20 Cybersecurity Tips for Remote Workers & Students

Every 39 seconds, there's a cyber attack happening somewhere on the World Wide Web. This is a startling statistic for anyone who has ever logged in online, especially those who fall under the umbrella of remote workers or online students. Monroe College offers these cybersecurity tips to help keep you safe:

1. Don't Overshare on Social Media

It's tempting to post photos of yourself posing in front of your school or beneath a funny street sign, but avoid doing so on social media. Check-ins are another bad idea. These actions make others aware of your exact location at any given time. And if your social media accounts are public, anyone could be watching. Digital security begins and ends with avoiding the temptation to overshare.

2. Avoid Using Public WiFi When Possible

Public WiFi seems convenient, but it leaves you vulnerable to MitM, or Man-in-the-Middle, attacks. There's also the chance you could accidentally log on to a malicious hotspot. Malicious hotspots mimic real-life businesses. But, in reality, they're just clever ruses set up by savvy hackers to collect your information.

3. Look for 'HTTPS' in the URL

Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, is used to send information between a server and a website. When you see the added 'S' on the end, it stands for 'secure.' This means the site features encryption to prevent eavesdroppers from reading what's being sent because the information has been encoded. When logging into any sensitive website make sure the URL begins with HTTPS.

4. Be Savvy With Passwords

Most of us know it's important to use different passwords for different sites. This helps protect you in the event of a data breach. But there are other things you can do to protect your passwords. These include using a password manager. A password manager protects you in several ways:

  • by generating random strong passwords
  • by storing your passwords in a heavily encrypted database
  • by securing the database behind a master password

In this way, you're never tempted to use your birth date, your cat's name, or the name of your significant other as passwords. There's also no need to jot your password down where others can easily see it.

5. Secure Your Home Network

Your home network must be secure to prevent hackers from accessing important information. Therefore, if you're not tech-savvy yourself, consider hiring a professional to set up your network. In this way, you'll be sure to have encryption turned on, have a good antivirus program constantly running, and have a strong firewall that blocks malicious traffic.

6. Perform System Updates Regularly

Annoyed by those unexpected notifications that pop up on your home computer and mobile device prompting you to install an update? Don't delay or ignore them. They may include vital patches or other types of protection that prevent infection. And if you ignore the update, you could be more vulnerable to attack.

7. Never Share Passwords or PINs

Along with choosing strong passwords and storing them safely comes the warning to keep your passwords and PIN numbers to yourself. This means not writing your PIN on the back of your credit card, and not using your banking password as your Netflix password, especially if you share your streaming account with friends or family members.

8. Use a VPN on Public Networks

If you must use public WiFi, consider using a VPN, such as Cyberghost. VPN is an acronym for Virtual Private Network. Essentially, it creates a sort of encrypted tunnel for data to travel through as it passes from your device to the server and back. It also shields your IP address to prevent hackers from virtually following you home. You can buy a VPN for a small monthly fee, and it will help keep you safe online.

9. Never Open Unfamiliar Links in Emails

Hackers can do a lot of devious things, including sending you emails that look as though they came from someone you know, including your bank, your credit card company, or retailers such as Amazon or Walmart. Don't click on links in emails. If you're worried something may be wrong with an account, go to the current website and log in using your credentials.

10. Always Log Out of Your Device

This one may sound too easy, but no list of cybersecurity tips would be complete without it: Never stay logged in on public networks. Even at home, it's a good idea to log out when you're done. This helps prevent back-door attacks on your computer. It also prevents house guests from sitting down at your workstation and snooping through your emails or private messages.

11. Lock Down Your Mobile Devices

Mobile phones, iPads, laptops, and tablets should all be locked with strong passwords. Otherwise, you run the risk of someone else picking them up and accessing important information. Digital security pertains to all your mobile devices just as it does to your home computer. And having a password lock on your device makes it less worrisome should the article become lost or stolen.

12. Perform Routine Scans for Adware and Malware

Ideally, your system will do this for you. Still, it's good to run routine scans after visiting a site you find to be a little sketchy. This can help you detect signs of adware. Adware, or spyware, essentially tracks your online activities. Many brands do this to help target you for offers. If you don't like the idea of a third party noting every website you visit, remove spyware promptly.

13. Use Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication requires access to your mobile phone or email account before you can log in. This means, in order to proceed, you must first verify a code sent to your phone or email. In this way, someone pretending to be you and who has your password, still can't access your account. Use two-factor authentication when it's offered.

14. Stay Up-to-Date on the Latest Phishing Schemes

Phishing usually happens through email, and it's easier to fall prey than you might think. Phishing emails appear to come from legitimate sources. But they often contain misspelled words or awkward phrasing. If something sounds off in that email you just received from PayPal, there's likely good reason. Never click on or reply to phishing emails.

15. Don't Leave Mobile Devices Unattended

Be careful where you leave things such as your purse, your jacket, your briefcase, or your bookbag, especially if your phone or tablet are inside. You may feel as though the school cafeteria or local library are safe places to leave your things while you visit the restroom, but anyone could happen by while you're gone.

16. Don't Download Files from Unknown Websites

Ideally, you'll have a firewall installed on your computer that prevents this occurrence. Still, if you feel the need to override your firewall, be very careful. Downloading unknown files could infect your computer with a malicious virus. Today's viruses often do more than just ruin your computer. Some may run through your contact list and send out malicious emails to all your friends, too.

17. Never Use Factory-Set Passwords

It's disconcerting to know large numbers of people still use the factory-set passwords that come with their devices. 'Admin' is a biggie. Don't use 'default,' 'password,' or 'root' either. And don't use '12345.' Homeowners who install smart devices such as doorbells and video cameras are notorious for making this mistake.

18. Don't Fall Prey to Scammers

Usually, when these schemes begin online, they come with promises of big payouts. If you send $100, they'll guarantee you a return of $100,000. Usually, they'll ask for information such as your bank account and routing numbers, so they can deposit your cash more quickly. Don't bite.

19. Backup Important Work

There's more to digital safety than just protecting your personal information. There's also the need to protect your work. Online students and remote workers, especially, should perform routine backups to preserve important documents in the event of a computer crash. Cloud backup services, such as Microsoft OneDrive, are solid solutions.

20. Always Consider Yourself a Target

It's a sad reality that everyone who uses a computer or mobile device is a potential target. These cybersecurity tips may seem too simple to work, but they can mean the difference between keeping your personal information private or dealing with hassles such as identity theft, stolen credit card numbers, or an empty bank account.

At Monroe College in New York, we're training tomorrow's leaders in a variety of fields, including cybersecurity and computer science. Request more information, or apply for admission today.