To assist with containment measures related to the coronavirus, many employers are now requiring that staff work either fully or partially from home — while others are at home to comply with a government-mandated quarantine.
Whether you’re preemptively isolating due to your risk profile or are already in quarantine, staying at home could save your life or that of another. And keeping your job while you do so could ensure that you make it back to the office financially unscathed.
What About Cybersecurity?
Even during extraordinary circumstances such as these, employers still need to ensure the security of internal data being accessed from off-site.
With mushrooming numbers of remote workers, features such as encryption and secure connections become very important, which is where a top VPN service comes into play.
You might be wondering whether you’ll need to plug into your company’s own managed VPN, if it has one, or whether a third party service will do. We’ll get to that.
But before we do: here are some reasons why a VPN is a must-have during this surprise explosion in home working, what you need to set one up, and which options to choose.
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Essentials: Internet, Workstation
If you’re going to be working from home for more than a few weeks, then you’ll need to ensure that you have the basic hardware in place to get the job done.
At a minimum, the following are recommended:
- An ergonomic workstation: Find somewhere comfortable where you can set up your computer. Make sure that your chair and desk are at the right height. You may also want to ensure that you have an ample supply of coffee!
- A faster internet connection: VPNs cannot increase your connection speed unless there is a bottleneck between your Local Area Network (LAN) and the ISP, which is unlikely. In fact, there’s almost always a small slowdown. Therefore, ensuring that you have a solid internet connection is a vital first step in the process. If you’re not sure what you’re working with, take an online speed test and make sure to record your upload as well as download speed. Also, for this reason, choose a VPN with a reputation for good connection speeds, like ExpressVPN.
Add-Ons: VPN, Antivirus
These days, most companies partially or wholly operate their business services on the cloud. In order to access services like CRMs and ERPs, customers need to make sure that they are not accidentally compromising company information or putting it at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Those ‘wrong hands’ could be packet sniffers on the local network or corporate spies trying to capture information on the way to your ISP.
Traditionally, companies that allowed remote work hosted VPN servers at their premises which allowed users to safely access local servers from the Wide Area Network (WAN) or connect to the broader internet through the managed connection from the office.
These days, with most technology on the cloud, the majority of companies are happy to allow their remote workers to connect to services so long as they are using third party VPNs and rely on their encryption and security features to allow workers to securely connect to cloud-hosted and locally-hosted services. If you’re not sure what your company is okay with, check its IT policy, if it has one. As a side benefit of the explosion of the VPN industry, businesses no longer have to maintain their own VPN infrastructure.
These third-party VPNs are names that you are likely already familiar with such as:
Many users are familiar with VPNs for their location-spoofing properties: by connecting to a VPN server in another country users are able to mask their true IP address and gain access to content that would otherwise be georestricted. But VPNs serve another important purpose: encrypting traffic between endpoints, such as workers’ laptops, and VPN servers.
And there’s more good news for those working remotely as a result of coronavirus fears:
For one, the VPN market is huge and there is an enormous variety of options to choose from, including:
- ExpressVPN for the fastest possible connections
- NordVPN with its unrivalled selection of servers
- PrivateInternetAccess which has a dedicated Linux GUI
For companies that need to ensure that workers always access company services from a VPN connection these services also have security-friendly features including:
- Kill switches. These will disable all outgoing internet connections in the event that the connection to the VPN server drops
- DNS leak detectors. These will ensure that DNS requests are kept within the VPN tunnel. If they are not, malicious actors on the network could still see which websites you are accessing.
In addition to using a reliable VPN, you can take additional steps to ensure that the devices you’re using to connect to corporate resources do not risk injecting malware and other cybersecurity threats to cloud-hosted business services, which could easily spread throughout your company’s network.
It’s also very important to ask your company to subscribe to a VPN service, download the client, and get connected.
Protecting All Devices Is Your Responsibility
Those trying out remote working for the first time due to the coronavirus outbreak are able to avail of some of the unique benefits of working from home. For many, working from home is a much easier environment to focus in than the open-plan offices that have become commonplace in many industries. Others simply prefer cooking a fresh meal to grabbing takeout or lugging food into the office.
While the advantages are many, remote workers also need to understand that they owe their employers a responsibility to put security front and center when remotely accessing company files, business systems, and even collaboration tools.
If you’re working from home you should make sure to do the following:
- Ensure you connect to business services via a VPN.
- Make sure to do this from every device you access work information from, whether that’s your desktop, smartphone, or laptop.
- If you can’t find a VPN service with a high enough device limit, consider installing the VPN on your home router.
- Make sure your computer is kept properly updated and has reliable antivirus and internet security tools installed.
Finally, don’t forget the offline tools. If you’re printing and viewing confidential documentation from your home office, then buying a shredder might be a prudent investment to make sure that your company’s trade secrets don’t go out, with last night’s pizza box, into the trash.
Follow our tips to make sure that your work-from-home experience with coronavirus is a success both for you and your employer.