working from homeIn December, the OCR newsletter was titled Cybersecurity While on Holiday.  First, how very British of them!  Second, is it just when on holiday?  The same rules apply anytime you are on the road with technology and access to the internet.  We see this as something you should review no matter when you plan to access information outside the office like working from home.  While some think the corner coffee shop is a great work space others work in hotels and conference rooms all over town without being on holiday at all.  In this episode, we review the suggestions in the newsletter but drill down a bit more into how much each of their tips applies when you are working mobile from home or just down the street, as well.

HIPAA For MSPs by David Sims Cybersecurity Outside The Office
00:00:00 00:00:00

Bring and Use Your Own Power Adapters and Cords

Cyber thieves may install malware onto hotel lamps, airport kiosks and other public USB charging stations. If you absolutely must charge your device on the road, and you don’t have access to your charger/adapter, power down your device before you connect it into any airport chair or public USB charging station.

USB condoms may be humorous for some of us to talk about but they are a real thing and very valuable to have around.  They prevent other devices from connecting to your device through a USB connection.  If you travel a good bit, you should seriously consider getting one of these for yourself.

Back Up Your Electronic Files

Before you leave, backup your contacts, photos, videos and other mobile device data with another device or cloud service. And make sure your backups are encrypted and secure!

If possible, spot checks or test the backups from time to time.  Certainly, test before you leave. 🙂  When you travel and things go wrong with your devices and important data it really does dampen the fun you are supposed to be having.  If you are working from home, it also makes you not productive at all.

Install Security Updates and Patches

Be sure to patch and update operating systems and software (including mobile device apps). This should be a regular practice, but it is particularly important if you will be unable to update while traveling. Updates and patches can fix security flaws and enable security software to detect and prevent new threats.

As we discussed in our patches episode: Patch baby patch.  Patching is absolutely key to protecting your devices normally.  But, especially when you are out in the wild with your devices you never know what could be used against you. If you are working from home then someone there needs to be responsible for making sure your devices are updated.

Segment your home devices from your work devices when working from home

On a network, machines can try to talk to each other.  You can create segments of your home network to prevent the kids and the IoT in your smart home from having access to your work devices.  This is especially important if you are working from home on a regular basis.

Update and Patch Routers, Firewalls & UTMs at Home

Just like the work devices your home devices need patches also.  Many WiFi access points and routers you use in your home may be out of date on firmware which leaves your network vulnerable.  How can you tell how much that matters?  How many WiFi networks do you see on your devices from home that are NOT yours?  Remember, often you just have to be better than the network next door to protect yourself from attacks.  The harder it is to get into your network the less likely you are going to be hit when easy targets are all around you.

Create New Passwords and Change Passwords

Change passwords you will use while traveling, and add multi-factor authentication, if possible. Don’t skimp on password creation either—a numerical sequence is not ideal. Passwords should be at least 10 characters or longer with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Consider using a passphrase – a combination of words that are easy to remember, such as “Mydogatemyhomeworkandgotindigestion”. Once you’re home, change your passwords Again!

Passwords are a key element that we discussed in multiple episodes.  Based on the Google reports we reviewed about passwords means there is definitely a need to worry about it when you travel.  If you use strong passwords and two-factor authentication you can be a little less crazy over passwords.  Use a password manager to help you control things but activate two-factor authentication and use a strong password for the password manager.

Lock Devices Down

Most smartphones, laptops, and tablets come equipped with security settings that will enable you to lock the device using a PIN or fingerprint ID. Do this on every available device. In the event you misplace or lose a device, this will be the first line of defense against a security breach.

Remove or Encrypt Sensitive Information on Mobile Devices

If you do not need to access sensitive information while traveling, don’t bring it. But if you need the information while you are traveling, make sure sensitive information is encrypted. For example, laptops should have full-disk encryption.

Turn Off WiFi Auto-Connect and Bluetooth

Go to your device’s Settings feature, and disable the WiFi auto-connect option so that you manually connect when it is safe to do so. Similarly, disable Bluetooth connectivity. If left on, cyber thieves can connect to your device in a number of different and easy ways.

Pineapples allow you to easily attack people by pretending to be your normal WiFi. Maybe from when you are working from home, you can feel safe about it but there are times when you may even need to worry about your home network and a pineapple device.

Avoid Public WiFi

Avoid connecting to any public WiFi network. You didn’t connect to the free, open WiFi on the airplane, so continue that mindset on the ground. Using your mobile network (like 4G or LTE) is generally more secure than using a public wireless network.

Do not conduct sensitive activities, such as online shopping, banking, or sensitive work, using a public wireless network. Always log into your work networks through VPN, and only use sites that begin with “https://” when online shopping or banking.

VPN services that work on mobile devices and computers should be part of a travelers risk management plan. Even when you are working from home it may be a good idea to use the company VPN rather than trust in the security of your home network. David and Donna use the following VPN services:

Ensure Physical Security of Your Devices

NEVER let your devices leave your sight. If you cannot physically lock devices in your hotel room safe or other secure place, take them with you. There are no good hiding spots in your hotel room! Many breaches occur because a device was left unattended when an opportunistic thief struck. When traveling with laptops and tablets, the best protection is to carry them with you. It’s never safe to pack your devices in your checked luggage.

Create Unique PINs

Don’t use the same PIN for the hotel safe and a mobile device, especially one that you’re storing in the hotel safe!  Do you really want to make it that easy for a thief?

Use Geo-Location Cautiously

Most social media sites are happy to automatically share your location as you post photos and messages. This also tells thieves back home that you are away, which is a great time to break in. So, limit the information you post regarding your location at any point in time.

Most of us worry about security at work but how much do you worry about it when you are outside the office.  It is almost more important to worry about it outside the office because you are on your own.  You are out in the wild without your IT staff or department watching out for you.  Make time now to worry about securing your home office and devices when you travel.  It will save you a lot of trouble and stress when you are enjoying your break from the office no matter where you may be going. If you do a lot of working from home then take the time to do your own risk analysis and apply some of these tips to your home network access.