Working from Home During Covid? Here’s How to Protect Your Online Data

By George Otte

As more people shift to working from home because of the pandemic, cybersecurity has increasingly become a significant concern for companies and individuals.

According to estimates, cybercrime costs global businesses at least $1.5 billion per annum, with the figure expected to rise in 2020 as people work remotely. Indeed, in the first half of 2019 alone, data breaches had exposed more than 4.1 billion records.

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to protect yourself while working remotely. According to experts, users are typically the weakest link in cybersecurity, but knowing that puts you in a better position to protect yourself.

Here are simple, practical steps you can take right now to safeguard your data working remotely.

Protect your computer

Your home-work computer is the first line of defense against major cyber threats. While some companies provide work computers or laptops, most new remote workers transitioned their private computers into work computers.

That’s fine, but you need to take cybersecurity seriously. You don’t want to end up accidentally posting sensitive company data on social media.

So, how do you protect your computer?

  1. Invest in a robust antivirus suite

First, install a strong antivirus suite. A good antivirus effectively protects you from most of the major cyber threats, including:

  • Malware, viruses, and spyware
  • Zero-day attacks that exploit new vulnerabilities before they are patched
  • Phishing scams
  • Trojans and worms

Additionally, since antivirus software runs in the background and updates automatically, you can expect protection from most new and emerging threats.

     2. Keep your computer up to date

Set your computer to automatically receive and apply all security updates, especially Windows updates that patch critical vulnerabilities.

Lock it down

Whenever you step away from your computer, lock it down. While working from home seems safer with family around, issues still exist. For instance, your kids could accidentally delete critical files.

On Windows computers, press the Windows+L buttons. With modern Macs, Command+Control+Q works, or you can just close the lid. Always use a password to lock your computer down (more on that below).

     3. Create stronger passwords

Like most people, you probably use several passwords every day. It’s tempting to default to a single password for everything, but that only increases your risks.

 

“Instead, consider using a password manager to store your passwords safely. Some password managers even let you create strong random passwords that further strengthens your cyber-defenses.” — George Otte

 

Great passwords have the following characteristics according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):

  • At least eight or more characters – the more, the better.
  • A mixture of lowercase, uppercase letters, and numbers
  • At least one special character, e.g., %@!?}[. However, avoid < and > as they cause problems on some browsers.

Secure your home wireless network

Home wireless networks are a soft target for hackers because most users don’t set a password or use weak passwords.

Here are some easy steps you can take right now to beef up security on your Wi-Fi at home and protect your data:

  • Rename your SSID (the name of your network) to something cryptic and unpredictable. Do not use your name or other details that can identify you.
  • Create and use a strong password (refer above) and ensure you change the router’s default settings.
  • Use network encryption such as WEP, WPA, and WPA2. Users on newer hardware produced later than 2016 can use the strongest encryption, WPA2.
  • Always upgrade your router’s firmware to the latest version, including installing the most recent security updates.
  • Only allow specific MAC addresses to connect to your Wi-Fi at home. Every device connecting to your network has a unique code. If you know your trusted devices’ codes, you can lock out all other devices, further securing your network.

Minimize video conferencing security risks

Videoconferencing has gained popularity as people work, study, and socialize online. However, increased use of video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, has attracted cyber criminals out to cause chaos. You can protect your video conferencing sessions by:

  • Opting for platforms that use end-to-end encryption like Webex, Microsoft teams, etc.
  • Ensure all meetings are private and require passwords or individually approve guests
  • Install the latest updates on your video conferencing client.

Secure data locally and in the cloud

Finally, take steps to protect your data by creating backups both locally and on cloud platforms. Keep backups of critical work documents, preferably encrypted to deter hackers.

Additionally, consider using a Virtual Private Network when connecting to or accessing your company’s network. A VPN encrypts your data and network traffic, making it inaccessible and unusable to cybercriminals.

 

George Otte is a Miami-based entrepreneur and executive with more than 15 years of multifaceted business operations experience.

Geeks on Site Featured on “Designing Spaces” LifeTime TV

By George Otte

Geeks on Site is proud to announce it has been featured on Designing Spaces, a popular Lifetime TV program. Through Designing Spaces, we’ll be showing viewers how our company’s professional, dependable technicians help solve our customers’ most complicated IT and computer issues in the comfort of their own home or office.

The segment aired on Lifetime TV on January 27, 2020. It’s an overview of our technical support solutions and a reminder of our commitment to help all who struggle with occasional computer and IT issues. 

Geeks on Site was founded in 2002 to provide technical support to home and businesses in the Miami area. In the years since, it has grown into a nationwide computer repair and technical support company providing remote and in-home services in more than 250 U.S. cities. The company’s talented staff of technical experts continues to uphold the simple proposition upon which the company was founded: customers first, homes and businesses rely on dependable computer systems — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

We are pleased to collaborate with Designing Spaces to show the many ways in which Geeks on Site can help consumers solve challenges with their computers, computer systems, and virtually any IT issue without leaving the comfort of their own home. 

