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The bug that will get you at home – it’s not coronavirus

Coronavirus poses a risk to our cybersecurity. Images: Getty

If you’re a worker who has been advised to self-isolate or work from home due to COVID-19, you might think you’re safeguarded from risk. 

However, you might not be as safe from viruses as you may think. The big difference is that catching one of these bugs won’t earn you as many sympathetic well wishes from your colleagues or manager. 

Companies around the world, including the likes of Twitter, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook are advising employees to work from home as pandemic fears intensify. While the risk of contagion decreases with remote work, the threat of exposure to cyber-viruses spread by savvy scammers is simultaneously growing. 

Online predators are well aware of the spike in telecommuting due to COVID-19 and are in their element capitalising on the chaos and unusual business practises being implemented across the country.

From fake login portals and invitations to meetings that don’t exist to email scams containing malware, Australian employees are encountering a range of new cyber hoaxes, and they are more deceiving than ever. 

Stay safe from contracting a cyber-virus when working from home by following just a few simple tips and tricks: 

Outsmart the email scams

Predators will prey on the heightened concern and interest around the virus.  If you don’t expect an email, ignore it or report it to your security team. Don’t click on a link in an email you are suspicious of as a fraudulent email link can take you to a phishing site that will look so real it will fool you into entering your login information. 

Ditch non-secure websites

This simply means looking for HTTPS in the URL rather than HTTP. The added S means the information being sent is secure and encrypted, so that only the intended recipient – in this case, the organisation – can see it.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi for work

Anytime you enter sensitive information using a public network, you’re making yourself vulnerable to identity theft and sensitive data being compromised. Most Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt your data, meaning that your information – and worse yet, your company’s information – could be accessed by strangers.

Always update your device and apps and never download apps from third party app stores

Regular updates as well as purchasing from legitimate app stores such as iTunes or Google Play Store will protect your device against spam-based malware infections. ‘Fake’ apps can serve up spam messages, compromise your device and spread spam to your contacts from your email account.

Work via a VPN

A VPN enables workers to send and receive data across shared or public networks, as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network in the office itself. Alternatively, a multi-step verification process confirms that confidential business information is being retrieved only by the trusted recipient. 

Keep internal communication channels open

With remote work, scammers have more opportunity to prey upon the ambition of employees who are keen to impress their managers. Be cautious of unusual communications you receive from a colleague, especially if they’re inviting you to perform irregular tasks or requesting your secrecy. Maintaining regular communication with other members of staff will ensure workflow efficiency, but also raise the alarm should any threat occur.

Create backups

Bad things can and do happen; regularly backup important data so that you can recover these if your computer gets infected by ransomware spread through spam emails.  Never pay the ransom as there is no guarantee that you will get your data back.

Trust your gut instinct

If at any time you feel as though something is a little off – perhaps a login process is asking for too much information or an email address doesn’t look right – simply leave the site.  

Don’t let yourself become frenzied in the midst of coronavirus. As organisations continue to encourage their employees to work from home, it’s important to remain alert and aware, yet not alarmed. Take a little extra time to check your trusted sources and continue to exercise the same precautionary measures as you would in a regular office environment.

Ashwin Pal, Director of Cyber Security at Unisys APAC.

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