One thing this horrid pandemic has changed for the better, is the ability of people to work at home and the recognition by employers that it’s not so scary to allow it. There are many arguments for and against hybrid working, but now many firms, having been forced to allow home working, are seeing that people do work conscientiously. They are also realising that costs can be cut on expensive office space and they have more motivated staff. Therefore, it is expected that we will see more people working at home and hybrid working in the future.
When home working, however, you do need to change how you work.
One of those areas is around the protection of your own and others personal data. At Privacy1 we like to keep things simple and help you understand the risks in a succinct fashion, hence, we have compiled a list of Top 3 Tips for privacy for home workers to help protect your family, customers and employer. Don’t worry it’s not a technical blah blah on cybersecurity, just a few points that everyone, across all types of jobs, can use to stay safe while working at home.
1. Consider your home environment
When working from home you are blurring the lines between work and home. Your usual work/home separation is not present, so you must consider risks that would normally be managed for you by your work environment. When you bring work and the tools of work home, you are allowing many people you don’t know very well, into your home. You are exposing your family to outside influences in an environment, where, they are used to being protected and safe. This poses subtle but real risks to, but also from you, your family and your employer.
You may have confidential conversations with employees, customers and investors, these often involve personal information, you run the risk of unintentional informal leaks, paperwork could be picked up unintentionally, phrases overheard and repeated for example. Legally your firm has to ensure the security of personal data and make sure it is only used for specific purposes. So here are some considerations:
Set expectations with those at home, when you can be interrupted, why privacy is important, but remember its your responsibility to protect everyone
Make best efforts to separate work and home life, have confidential conversations with staff, et al in a separate space.
No matter how frustrated you may become don’t fall into the trap of discussing confidential matters with those at home in lieu of the work colleague you would normally confide in.
If possible have a separate, quiet space for working at home and be careful of working in the garden, fences have ears.
Make yourself aware of the personal data you are in contact with both from your home and your work, if you are aware of it, you can be mindful of it.
2. What can be heard and what can be seen
When you bring your laptop and phone home, you bring cameras and microphones into your nest. Apps that use them like video conferencing are difficult enough to set up, use and remember to turn off without even considering hackers and bad actors. Not only do you bring your work eyes and ears home, but you also bring those at home to work. Do you have a home assistant speaker? How many tablets and phones are in your house?
They all have microphones and cameras that could be active. Your daughter could be on a video call with friends, your home speaker could be activated and listening, you might have left that web meeting session open. You might even be running a video call with a group of customers from your kitchen table and expose pics of your kids, your home address, your kids’ school, when you are going on holiday, and that you will be protesting next Saturday ……. all from what happens to be stuck on the fridge door.
It is essential that you take these risks seriously, information that should stay at home should stay just there and the same for work.
Be very aware of your surroundings and what you are broadcasting, if you have to work in a shared area, make sure you are not exposing pictures, letters or anything you would not want a stranger to see
Consider the devices in your home, work away from family members who are making calls, work away from home assistants and make sure your conference sessions are closed when finished.
Make sure you think about the background, if you are so proud of your home office that you have to post it on Facebook, make sure nothing is in that image that exposes yours or someone else’s data
Consider that your employer could be monitoring you, everything from microphones, what you access, keystrokes, your camera, how long your sessions are, screen grabs, web history can all be monitored and while this may be worrying from an evaluation perspective, when working from home it may capture personal data too.
3. Where you save stuff and avoiding fraud
Having promised this will not be a techno-blog, there are some considerations outside of your laptop that you just need to be aware of. When working in the office your security team will have set up policies, protected networks, filtered malicious emails, applied all kinds of clever security systems to reduce threats to the company.
When you are working at home, you are nowhere near as protected. It’s also true that during the pandemic fraud, phishing and scams have increased by over 25% as bad actors take advantage of the disruption caused by Coronavirus. Your home router security is no match for the protection your office has, and, you are much more likely to be using your personal email and apps/games on the same laptop as your work.
If your employer provides a VPN (a way of extending their security to your environment) use it religiously. We know it’s boring, but do read the security and governance policy that they provide you and abide by it
Be extra vigilant when opening email of any kind. Think about whether it looks legitimate, there have been multiple instances of fraud, making out that due to the lockdown non-standard processes have been adopted and for example, funds need to be transferred to a different account, just this once,
If you are working on your home PC, be even more diligent with work data and work emails. In any case do not be tempted to store work data on personal cloud accounts and for that matter do not store personal data on work storage filing systems.
In summary, privacy at home at its core is about consideration, if you are aware of how the risk changes when you move from office to home, and you are aware of the people whose data is at risk from your activities then you will naturally act more responsibly.
We hope that you have found this guide useful, and hope that it helps protect personal data both during this pandemic, but also as we move into what our changed environment will be in the future.
About Us — Privacy1 (www.privacyone.co) is a software company headquartered in Stockholm that develops technologies for practical management of personal data. With a vision to empower the consumers and citizen to manage their own data consent, and provide tech to help companies and governments encrypt, secure and automate to ensure they fulfil their privacy promises, Privacy1 is about building trust to reset the data privacy balance to the advantage of all.