While there are risks associated with remote work, the odds of a malware attack increase when more family members use the same device, especially children.
“The malicious code children collect on their way to something you’ve never heard of can hijack your computer for all kinds of purposes. There are click-harvesting scams. There are stealth programs that will turn your machine into a spambot. There’s malware that looks OK to your anti-virus program, but is actually recording every keystroke, most particularly when you log into your bank account,” warns CyberScout founder and chairman Adam Levin.
The best overall strategy is to keep your work device and network as separate as possible from devices that your child has access to.
Here are steps you can take to increase your security:
Set up a guest WiFi network for your kids
“A guest WiFi network is essentially a separate access point on your router,” says Levin. By creating a silo between the internet connection you use for work and the one your child uses to connect to their school and other activities, you’re limiting some of the potential damage that can be done when a malware-infected device is connected to the network.
When you’re setting up the guest WiFi network, be sure the password on your router isn’t the default one that came with it. Make it long and strong.
Set up separate devices and accounts for your children
The threats posed by shady apps, poorly secured school software, and careless behavior multiply when the whole family is using the same device for work, school, and entertainment.
"If you can afford it, have your kids use a different device," says Levin. "This way, if their device gets contaminated, your tax return and your bank information doesn't go up in smoke or end up in a ransomed file."
If there’s only one device in the house, try setting up guest accounts on the family computer for your children, which allow the guest users to use the device without giving access to your files or the ability to change system settings.
While this is not failsafe and the configuration steps vary based on the device operating system, it adds a layer of cyber separation between you and your child.
Use security software and back up your data
Whether you live alone or have a dozen children attending school remotely in your home, backups are always a good idea.
Install security software, especially anti-virus software, and make sure it regularly and automatically updates to protect against the latest threats.
Find a backup solution for your files that helps secure them and gives you the ability to restore your data in the event of a malware infection or a spilled sippy cup that renders your work device unusable. In other words, if you plan for surprises this back-to-school season, you will be in better shape.