For many busy freelancers, security can fall to the back of the queue — particularly if you’re working from home. When you’re juggling multiple clients and shifting deadlines, all within the confines of your own home office, it’s very easy for things to get a little on the lax side.
Your home office is still an office
Though working from home has a huge amount of benefits in terms of lifestyle, you’re still dealing with potentially sensitive data and very real security requirements. Having the freedom to define your own schedule and working environment doesn’t mean you can afford to let security standards slide.
In this piece, we'll step through seven standard ways of securing a home office. Tick them all off and you’ll be substantially more locked down than most.
1. Secure the perimeter
Your first step should be a no-brainer, but it’s commonly ignored by a staggering amount of freelancers.
Your physical work location must be adequately secured.
At a minimum, this means whatever room in the house you’re primarily working in needs locks on the doors — and they need to be actually used. You wouldn’t leave a commercial office space wide open to entry, so don’t do it at home. Spend some time assessing your home security systems and take appropriate steps to tighten things up where necessary.
2. Start shredding
Though the vast majority of your work as a web professional will be digital, there’s still could be an amount of good old-fashioned paperwork associated with your role. While it’s a simple matter to clean out digital folders, many people tend to be hoarders when it comes to their offline equivalents.
Many of these offline documents in your home office are a goldmine for identity thieves, and they could contain sensitive and confidential client information. Simply trashing these isn’t enough. People can (and do) dive through dumpsters looking for precisely this type of haul to take away and use for nefarious purposes. If you haven’t already, invest in a simple shredder, get into the habit of regularly clearing out your offline documentation and dispose of it securely.
3. Keep things safe and sound
Sticking to physical rather than digital security for the moment, if someone does actually break into your home office, you want to be certain any important documents are well out of harm’s way.
There are a huge amount of reliable, fireproof home safes on the market these days, which can securely hold everything from documents to mobile devices. Take the time to do a little market research, and pick the one that’s best for your needs. You’ll be massively glad you did if the unfortunate happens.
4. Don’t rue your router decisions
Moving onto the digital side of things, your internet router is one of the juiciest immediate targets for any bad guys who might be lurking in the vicinity of your home office. In general, you can:
- Use a router other than the one provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
- Choose a strong, unique wifi password
- Update router firmware when available
There’s a huge number of possible things to look at here depending on your local setup, so we’ll simply point you in the direction of the experts at CSO for a host of specific tips.
5. Lock down your main machine
The next step is making your main work machine as hard to penetrate as possible. Again, depending on what your exact hardware setup is, there are any number of ways to do this. Some points are pretty much applicable across the board:
- Make sure you’ve set up a specific password-protected user on your machine rather than simply using the default provided by the operating system.
- Pick a reliable antivirus solution with a system scanner, and put it on an automated schedule. Contrary to popular belief, OSX users are not exempt from this requirement — they’re simply targeted less often.
- Take advantage of hard disk encryption such as FileVault on OSX where available.
6. Always use a password manager
You’ll be logging in and out of a large amount of online services during the course of the average day, and there’s simply no excuse for not using a password manager to do so. Trying to handle this any other way is an invitation for security issues at some stage down the line.
Any decent offering will enable you to access your information securely across multiple devices, backup automatically to the cloud, and provide solid options for storing sensitive information such as credit card and banking details.
7. Commit to regular updates across the board
If you’re a WordPress user, you’ll already be familiar with the critical security importance of always staying up to date with the latest release. The exact same principle applies across your operating system and all major software packages you use.
It can admittedly be something of a burden keeping fully up to date across multiple devices, but that’s the price you pay for peace of mind. If you’re struggling with resistance here, block out a specific chunk of time every one or two weeks for tackling this task in batch mode.
Security is a subject you’ll need to constantly keep studying to stay on top of, and there’s no one magic list of steps that guarantees your safety.
However, the seven items we’ve covered in this post will go an enormously long way toward keeping your home office setup as protected as possible. Let’s step through them one more time:
- Take domestic security seriously.
- Start using a shredder.
- Buy a home safe.
- Lock down your internet router.
- Secure your primary work machine.
- Always use a password manager.
- Keep all software and operating systems up to date.
Do you have any top home office security tips to share? Let us know via the comments section below!