It has become very common for employees to work from home using company laptops or by working remotely with a home computer. This change can be good for comfort and productivity, but a home network rarely ever reaches the same level of security as a business network. Here are some tips to reduce data risk at home.
- Keep everything updated
- Dont use IoT (Internet of Things) devices
- Use a VPN
- Use ad blocking addons
- Disable UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) on your router
Keep everything updated
Just because a vulnerability gets patched doesn’t mean that hackers are going to stop trying to use that method of attack. Rather, bad guys rely on victims to leave their electronics unpatched, and try older, still working exploits, even though there is already a fix available. Everything in your house that connected to the internet, weather through a wired or wireless connection should stay as up to date as possible, so that old methods of attack wont work against you.
Don’t use IoT devices
It is very common for IoT devices to be highly vulnerable. The most powerful botnet named Mirai is made up of internet connected security cameras designed for home use. If you were to plug a vulnerable camera into your home network, the camera could become infected in less than two minutes and start slurping up all of your internet bandwidth every time it is directed to attack a target. The camera can also be used to spy on you. Other IoT devices are known to have vulnerabilities that put your personal data at risk, such as this kids toy designed to record audio messages, but could be used to snoop on the house, and had no security what so ever on the storage of the recordings.
Use a VPN
Most security minded clients I’ve had have required employees who from outside of the office to connect to company resources using a VPN. Some industries are required by law to not allow access in to the network from the outside. A VPN allows users to bypass this restriction.
Use ad blocking addons
The Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers have many different addons that block advertisements. Personally I recommend uBlock Origin [Chrome | Firefox]. ad blockers are good because they clean up web pages and speed up the time it takes to load a web page, but my reason for recommending blockers is because advertisements can carry malware. Let me give you an anecdote from my time working in helpdesk:
We had a high number of calls coming in for users getting hit with ransomware and every time it was the same story. “I just opened up the internet and suddenly I had the virus!” Sometimes people would be searching for something business related and would click a bad link in a Google search. Once I saw a government site that had been compromised give a a user a virus. Sometimes people fess up and say they were browsing Facebook and they clicked a link they should not have. I thought it was strange that at the same time there was this big uptick in infections, so many people were giving the same lame unbelievable story. I did some research and it turns out they were telling the truth. All of the infected users were opening Internet Explorer, which would load the default MSN homepage where ads were being served though Microsoft’s Bing ad platform. Someone had purchased ad space that contained malicious code that, by simply loading the advertisement would cause the computer to download and run the ransomeware virus. Had the users been using ad blockers, these bad advertisements would not have loaded and would not have infected the computers.
Disable UPnP on your router
This one is a bit more technical. Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a utility that allows computers inside the network to open up ports on the router to send and receive information. Each port is used for a different service, such as browsing the web or sending files. Every port open is another potential security risk for your network. Some viruses require UPnP to function and to disable it would stop the virus from working.