If you’re a freelancer, remote worker, a work-from-home parent in India, or digital nomad, one of the things you need to keep in mind is how to protect your data from being stolen.
Most remote job providers, especially the ones that share sensitive client information with you, will require that you have the basic software installed such as a firewall, anti-virus, and internet security programs.
Many people who are new to working from home are unaware of the fact that their data can be easily stolen. These tips from Microsoft explain why it’s important to protect your privacy on the internet.
In this article, we show you how to secure your sensitive data and devices so that hackers can’t steal and misuse your information. These steps are absolutely essential and not negotiable if you’re serious about working from home.
1. Secure Your Devices
Because of the prevalence of hackers who steal data from home computers, you need to secure all the devices on which you work – computer (especially Windows PCs), mobile phones, tablets and flash drives that can get lost or stolen.
It’s always a good idea to add more layers of security, such as password protection for a home computer that is used by many people. ALWAYS password-protect your phone, or use fingerprint unlocking.
If you conduct work on your phone, ensure that your phone always has the latest security patches. If you use a Blackberry, it should be impossible to hack. iPhones also have a pretty good level of security.
The Blackberry suite of programs can also be purchased and used by any other Android user. It includes an app called Dtek, which scans the phone regularly and alerts the user if there are any security breaches.
PRO TIP: AVG AntiVirus PRO for Android comes packaged with AVG Ultimate – an all-in-one, top-shelf antivirus and tune-up combo that has all the AVG products in one package. It also comes with unlimited installs for all your personal devices.
2. Install a Firewall
A firewall is a software program or hardware device that prevents unauthorized access to your computer from the internet. This program must always be turned on as it will notify you if a hacker is trying to access your system.
AVG Ultimate is an all-in-one, top-shelf antivirus and tune-up combo that comes with Ransomware Protection, enhanced firewall and AI-based real-time threat detection and removal. It also comes with unlimited installs for all your personal devices.
PRO TIP: If you have a Windows PC, it has a program called Windows Defender Firewall that you should always keep turned on, even if you have another firewall turned on.
Turning off Windows Defender Firewall might make your device (and your network, if you have one) more vulnerable to unauthorized access. Read the instructions here on how to turn Windows Defender Firewall on or off.
3. Install Professional Antivirus Software
An antivirus or anti-malware software protects your computer from unauthorized software or viruses, trojans, and keyloggers that can slow down your computer and steal sensitive personal data.
Windows Defender is free antimalware software included with Windows, and you can update it automatically through Windows Update. However, adding more layers of security with professional antivirus software is essential.
My personal favourite antivirus software and the one I use both on my phone and PC is AVG Ultimate. It’s advanced antivirus scans for, removes and flat-out stops viruses, ransomware, spyware, rootkits, Trojans, and other nasty malware.
Mac users can download IObit MacBooster, which provides a full suite of tools to help make your Mac run smoothly, keeping space free on your hard drive and identifying security issues.
It allows you to detect and remove malware and viruses, improve and boost your Mac performance, deep clean to free up hard drive space and protect your privacy with Memory Clean.
PRO TIP: Although most anti-virus software is configured to do an automatic scan, these are not as thorough as a manual scan because they’re configured to use fewer resources.
Do a complete virus and malware check at least once a week – don’t rely solely on automatic scanning to eliminate threats.
4. Install Anti-Spyware Software
Spyware software programs spy on your computer activity, collecting personal information without your approval, which they then share with another website.
If your system runs slower than usual, has pop-ups showing up for no reason, and has other strange problems, it may be infected by a virus or spyware. It can be very hard to get rid of spyware because these programs are designed such that they cannot be easily removed.
You can download a program such as IObit Uninstaller to remove such programs. It’s also a good thing to run the uninstaller and see if you’ve installed any non-essential programs that may be slowing your PC.
PRO TIP: I use AVG Ultimate because it updates my security automatically, and uses advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) and real-time analysis to help stop even the newest threats from getting near me.
It installs on unlimited computers, so I can buy a single license and use it on all the PCs in my home and my laptop too. It also includes unlimited AntiVirus PRO for Android™ to protect all my Android devices.
5. Use Passwords That Are Hard To Guess
You need to create strong passwords for all the job boards and websites that you log in to, especially the ones that store secure information such as credit cards and bank details.
Computer hackers can crack easy passwords in minutes. Your passwords need to be a minimum of 8 characters long and include a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers plus a special character.
Since it’s impossible for anyone to memorize passwords like Z8Rubt$hGPQ&G3 you absolutely need to use a password manager to save your hundreds of complex passwords.
PRO TIP: I’ve used Roboform as my password manager for many years, and I love it. In fact, the complex password above was generated using Roboform’s Generate feature.
Roboform Anywhere allows you to use the password manager anywhere you travel through a Google Chrome extension. I wouldn’t be able to manage my online business without it.
According to this article, in addition to a complex password, you should also use two-factor authentication (sometimes called 2FA, or two-factor verification), a process in which you input an extra security code after typing in your username and password to prove you’re really you.
The purpose of two-factor authentication is to prove that you’re the person who owns the account in question.
6. Install a VPN
Antivirus software protects your devices, but not your internet connection. Public Wi-Fi is so insecure a child could hack it. A VPN secures your connection on free Wi-Fi so you can even transfer money safely.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.
VPN services replace your initial IP address with one of theirs so you can secure your transactions to circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship or connect to proxy servers to protect personal identity and location to stay anonymous on the Internet.
A VPN is not just for downloading torrents, streaming movies and sports. Using a VPN service empowers internet users with complete anonymity, Internet freedom and data security against hackers, spies and snoopers.
A VPN also means workplace content blocks are a thing of the past. You can enjoy secure and private access to any site so you can enjoy your favourite websites, shows and subscription services, all with uncensored access. Access blocked content, hide your location and avoid censorship abroad.
