Mobile networks and Wi-Fi enabled devices have forever changed the way the world goes to work. Business executives are finishing expense reports at cruising altitude, and stay at home moms are creating home businesses during nap times. With telecommunication, the possibilities have expanded immensely, and now we can all work anytime, anywhere, as long as we have an internet connection and a device. Companies no longer have to make office space for every employee, and software allows them to track hours and work done remotely by their staff.
Cloud computing and storage sparked the revolution in taking work out of the office, and the wave continues to grow as more and more apps and software programs are developed to help burgeoning home businesses and on the go entrepreneurs. Not only can employees check in, complete and exchange work on the go, but they can use their arsenal of business tools and apps on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops to do everything from manage websites to run their stores.
Like everything else done online though, working remotely comes with some substantial security risks. There’s a lot at stake when your livelihood is on the line, so there’s no sense in taking any chances. Here are some basic tips for protecting your data when you’re working on the go.
#1 – Avoid Public Wi-Fi Networks Whenever Possible
While this definitely isn’t the most practical suggestion for those of us that work on the go, it’s worth asking yourself if you can just use your mobile network instead. While public Wi-Fi is incredibly convenient, it’s a lot like parking in a public lot – there are inherent and unavoidable security risks. These networks have become hotspots for criminal activity and hackers. It’s astounding how easy it is for the inconspicuous guy across the room that appears to be surfing Reddit to get into your connection and steal your information, but it happens all the time, and it’s a relatively simple thing to do. I know I won’t be laying off the public networks any time soon, but if you can, it’s worth going out of your way and eating up some of your data plan.
#2 – Use a VPN to Protect Your Connection
It’s almost unrealistic to suggest that a telecommuting employee not use public Wi-Fi to do any work. In today’s day and age no one ever seems to have a spare moment, and even the time spent sipping a cup of coffee is valuable space to get some work done. If you’re like me and can’t break away from public Wi-Fi, at least use a VPN to keep your data secure. VPNs are virtual private networks, and they work by routing your connection through a securely encrypted tunnel to a secure server of your choosing.
The VPN also blocks your IP address, so your activity is both private and anonymous. While virus protection software is great for protecting your actual device, a VPN keeps your information secure as it leaves across a network connection, and on its way to the next server. This software is also great for accessing sites and services you need to get your work done that may be blocked in some places, since you can choose the location of your server.
#3 – Install Some Security Software
Most devices come with security and anti-virus software already installed, but take a good look at what your device has and see if it’s enough. While a VPN protects your connection, it can’t do much if you invite malware into your system by downloading files from illegitimate sites. Anti-malware software will help you spot the red flags of nasty things like Trojans and phishing software that like to sneak in on files that websites trick you into downloading to your computer. Once they’ve made it to your device, they can raise absolute hell, corrupting your system and stealing your information. Play it safe and always make sure that whatever device you’re using to do your work has plenty of protection.
#4 – Back Everything Up
If you’re unfortunate enough to wind up with malware or a virus on your device, it’s scary how rapidly your entire system can be corrupted. Files can be permanently destroyed, and all of that hard work can rapidly disappear down the drain. As you begin to accumulate work documents, make sure to at least back them up on your device, so that in the event that your system is compromised, the data isn’t lost for good.
#5 – Look Into Cloud Storage
While backing up your files on your device is certainly a step in the right direction, sometimes even that isn’t enough to keep from losing your work. Cloud storage is a nice way to free up space on your hard drive, while storing your files outside of the device on a remote server. While there are definitely some questions being raised about the true privacy and security of cloud storage, if nothing else, this is a service that has you covered in the event of some kind of physical damage happening to your device that renders it inoperable.
#6 – Check Your Sharing Settings
One surprising thing about mobile network users is that many of them have never even opened their network sharing settings. If these setting aren’t adjusted, often the factory defaults allow for dangerous things like network discovery, which allows other users on a public network to see your device on the connection, opening you up as a possible victim. On top of that, public and shared folders on your devices can allow other users on the same network to get a glimpse into files you may not be aware you’re even sharing. Better safe than sorry, be stingy with your device. Turn off all of your sharing settings if you’re on a public network, and disable network discovery while you’re at it. Even allowing printer and device sharing can leave the back door open for hackers, so shut it all down, and make sure to make those settings your default.
#7 – Keep Passwords Secure
One of the easiest and most common ways hackers get a hold of your personal information is often by tricking people into giving them information that helps them ascertain their passwords. A surprising number of people use the same password for multiple accounts, so when a hacker gets ahold of one, it has a way of turning into a domino effect that can be detrimental to the user’s personal information. While the combinations of letters and numbers needed for all of those login credentials can be incredibly frustrating, it’s worth the trouble to protect your information and keep unauthorized users out. If you have a hard time remembering them all and fall into the trap of using the same one over and over again, consider using a password app like OneLogin.
#8 – Get Creative with Stenography
This security measure is one that you don’t see much of, but is a curious and creative way to protect your information nonetheless. It has a Trojan horse type of feel to it, in that you basically hide a file within an inconspicuous file that no one would typically care to intercept anyway. While it may be a little bit outside of the mainstream in terms of security, the principle is sound, and it’s no doubt a great way to get private files and communications to someone with much less fear of them being intercepted. Software exists to get your files embedded in others, and this coupled with a VPN encrypted connection makes the chances of your information being stolen very slim. There’s no doubt about it – if you’re going to work remotely, you need to take some additional security measures, both for the sake of your own privacy, and that of your company. Telecommuters present unique and desirable targets to hackers because of the information and accessibility they often have to corporate information. As an employee or business owner, the responsibility falls to you – keep your data secure, and protect your work.
Cassie is a technology enthusiast and her main area of interest is internet security.