How to Stay Cyber Safe While Social-Distancing

By on Apr 01, 2020

Do you find yourself working from home these days? Kids off school too? Then your daily life is set to change super-fast. Yes, there is so much to organise to implement this essential ‘social distancing’ strategy. But in the flurry to get everyone set up, it’s essential that we don’t cut corners, make rash decisions so we can ensure both our headspace and online safety aren’t at risk.

The New Era of Social-Distancing

Many workplaces have already instructed their staff to ‘social distance’ and work from home so we can ‘flatten the curve’ while others are probably not far away from making this decision.  Many Australian states have given parents the option to keep their children at home. So, even if you (and the kids) are not yet home, it’s wise to start thinking about how our work (and learn) from home lives might look while we are ‘social-distancing’ and, how can keep our households safe when online. Here’s a few things to consider:

  1. Breath. These are Uncertain Times

It’s completely normal to feel anxious and stressed in this time of great uncertainty. While we are hopeful that ‘social distancing’ measures will help minimise the impact of the virus, the truth is – we just don’t really know what the upcoming months will look like. Acknowledging that you (and all your family members) will be feeling anxious and ‘out of sorts’ at the moment is essential. Cutting family members some slack, particularly if you are all ‘cooped up’ together will definitely make for a smoother self-isolation experience!

  1. Always Think Critically & Don’t Overload on News

When we are feeling panicked and stressed, it’s easy for our rational brains to stop functioning. Social media feeds have been full of ‘miracle cures’ for COVID-19 which have been of great interest to many stressed out peeps. PLEASE avoid clicking links and ‘buying into’ this. Not only could these be links to malicious websites designed to extract your private information, but these themes just feed our anxiety. Instead, seek out advice from reputable medical institutions and authorities. Being a critical thinker online is more important now more than ever.

And if the constant barrage of news about the pandemic is affecting your (and your family’s) mood and outlook then take a break from it. Maybe limit yourself to checking for updates once per day as opposed to having constant updates come through on your phone. It’s super easy to disable news notifications, if you are Apple user, here’s what you need to do and, if you are an Android user, these tips may help.

  1. Ensure You Are Using the Correct Platforms & Software

Before you start downloading programs you think are helpful, check with your workplace or employer about their preferred platforms. It’s highly likely you will have most of the programs they require whether it’s Facetime, Slack, Zoom or Trello. But if you don’t, please ensure you download apps from a reputable source such as the AppStore or Google Play or a site that has been approved by your employer. Third party app sites are to be avoided at all costs because the chances are, you’ll score yourself some malicious software!

  1. Protect Yourself & Your Data

Please check whether you employer has security software and a Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed on your devices. If not, or you are using your ‘home’ devices to undertake company work, then ensuring that both your stored data and the data you share over the internet is protected is essential.

Using a device without security software is a little like leaving your front door open – you are essentially inviting anyone to enter. So, investing in a comprehensive security software solution that protects you from dodgy downloads, visiting fake websites, malicious software and viruses is a no brainer! A VPN will also protect the data that you share from your devices by effectively creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the router – the ultimate way of keeping the cybercrimals out!

  1. Back-Up Your Data

Check with your employer to ensure that all your data will be backed up, even when working from home. If they can’t guarantee your work will be backed up then you need to find yourself a reliable, safe option. I am a Dropbox fan but Google Drive is also a great tool. But if you need something a little more robust then check out IDrive or IBackUp.

And don’t forget about the kids! If your offspring are remote schooling, ensure all their hard work is backed up too. Google Drive or Dropbox is a great solution for students.

  1. Manage Your Internet Usage at Home

If your household has two adults working from home plus a tribe of kids remote schooling, then chances are your internet may slow. With more than 90% of Aussies now accessing the internet through the NBN, many are worried that the spike in demand may create havoc.  While the folks from NBN keep assuring us that it’s all going to be fine, we may need to find ourselves staggering our internet use. Why not encourage your kids to do offline activities such as reading or craft while you have some designated time for emails or an online meeting? And don’t forget, you can always create a hotspot from your mobile for another internet source.

  1. Invest in Your Back & Neck – Splash Out on Some Gadgets

Setting up a designated workspace at home is critical to providing some structure in this new phase of your work life. Why not use this as an excuse to get properly setup?

I’ve worked from home for many years but could not have done so without my large monitor and my stand-up desk. Like many peeps, I have a dodgy neck so my stand-up desk and large monitor have meant that I can continue to work with no pain! I simply plug my laptop into my monitor and happy days – everything in enlarged and at eye height! On the days that I decide to work from my kitchen benchtop, my neck always starts to throb – you’d think I’d learn!

And don’t think you need to spend a fortune. A large monitor can cost as little as $200 and a stand-up desk not much more. If you are using these items for work, the chances are you’ll be able to claim these purchases as a tax deduction – why not talk to your accountant?

There is no doubt that 2020 will be ‘the year we will remember for the rest of our lives’. And while the bulk of us aren’t in the high-risk category, it is essential that we all do our bit so that we can protect our most vulnerable. So, please take the time to ensure you are cybersafe while setting up your new work (and school) from home life and even more importantly, keep washing your hands!!

Till Next Time

Stay well

Alex xx

About the Author

Cyber Safety Ambassador

McAfee’s Cyber Safety Ambassador for Australia and New Zealand, Alex, is a mother of four boys who juggles family, work, home life, hobbies and her children’s ever growing social lives (on and offline). Like many parents, Alex has concerns about the safety of her children, who are growing up online world. Alex’s blogs are about ...

Read more posts from Cyber Safety Ambassador

Subscribe to McAfee Securing Tomorrow Blogs