Here's how to stay safe online - in the pandemic and beyond

Tom Allen
clock • 3 min read

The coronavirus pandemic threw working lives into disarray, but we cannot afford to sacrifice security for convenience

The UK has been living with the coronavirus pandemic for almost 12 months, which has brought a host of changes and challenges. Still, after nearly a year of remote work and lockdown, many employees are foregoing basic internet safety in the pursuit of convenience.

Follow these top tips to stay safe online and protect both yourself and your employer.

  1. Never share personal details. Keep your full name, date of birth, and other personal information private; never post it in public, and check your privacy settings on any website you have an account on, especially social media sites, to check your information is secure. This also applies to popular viral messages: posts like 'Your month + year of birth = your next holiday destination' are often just a way for fraudsers to build a profile of you.
  2. Watch out for scams. 2020 saw an explosion in health-related social engineering attacks, as criminals tried to leverage peoples' fears around coronavirus and desperation for a vaccine. Always stay up to date with the latest methods a scammer might use - and, of course, perform due diligence on any email or message that seems too good to be true. Check the sender's email address and any links they ask you to click; and if you can, navigate to the relevant website yourself.
  3. Choose a strong passphrase. Passwords are so 20th century; a short sentence is harder to crack and easier to remember. Still, you should avoid common tropes like 'letmein' or 'opensesame'; and no, 'passwordonetwothree' doesn't count as a secure phrase. It should also go without saying that you shouldn't reuse the same password or passphrase between sites; never share it with anyone else; and, importantly for the current situation, avoid storing it or leaving yourself logged in on shared devices.
  4. Keep your device secure. It's easy to slip into bad habits while working remotely, but safety should always come first. If you have a work-supplied laptop or device, continue to use it and make sure it's updated with the latest anti-virus and other safety measures. Stay connected with a VPN, if you have one, and look at setting up two-factor authentication.
  5. Secure your connection. WiFi networks are notoriously unsafe, and sharing one with other members of your household only adds to the risks. If you can't set up a dedicated work-only network (ask your company about this), at least go beyond the default password. For example, change the router's name, access password and admin password; activate network encryption; and even change the IP address.
  6.  Keep a balance. While this tip might not be directly related to safer internet practices, it's important nevertheless. Switching to remote work has blurred the barriers between our personal and professional lives, especially for younger people who may be forced to live and work in a single room. If you become overwhelmed or stressed and feel that you have nowhere to go to escape from your computer, simply turn it off and walk away for a few minutes. Make a cup of tea, or take a walk outside. You'll come back feeling refreshed and ready to take a new perspective.

Remember these tips any time you're using the internet, whether at home or - eventually - at work.

Have questions about security? Register now for Computing's virtual Cybersecurity Festival in June - combining presentations, panel sessions, fireside chats, workshops and networking to address any and all issues facing the modern CISO.

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