PRO TIP: Never use a free VPN! Always use a paid VPN service, such as AVG Secure VPN when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks, especially those in airports, hotel rooms and coffee shops.
AVG Secure VPN gives you secure and private access to the internet by encrypting your connection, so cybercriminals, advertisers and your internet service provider can’t snoop on your online activity.
The military-grade encryption levels of AVG Secure VPN keeps your data secure on any device, even if you’re using public Wi-Fi.
It uses the most trusted and widely used VPN protocol available, OpenVPN for your Windows device. This protocol is open source which means you have the reassurance that no unknown proprietary codes can access your data.
7. Tune Up Your Devices
The more programs you install and use on your PCs and phone, the slower they become. Tuning up your devices means keeping your computer and phone free of junk files and old software programs and apps that may be slowing them down.
It also means making sure your installed software and drivers are updated regularly. I use Driver Booster Pro to keep my device drivers updated.
It installs on unlimited devices and makes old PCs live longer and new PCs run faster, with its patented “Programs-On-Demand” technology. It puts draining programs into a smart Sleep Mode and reduces their impact on PC performance, battery life, network and storage to nearly zero.
You can speed up, clean up, and fix all your devices. Update the most popular programs on your PC to plug security holes, fix bugs, and even add great new features. Get constant updates for popular programs like Skype or Google Chrome, a fully automatic updater, notifications for critical software updates.
The Fix Problems centre helps fix and prevent problems with Windows, your hard disk, your programs, and accidentally deleted files. It also removes leftover files that accumulate over the years and keeps your laptop going when you need it most.
An alternative to AVG is the Advanced SystemCare suite of tools. Advanced SystemCare Ultimate incorporates top anti-virus capabilities as well as comprehensive PC tune-up abilities that can scan, repair, and optimize many aspects of your system.
It aims to remedy whatever ails your computer by not only cleaning up junk files, malware, and invalid registry entries but by giving your computer a boost to optimize your PC experience. Click here to download ASC Ultimate and try it out.
If you’re a Mac user, IObit MacBooster can make your Mac run smoothly, improve and boost performance, deep clean to free up hard drive space and protect your privacy with Memory Clean.
8. Improve your Browser Security Settings
Browsers have various security and privacy settings. Understand your basic web browser security settings and change them depending on your requirements. You can boost your privacy and security by changing these settings.
Keep in mind that disabling all scripting languages will greatly interfere with the functionality of any websites that rely on script execution, but there are ways to work around that.
9. Phone Protection Tips
In addition to all the tips above, here are some Pro Tips to protect your phone from hackers.
- If you use Internet banking on the phone, use the BANK’S APP instead of logging in via the browser because a browser may save the login details.
- ONLY download apps from the OFFICIAL app store – never as APK files from other sources. Even then, check the rating and user reviews on the app store.
- AVOID all and any gaming and photo editing apps by Chinese or Russian developers – if at all possible, don’t install any such apps at all.
PRO TIP: AVG AntiVirus PRO for Android™ comes packaged with the AVG Ultimate software. It runs silently to protect you from the latest viruses, malware, spyware, unsafe apps and settings, unwanted callers, and other nasty threats, locate and track your lost phone or tablet on Google Maps.
You can even remotely lock it and blast an alarm at full volume. If you think your mobile is gone for good, you can remotely wipe it to prevent your private data from falling into the wrong hands.
An alternative to AVG is AMC Security PRO, an award-winning software designed to secure Mobiles against viruses, malware, spyware, malicious URLs, phishing sites, phone loss, etc. and even against unwanted call and SMS.
AMC Security PRO can auto scan and clean your mobile as scheduled, secure your payments when shopping online, get anti-phishing protection for safer online surfing and anti-theft option to wipe your important data remotely.
It also offers better mobile performance with features like task killer, battery saver, game speeder, app manager, cloud backup, privacy locker and advisor.
10. Exercise Caution
A warning on the Problogger job board advises job seekers to “exercise due diligence and caution when applying for jobs and communicating with advertisers you do not know and trust, as scammers can masquerade as employers and send you phishing requests once you reply.”
They advise you not to download software or open files sent to you by an advertiser, or divulge personal or banking details not associated with the advertised work opportunity.
The warning also informs job seekers about a “phishing scam hitting many job boards… It starts once you contact them and usually involves a request for a Skype interview, to download a zip file with their ‘writing guidelines’ or ‘payment terms’, and to send them an invoice via Paypal. The file is a keystroke logger and they’re looking to steal your Paypal credentials.”
To avoid such scams, only register with legitimate job boards where employers are vetted and all transactions are conducted through secure protocols. Our Work From Anywhere course has a list of over 90 such job boards.
Which Software Should I Install and Use?
I use AVG Ultimate – an all-in-one, top-shelf antivirus and tune-up combo that has all the AVG products in one package. It also comes with unlimited installs for all your personal devices.
The performance booster can be installed on your phone, tablet, PC, anywhere, unlimited. The Ransomware Protection, enhanced firewall and AI-based real-time threat detection and removal shield your Smartphone and other devices against malware and thieves.
This all-in-one tuning suite automatically speeds up your PC, cleans up junk data, gives you better battery life, keeps your essentials always up to date and fixes small issues before they become real problems. Click here to download AVG Ultimate.
These online and mobile security tips will help remote employees ensure that their sensitive data never gets hacked or stolen. Have fun and stay safe online.
About the author:
Priya Florence Shah is the author of Devi2Diva, an emotional self-care book for women. In the book and online course, you’ll learn how to throw off the shackles of your own limiting beliefs, come into your power and design your destiny.
Disclosure: This blog contains affiliate links. For more information, read our disclosure.