Hacking, scams & viruses: 4 effective ways to work from home more safely
The following article is provided courtesy of the Ohio REALTORS Tech Helpline. This new, free member benefit puts you directly in touch with an expert to help you with your professional and personal technology needs. Get in touch with an expert by calling (877) 562-3160, Monday - Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The new normal in real estate for most agents is to work from home. But cyber security experts warn that working from home increases exposure to hacking, scams, and viruses. How can you make sure you’re not more vulnerable when working from home?
Here are four simple steps you can take to reduce your risk to hacking, scams, and viruses:
1. Keep your software up to date.
Most programs allow for auto-updates, and in most cases, that’s the best option. Microsoft, Apple, and Google are continuously providing updates to prevent computers from being hacked. But if you don’t have the most recent version, you could be exposed.
Your vital updates are the operating systems for your computer and phone (Windows, Apple iOs, and Android) as well as your browser. Remember, an outdated browser is like giving online criminals a key to enter your computer to vandalize.
2. Secure your Wi-Fi.
Passwords can be a pain, but they are vital in protecting your computer when it is online. Having your Wi-Fi password-protected is crucial. And don’t use your cell number or any common password to protect your Wi-Fi: keep it unique from all your other passwords. It’s safe at home to write it down. Just keep it in a drawer.
Your Wi-Fi router also needs to be current. If you are using an older router, you might want to consider a new one. You will be more likely to increase your internet speed -- and have built-in software (called firmware) that keeps your Wi-Fi connection safer. If you have a newer router, make sure it uses the most recent version of its firmware. If you need help updating your router’s firmware please contact us.
3. Don’t automatically click on anything sent -- even from a seemingly reliable source.
Most computers are infected with a computer virus when someone clicks on a file. It can be a file that you download from the web, thinking you need it to view a document or video. Or it can be an attachment from an email and may look like it’s just a photo or PDF -- but it’s a virus in disguise.
When working from home, you need to be extra cautious -- and even suspicious – of any attachment that you receive that you are not expecting. Just send a separate email to the sender, asking them about the file they sent. While a good virus program can help deter the installation of these viruses, even the best ones are not full proof. Always err on the side of safety.
4. Pause before you react to an email or text that has a call to action.
Microsoft says that 91 percent of hacking attacks come from malicious emails known as “phishing” expeditions. Experts warn about an increase in phishing during the pandemic. Phishing is not limited to email but also comes from social media platforms, such as a direct message on Facebook Messenger. In addition to COVID-19 information scams, with more people spending more time online, the scammers and hackers are out in full force with an array of ways that attempt to dupe you.
A good defense is the best offense when it comes to scams. If you remember to pause before you respond to any email request, you may be able to avoid getting hooked by a phisher. Legitimate firms are never going to send you an email out of the blue and ask you to enter your credentials for any purpose. So, if you think it might be fake, it probably is.
Remember the golden rule of online safety when working from home: If you think before you click, you can significantly reduce potential risks.
Remember -- if you run into an issue with your personal or professional technology, anything from your smartphone to problems with your computer -- you have exclusive, FREE access to the Ohio REALTORS Tech Helpline! Get in touch with an expert by calling (877) 562-3160, Monday - Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.