Working from home is a little bit different from working in the office. After you’ve endured the commute you spend your day in an office, normally using company kit and enjoying all of the trimmings that come with it. If you work for a larger company there’ll be an IT help desk (opens in new tab) and you’ll enjoy the benefit of broadband (opens in new tab), IP phones (opens in new tab) and all those other in-office extras. There might even be free coffee.
Working from home misses out most if not all of that stuff, but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to enjoy office-style support even when you’re holed up in the box room or working on the kitchen table. What’s more, if you're working from home it’s just as important to make sure you’re covered by the same policies that safeguard you and your activities during the daily grind.
Having top-notch antivirus software (opens in new tab) should be at the top of your shopping list when it comes to working from home. If you’re using a work-owned laptop (opens in new tab) then it should be up to date anyway, but it’s also important to ensure you (or anyone else) doesn't start using it for non-work based activities. If you’re leaving your home-based desk (opens in new tab) space for any amount of time then it’s also worth logging out to avoid any unwanted tampering of your machine by family or friends, inadvertently or otherwise.
There are actually lots of pretty basic measures you can take to help ensure that you and your work are more secure when you're working from home. Arming yourself with a Virtual Private Network (or VPN) (opens in new tab) is a great starting point. You’ll find plenty of different versions of the VPN available for download and having one installed on your machine will mean hiding your IP address, keeping your data encrypted and more secure as well as offering up location anonymity.
To be on the safe side it’s probably best to go for a paid-for option, and bypass the free ones even if they look to be okay on face value. Installing a decent VPN is actually very straightforward, and once you've got it in place you’ll have a much more secure foundation for home working activities. Lookout for the likes of ExpressVPN (opens in new tab), Surfshark, NordVPN (opens in new tab) or IPVanish (opens in new tab) , which are some of the more dependable options in the VPN marketplace.
We all use passwords and many of us have more than we care to remember, which is probably the reason why they're so often easily cracked. If you’re using ridiculously easy to nobble passwords then it’s time to change them. Sign up for some decent password management software (opens in new tab) and get yours in much better shape. Dashlane (opens in new tab), RoboForm (opens in new tab), Keeper (opens in new tab) and NordPass (opens in new tab) are all worth exploring.
Don't forget to do the same for your Wi-Fi router (opens in new tab) and get that nailed down securely. Similarly, if you're in business and have to sign things then there are a number of esigning software solutions (opens in new tab) to make it easier to sign official documentation, especially when in PDF format.
Keeping your desktop PC (opens in new tab) or laptop up to date is vital, whether it’s your own or belongs to the company that you work for. Either way, updates should be done as soon as they're needed. Be sure to run those regular software updates, as well as installing any new security patches to ensure that your laptop, desktop or tablet device (opens in new tab) is able to fend of the latest permutations of malware (opens in new tab), ransomware (opens in new tab) and goodness knows what else that’s lurking out there in internet and email land.
One of the best ways of ensuring that you’ve got copies of data if your own machine gets compromised is to use some form of backup software (opens in new tab), especially to the cloud. You’ll find that cloud-based storage (opens in new tab) is plentiful, relatively cheap and can be expanded if you start running out of space. Having documents and other digital files located on a remote server somewhere makes a lot of sense because you can access it from anywhere and from any machine, assuming you have access privileges that is.
Google Drive and DropBox are two obvious cloud spaces, but if you’re working for a company then they may have their own preferred arrangement. If that’s the case then follow the rules, and don't risk storing sensitive date or information that isn’t yours in random places. It could backfire badly.
Lock it up
It doesn’t matter if you’re using a work-supplied laptop or your own property, looking after your tech is vital. If you're working from home then you’ll hopefully have a little less to worry about than if you’re perched in a coffee shop or airport lounge, but it’s a good idea to be vigilant. Again, keep close tabs on your password and encryption software (opens in new tab), to ensure that your property and any data stored on it will be as safe as it can be if it falls into the wrong hands.
While many of us use cloud storage, or access a remote desktop (opens in new tab) for much of our work, there is often the temptation to put files onto USB sticks and other portable storage devices (opens in new tab). We’ve all picked up these random items from time to time and copied files onto them, not always being sure what they contain or even where they’ve come from. USBs and other dubious storage mediums can be packed with malware, so unless it's something that’s been approved from a reliable source then give using one a miss.
If you're working from home due to current circumstances then be sure to follow the lead that has been taken by your employer. They should have provision in place for letting you use approved programs, and IT departments might even be able to install these for you remotely. We’re all doing lots of emailing, video conferencing (opens in new tab) and messaging (opens in new tab) at the moment, so ensure that the software installed on your machine is legitimate, reliable and, above all, as secure as it can possibly be. If you’re downloading programs yourself then try to stick to preferred sites, so in the case of Apple use the App Store and for Google use Google Play.
- We've also featured the best alternatives to Microsoft Office (opens in new tab).