Make home working work

Before lockdown, only 17% of employees regularly worked from home, yet now nearly half the UK is doing just that , sharing broadband with families/household members who are also home working/schooling.

Daniel Mitchell, Co-Founder and Director of technology services business Lifeline IT looks at the various issues this presents.

Reduced connectivity speeds due to several family/household members sharing facilities is one of the key challenges facing many people. Home working can also present an ideal opportunity for hackers, as online security may not be as robust as in the office – in recent weeks there have been warnings that cyber criminals are taking advantage of the coronavirus situation by sending fake emails, texts and false tracker apps.

Boost your connectivity

If you’re having problems with your internet connection, try moving your wireless router – keep it away from thick walls, big pieces of metal – such as refrigerators or microwaves – and make sure it’s not in a cupboard or behind a TV. Wi-Fi also doesn’t like being near lots of water, so keep it away from fish tanks/aquariums. If it’s practical, try moving your router to a more central location by running a longer cable from the wall position.

Turning Wi-Fi off when you’re on lunch/taking a break and then re-starting your wireless access afterwards may help you find the channel with least interference, especially if your Wi-Fi hasn’t been re-started for some time. Turning off the Wi-Fi on your laptop when you’re not working can also help.
Old laptops/PCs can slow down performance. If you’re working on an old machine, it’s worth considering upgrading or seeing if your employer has a more up-to-date one you can work on. The same goes for software – try and run up-to-date versions. A business license for packages such as Microsoft Office often allows companies to install it on employees’ devices at home, if the software is being used for work purposes.

If there are several of you in the same household, consider a ‘rota’ for using the internet for downloading/uploading so the system doesn’t get overworked. Video conferencing (Zoom, Chime etc), online classroom resources and gaming will all drain your internet speed so stagger usage. Maybe consider a second internet connection solely for work-based use.

If you have lots of devices competing for signal, such as a smart TV or PlayStation, turn them off in the daytime. And with smartphones, try and use your mobile network rather than the home internet if you can.

Keep cyber-savy

A lot of cyber criminals are out there trying to interact with you, so always be very careful who you communicate with online. Phishing attacks (the fraudulent practice of sending emails pretending to be from reputable companies/organisations) are on the increase so never open anything that looks suspicious.

Be especially aware of potential online financial fraud – everyone is reliant on emails/texts to communicate financial information and you can no longer go into someone’s office and say ‘I’ve had this email and it doesn’t look right’. If you’re in doubt – don’t open it and don’t pass it on.

Think carefully about payment processes and don’t automatically authorise them – there’s currently a lot of spoofing of email addresses to get companies to approve fraudulent payments, so always verify them by phone.
When you’re working in an office, your IT department/supplier centrally monitors what is coming in and out and will spot anything that looks suspicious. But with employees no longer operating via one location, monitoring is more difficult so everyone needs to be extra vigilant.

According to our own research, 49 per cent of people aren’t confident they have the same security in place at home as at work, so now is the time to address this. Always make sure your software and anti-virus protection is up-to-date and running properly.

Personal computers/laptops are a risk, especially if they’re being shared with other household members. Unlike work equipment, there is less control over what applications are on them and therefore they are more susceptible to cyber-crime. Always be extra cautious when using shared equipment and again, make sure anti-virus software is running.

Avoid data disasters

Effectively managing your data whilst home working can present real challenges, particularly when sharing devices. Consider different user profiles on your computer for work and personal as this significantly improves your security. The same applies if you’re sharing a device with family members – make sure they have their own profiles as it’s a good way of safely segmenting access to data.

Avoid mixing file locations between family storage platforms and work systems. Use a different password for each system, enable two-factor authentication and consider using a secure password storage platform, such as LastPass or Bitwarden. Also, enable two-factor authentication for your personal accounts.

Don’t ignore operating system requests to update and re-start as these often contain security patches. Yes, it’s frustrating when Windows 10 asks you to restart your machine but make sure you do, as it ensures your system is far less prone to a hacking attempt.

If you’re storing business information on your own computer/laptop whilst working from home it’s always best to use your company data cloud if you can. If this isn’t possible, make sure you always back-up to an external drive. Apple computers are supplied with Time Machine and there is similar software available for PCs that allows secure data back-up to an external drive.