We believe the segment is a great opportunity for us to showcase our staff’s expertise and professionalism. 

 

“Working either on-site or remotely, our professionals provide the services necessary to fix malfunctions quickly and expertly.” — George Otte

 

That is exactly what busy consumers and business owners need to minimize downtime and lost productivity while reducing stress and avoiding the hassle and cost of replacing equipment.

What makes Geeks on Site different from other technical support providers? As our Designing Spaces segment shows, we have technicians standing by around the clock, ready to be dispatched to our customers’ homes and offices. We also have the capability to fix problems online, remotely, no matter where the customer is located. Our reach is truly nationwide.

Geeks on Site is distinguished by its technical support staff’s professionalism, as well. Let’s face it: finding qualified, reputable computer repair technicians is difficult for many customers and business owners. 

We understand this. It’s why we’ve invested in staff training and professionalism for nearly two decades. As our Designing Spaces segment shows, we strive to make every interaction between customers and technicians successful, no matter the issue that brought the customer to us.

The segment shows off another distinguishing feature of Geeks on Site: our versatility. Simply put, we do much more than computer repair.

 

“Our residential customers often have WiFi, home theaters, smart doorbell, and smart cameras set up. Our business customers rely on us for data recovery, printer repairs, and [business] solutions.” — George Otte

 

It’s no wonder Geeks on Site has earned the trust and loyalty of our customers since 2002. Many of our home and business customers have been with us for years. When technical misfortune strikes, we are their first call. We hope that Designing Spaces viewers will think of us first too.

The segment also highlights one last differentiator that deserves mention. We already know that what sets us apart is a very professional and personalized service, but our availability is also of extreme value to our customers. Time is money, after all, and because our center is open 24/7, we’re able to provide immediate help at all times.
If you missed our Designing Spaces segment, check your local listings for future airings.

 

George Otte is a Miami-based entrepreneur and executive with more than 15 years of multifaceted business operations experience.

You Can Get More Out of Your Older Computer – Here’s How

By George Otte

Is your older computer showing its age? Before disposing of it and spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a newer model, consider whether your workflow and budget might be better served by keeping it running.

With proper care and maintenance, your computer can outlast its life expectancy by a considerable margin. Start with these straightforward strategies, and do not hesitate to turn to a computer maintenance expert for guidance if you run into any unexpected issues.

Periodically Delete Unwanted Files and Programs

Regular system maintenance includes periodic deletion of unwanted or unnecessary files and programs. This requires an unsentimental, unsparing approach to your system’s contents: Like an old attic, basement, or storage unit, your computer most likely has a significant store of files and programs that you no longer need (or never really needed). Deleting those unnecessary files and programs frees up space and may increase processing speed and performance.

Keep Your Operating Systems and Key Software Up to Date

The latest versions of your operating system platform and key software programs not only contain useful, user-friendly features.

 

“They may also contain “patches” that address known vulnerabilities, boosting system security.” — George Otte

 

Un-patched operating systems can be exploited by attackers, with potentially negative consequences.

Use a Reputable Anti-Malware Program and Make Regular Scans

Another way to protect your older computer against malicious attack is to use a reputable, regularly updated anti-malware suite capable of defending against a host of threats. Choose a system that identifies and removes unwanted programs that you may not even be aware of, such as spyware and other forms of grayware.

Use Cloud-Based Storage and External Drives to Reduce the Load on Your System

For a variety of reasons, older computers are more vulnerable to data loss than fresh-out-of-the-box devices. The surest way to protect against unexpected and potentially disruptive data loss is to regularly back up your system’s files to an external location, ideally a secure cloud storage platform and an external hard drive used in conjunction.

Add More RAM

If you wish to extend your computer’s operating life significantly while noticeably improving performance, installing more RAM may be a cost-effective alternative to replacing the device altogether. Speak with a computer expert about the proper amount of RAM to add and the pros and cons of doing so.

Keep Your Computer Clean and Dust-Free

Keeping your computer’s physical casing clean, cool, and well-ventilated may extend its life and improve its performance. Be particularly mindful of excessive dust near fans and ports, as foreign particles may interfere with normal performance.

Protect Data With an Uninterruptible Power Supply and Power Surge Protector

Even if you consistently back up your data to a secure external repository, further protection may be warranted. Use an uninterruptible power supply in conjunction with a surge protector to mitigate the impact of an unexpected loss or surge of power, both of which can damage your system and permanently wipe some or all of its data.

What are you doing to squeeze more mileage out of your older computer? Are you thinking about replacing your old computer with a newer model instead?

 

George Otte is a Miami-based entrepreneur and executive with more than 15 years of multifaceted business operations experience.