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How to keep your home office secure

By Kevin Conner on 04 Jan, 2019

Working from your home office can be a great experience and a way to enjoy your home more while still getting your work done. Whether you are a remote worker or an entrepreneur, we hope that you are enjoying the benefits of your career path. Yet it should be noted that with a home office comes particular security risks.

Not only your information but that of your clients or workplace is at risk in the event of a data breach, which can mean severe consequences for you if you aren’t careful. You will need to take additional steps on top of your home security plan.

There is no perfect security, but you can prepare yourself for any eventuality and once you get yourself set up, maintenance is generally only a matter of vigilance. Strong security is possible, and by reading on and following these recommendations, you’ll be many steps ahead of the curve.

Practice basic online and identity security                                                                                                       

Many of the things you can do to keep your home office secure are the things you do to keep your personal information secure as well, with added importance and scope. Make sure you are doing to following to keep yourself and your work life safe:

- Utilise virus protection and firewalls, keep them updated, and don’t choose a free option that might behind the rest of the industry. This is a basic tip, but one many people still don’t follow.

- Password managers are incredibly useful. You can try and remember a series of long passwords, but most people generally just get frustrated with the process and revert to unsafe practices. With one, you can have the safety of a strong password for as many sites as you need.

- Utilise two-factor authentication and other measures.

- Completely avoid unprotected public Wi-Fi. It is simply too much of a risk in most circumstances when you can easily invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or use your more secure mobile data plan.

- Only use reliably secure banks and institutions. Corporate data breached happen often, even more than the news reports, and the only measure of control you have over their effects is whether you’re with a company that takes security (digital and physical) seriously.

- Be careful about the software and files you download. You can generally scan files coming in, but larger files might not have that option. Know where your files are coming from, and don’t be afraid to request more information if you feel it’s necessary.

- If you have an online web presence or website, be careful to protect that just as vigilantly. It is linked to many of your professional contacts, and hackers will certainly try to target it first, being visible and often more easily exploitable.

- Invest in a shredder and delete certain digital files when you’re done with them. Removing unnecessary traces is an excellent way of protecting yourself.

- Make sure that you have a breach plan. No matter how secure you are, there’s always a chance that a zero-day exploit gets used or something else out of your control occurs. Know how you’re going to contain the situation, know what passwords, etc. you will need to change, and how you will respond regarding your work. Having a plan will prevent panic.

Educate yourself about potential online dangers

As part of securing your home office, you will need to educate yourself on potential scams and dangers in addition to having the right programs in place. There are plenty out there, but they are also easy to spot the warning signs of once you get the concept down. Get Safe Online goes over nearly all the common scams, and some quick online research can inform you as to the rest.

As a rule, if an apparent individual or company isn’t willing to be fully transparent with you or tries to rush you through a process, you should be extremely cautious moving forward, if not just think it’s a scam entirely and move on. Remember that you are a more valuable target than the average person, especially in a business capacity due to your connections.

While you might educate yourself today, don’t forget to also continue to learn about new tactics hackers and scammers are developing constantly. Keeping up can be difficult, but make a dedicated effort to check each month and use your better judgment while online.

Invest in some physical security

We generally found that hackers and online scams are the biggest threat to your home office and lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean physical security shouldn’t be neglected. Note that If criminals know that you have something more to take, your home can become a target, putting yourself and others at risk. We recommend the following countermeasures if possible:

- Getting a home security system may seem like a bit much, but it’s mere advertised existence in your home can be a strong deterrent. Criminals are unlikely to be after you specifically, just the easiest and most lucrative target. In fact, Homes that don’t have a security system are three times more likely to be robbed. Installing a home security system in your home effectively guarantees that your home will not be an easy target, and thus passed over.

- Invest in a safe. It is recommended you find a model that can either be bolted in or otherwise installed so thieves can’t just pick up the safe and leave. We also recommend you select a model that is both fireproof and floodproof, in order to protect your most valuable documents and items from the elements.

- Keep a lock on your door. You would do so for a regular office, and you can close and lock the door when you’re done for the day and want to keep your thoughts away from work. If your current home lock is flimsy and easily broken, you might wish to have a better lock (or additional locks) installed.

- Try to keep your office and valuable items out of the way. Should someone break into your home, they likely won’t want to rummage around for too long if they aren’t sure when other people might notice them.

- Please note especially for this aspect of home office security your individual needs may vary, and you might wish to review other information as pertains to your unique security situation.

Keep your home office separate from the rest of your life

Another vital step in keeping your home office secure is making sure that, much like a standard office, it remains a mostly separate part of your life. This applies as much to your digital workspace as your physical one.

As such, you shouldn’t combine or cross over your business and personal accounts except for extraordinary circumstances. Your line of work may already recommend this for liability reasons, but when it comes to cybersecurity it’s just as important. If someone finds their way into a personal account, they could be able to get into your work if you’re not careful, hence those precautions.

If you can afford it, it would be easier to have two sets of devices for yourself or your family: one set that is just for work and another for general and home use. You will also want to keep your friends and family away from your work devices for nearly any reason. They might mean well, but they also don’t likely understand the full importance of keeping your work safe.

Speaking of devices, you will want to be cautious of the networks you have and the routers you use in your home. It might be prudent for you to invest in a more secure router than the one your ISP gives you and set up a separate, more secure network that you only use for business purposes. Other security measures might mean little if another device on your network is compromised.

Some additional advanced measures

While the above measures should be enough for most home offices, you can invest in the following to really make your home office and digital office space as secure as possible:

- Use a keypad lock on the door to your home office. They are generally sturdier and aren’t so prone to lockpicking. Giving the code to a spouse or trusted loved one will also allow them to enter your office in the event of an emergency.

- Choose a second floor or attic location if possible, and invest in sturdier window locks. You don’t want someone to break in through your window, take your valuables quickly, and then get out without being noticed.

- Get insurance for your home office and relevant equipment and materials. You might be covered under a current policy, but that coverage might also be limited to a certain amount such as £2500 for your computer equipment. It can’t hurt to double check and adjust your plan accordingly.

- Have advanced power surge protection installed, ensuring that nothing can affect your work. Decent equipment and installation costs between £250 to £500 and protects your whole home from nearly any surge.

- Use multiple backup methods at once to cover all the bases, if you’re worried something might happen to your current backup service at the worst possible time.

Conclusion

We encourage you to not stop with the above measures. If your situation calls for a different or additional layer of security, implement it as soon as you can. Every home office and every person will have different needs, and maximising your home office security is a matter of filling in those potential gaps.

Taking many of the above measures will require a bit of an investment, but the benefits should last you for years and will provide you with greater peace of mind, knowing that you not only have every reasonable protection in place, but also a plan to react to situations that might come up. We wish you the very best of luck, and we hope you enjoy your home office.

Kevin Conner is the founder and CEO of Vast Bridges, a customer acquisition and lead generation company in the home services arena. Most recently he and a small team have launched broadbandsearch.net, the US's leading home services (broadband and TV) search engine.