.

There are various software packages that come at a minimal cost that will add a great deal of protection. One such is BlackFog - a piece of software was made with human error in mind.

Where this differs from your average antivirus package is that it checks your connection going out. Instead of only resolving the threat when it is found on the device like an antivirus, BlackFog checks the outgoing connection and warns/blocks you from making connections to suspicious sites, thus preventing suspicious files from reaching your devices.

BlackFog can be configured in many ways: from blocking adult content on a child’s device through to blocking staff members from accessing sites not essential to their work.

What's important to note that this application is made to work alongside your antivirus and not meant to replace it in any way.

Using a VPN in a Public Wi-Fi Area

Lastly, some of us are opting to work safely from different areas than the home during these days of social distancing. While this can help to give us a change of scenery, we must be aware of cyber-threats to our devices that can be more damaging than pickpocketing.

When we make use of public Wi-Fi at restaurants, the mall and even the airport, what we may not be aware of is that many of these places could be possible hotspot for fraudsters and cyber criminals. There are many forms of attack that can be used on unsecure public networks.

Have a look at how easy it can be for you to make this mistake, even if you know what to look for:

My recommendation is to use a VPN whenever using publicly available Wi-Fi to protect your outgoing connection, keeping your data and connection safe.

To get started with a VPN, check out Express VPN or the less costly option of Tunnel Bear.

To summarise:

1: Secure your router and Wireless network.

2: Secure your devices with more than just an antivirus.

3: If you are using a public network, sign up for a VPN.

Keeping our digital trails protected and secured may involve a little bit of investment, but is worthwhile in the end.