Securing Devices at Home and Work — NCSAM Week 2

Maximize Your Defenses, No Matter Your Location

It’s hard enough maintaining a consistent and secure network connection in one location… How do you even begin to try to secure two?

2020 saw a major disruption in the way many work, learn, and socialize online. Our homes are more connected than ever. Our businesses are more connected than ever. With more people now working from home, these two internet-connected environments are colliding on a scale we’ve never seen before, introducing a whole new set of potential vulnerabilities that users must be conscious of.

This week’s theme for National Cybersecurity Awareness month focuses on steps users and organizations can take to protect internet connected devices for both personal and professional use.

PlexTrac is a registered 2020 Champion Organization. Organizations listed as Champions represent those dedicated to promoting a safer, more secure and more trusted Internet. To learn more about PlexTrac, click here.

To learn more about National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, click here.

Different Behavior for a Different Environment

Your home and your office are two completely different environments, and should be treated as such. While your work outfit will inevitably be different between these two locations (pajamas at home FTW!), this is especially true when focused on cybersecurity. While your office will undoubtedly have a baseline of security measures, firewalls, VPNs, and more in place on your devices, this isn’t the case at home.

Your home cybersecurity is what you make it. Let’s walk through some tips you can take at work to boost your cybersecurity (especially for small businesses), and how those tips compare to those you should utilize while at home.

Securing Devices at Work — Establish a Standard

Securing your devices at work is easier than securing devices at home. This is a universal truth. However, the difference in difficulty between the two will likely be measured by how established your security standards are in the office.

Large organizations likely will have advanced tactics, techniques, and protocols in place for establishing and maintaining their security standards. However, not everyone works for the Google, Microsoft, or Apples of the world. Smaller startup companies are more vulnerable to attack than larger companies, largely due to a lack of capital invested in cybersecurity. This smaller investment usually comes without establishing clear and actionable security standards, which leads to a greater risk to attack. In fact, more than half of small businesses with revenues under $10 million experienced a cyber attack last year.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are often fast-paced and exciting in nature. Working for a startup allows greater flexibility and control in your work when compared to large corporations. However, the downside remains clear — a lack of established security standards.

This is why it’s so important – especially as the little guy – to establish security standards. But what does this mean? How do you begin to do this? Here are some starting tips to get you on the right track to safety, brought to you directly by CISA:


1. Treat business information as personal informationBusiness information typically includes a mix of personal and proprietary data. While you may think of trade secrets and company credit accounts, it also includes employee personally identifiable information (PII) through tax forms and payroll accounts. Do not share PII with unknown parties or over unsecured networks.

2. Don’t make passwords easy to guess — As “smart” or data-driven technology evolves, it is important to remember that security measures only work if used correctly by employees. Smart technology runs on data, meaning devices such as smartphones, laptop computers, wireless printers, and other devices are constantly exchanging data to complete tasks. Take proper security precautions and ensure correct configuration to wireless devices in order to prevent data breaches. For more information about smart technology see the Internet of Things Tip Card. Read the Internet of Things Tip Sheet for more information.

3. Be up to date — Keep your software updated to the latest version available. Maintain your security settings to keep your information safe by turning on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it and set your security software to run regular scans.

4. Social media is part of the fraud tool set — By searching Google and scanning your organization’s social media sites, cybercriminals can gather information about your partners and vendors, as well as human resources and financial departments. Employees should avoid oversharing on social media and should not conduct official business, exchange payment, or share PII on social media platforms. Read the Social Media Cybersecurity Tip Sheet for more information.

5. It only takes one time — Data breaches do not typically happen when a cybercriminal has hacked into an organization’s infrastructure. Many data breaches can be traced back to a single security vulnerability, phishing attempt, or instance of accidental exposure. Be wary of unusual sources, do not click on unknown links, and delete suspicious messages immediately. For more information about email and phishing scams see the Phishing Tip Sheet.

Securing Devices at Home — Your Personal Cybersecurity Defense

Securing your devices at home is an entirely different beast when compared to the office. It simply is harder to stay cyber secure when you’re the sole individual in charge of your defenses…  especially if you aren’t a security pro. However, while your defenses will undoubtedly be weaker, you’re also less likely to receive an attack attempt at home because you’re a smaller target.

This does not downplay the importance of securing your home defense, though. Cyber attacks — regardless of a specific location — are at an all time high in 2020. In fact, cybersecurity companies and law enforcement are reporting an 800% surge in attacks since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nefarious bad actors are making a bad situation worse by capitalizing on the fear and uncertainty of our newly quarantined world. So what are we to do?

The work from home (WFH) work culture is not going anywhere. For example, Microsoft has recently embraced the hybrid workplace, which means they will “let more employees work from home permanently.” The focus of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is “helping to empower individuals and organizations to own their role in protecting their part of cyberspace.” 

We’re here to empower you as an individual by sharing 5 simple tips to protect your digital home, brought to you directly by CISA:


1. Secure your Wi-Fi NetworkYour home’s wireless router is the primary entrance for cybercriminals to access all of your connected devices. Secure your Wi-Fi network and your digital devices by changing the factory-set default password and username. For more information about protecting your home network, check out the National Security Agency’s Cybersecurity Information page.

2. Double your login protectionEnable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you. Use it for email, banking, social media, and any other service that requires logging in. If MFA is an option, enable it by using a trusted mobile device such as your smartphone, an authenticator app, or a secure token—a small physical device that can hook onto your key ring. Read the Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) How-to-Guide for more information.

3. If you connect, you must protectWhether it’s your computer, smartphone, game device, or other network devices, the best defense is to stay on top of things by updating to the latest security software, web browser, and operating systems. If you have the option to enable automatic updates to defend against the latest risks, turn it on. And, if you’re putting something into your device, such as a USB for an external hard drive, make sure your device’s security software scans for viruses and malware. Finally, protect your devices with antivirus software and be sure to periodically back up any data that cannot be recreated such as photos or personal documents.

4. Keep tabs on your appsMost connected appliances, toys, and devices are supported by a mobile application. Your mobile device could be filled with suspicious apps running in the background or using default permissions you never realized you approved—gathering your personal information without your knowledge while also putting your identity and privacy at risk. Check your app permissions and use the “rule of least privilege” to delete what you don’t need or no longer use. Learn to just say “no” to privilege requests that don’t make sense. Only download apps from trusted vendors and sources.

 5. Never click and tellLimit what information you post on social media—from personal addresses to where you like to grab coffee. What many people don’t realize is that these seemingly random details are all that criminals need to know to target you, your loved ones, and your physical belongings—online and in the real world. Keep Social Security numbers, account numbers, and passwords private, as well as specific information about yourself, such as your full name, address, birthday, and even vacation plans. Disable location services that allow anyone to see where you are— and where you aren’t —at any given time. Read the Social Media Cybersecurity Tip Sheet for more information.


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