10 precautions to protect your computer while telecommuting

Telework is taking a larger part in our professional life. It also requires us to work in a secure environment. Discover our tips for adapting the use of Windows 10 to work at home peacefully and by protecting your data.

The progress of telework, and more generally of homework, did not wait for the health crisis to worsen.

In France, a survey by Malakoff Médéric dated February 2019 reported an increase of 700,000 teleworkers in one year, reaching 29% of employees of private companies with more than 10 people. With the exceptional situation caused by the pandemic of the new coronavirus, this figure rose to 40% according to the French Association of HRDs over the period of confinement. And that is of course without counting the thousands of freelancers and micro-entrepreneurs for whom working from home is the norm.

And if many teleworkers have equipment provided by their company, this is not always the case and we may have to carry out its missions on a personal computer, especially in this exceptional period. To exercise your professional activity in optimal conditions, it is, therefore, necessary to observe some good practices in order to avoid security, confidentiality and data protection problems that may arise if you do not pay attention.

1. Update Windows 10 Pro and its applications

No software is immune to security breaches. However, fixes are regularly made to Windows 10 Pro. Remember that this is no longer the case for Windows 7: to ensure security and the latest Windows functionality, you will need to upgrade to version 10. In the settings, the “Update and Security” section will allow you to adjust Windows Update automatic updates. It is recommended to activate them, but the latest versions of Windows 10 Pro give you the possibility to moderate this behavior by pausing for 7 days or by specifying office hours when your system should not restart.

A number of apps also depend on the Microsoft Store, and can be updated easily. This obviously concerns all the applications that you may have downloaded or purchased there.

2. Install antivirus

We would like to be able to do without it completely, but protection against malware remains to be recommended. The risks are still numerous, and of course, good practices make it possible to limit them. We can cite for example the fact of avoiding “dubious” sites (stay away from anything that promises you free products that are normally paid, for example), to correctly adjust your web browser to detect scams in online and malicious downloads, and strictly apply the advice cited above. Malware writers love outdated applications and operating systems.

However, a security suite provides additional protection, especially for tasks like connecting to banking sites, or defending against ransomware. Windows 10 Pro integrates Windows Defender (or Windows Security in French) which offers daily protection against threats. Warning: if you are still on Windows 7, you can no longer benefit from updates for the Microsoft solution. You can find the built-in Windows 10 Pro antivirus in the Windows Security app. From there you can adjust the parameters and launch an analysis of your system.

Some companies may seek a more sophisticated security system to protect their equipment. They can then turn to Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Security (EMS), a complete mobility management platform that embeds many services to identify and combat IT threats.

3. Set up a VPN

To protect your data on the Internet, a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and the servers you contact. VPNs are effective tools against data theft and allow you to mask your IP address to access blocked services in your country. You may already be using a VPN to connect to your company’s intranet.

Many VPN offers are available by subscription, including NordVPN , Cyberghost or ExpressVPN .

To configure a VPN in Windows 10 Pro, you just need to provide your credentials and go through the Control Panel in the Network and Internet> VPN section. Then click Add VPN and enter your information.

4. Adopt secure passwords

Teleworking can be an opportunity to review the passwords you use to log into multiple services. Are they secure enough? Remember the rules: a good password must be as complex as possible, favoring upper and lower case letters and numbers, as well as the special characters accepted. Password management solutions allow you to secure this process, such as Dashlane , LastPass or 1Password. If you prefer to manage your passwords “by hand”, many sites offer their generator online, including that of the CNIL.

5. Set up OneDrive

Online data storage services allow you to access your files anywhere. At home, these are also interesting remote backup tools. On Windows 10 Pro, OneDrive integrates directly into the system and lets you easily back up files on your desktop and your Documents and Pictures folders. To do this, go to OneDrive settings, in the Backup tab.

OneDrive also offers the Safe, a secure folder that locks after a certain period of inactivity (by default, 20 minutes). You can place the most sensitive documents you have to deal with there.

6. Use file history

To protect yourself from losing your job, a local backup is additional security, and in particular a mechanism that allows you to recover a previous version of a document. Office applications offer this functionality: in Word, from the Files menu, select Information and then “Version history”. The panel that opens allows you to switch to one of the previous backups of your document. Apps are generally quite effective also in recovering your work in the event of a crash. When in doubt, a regular backup always guarantees additional security. Do not forget to activate the Automatic recording function, accessible from the upper left corner of a Word, Excel or PowerPoint window.

More generally, you can keep an incremental backup of all your files via the File History feature, available in the Update and Security> Backup section of the control panel. From there you can specify a disk to use for backup and the folders to include (or not).

Then, to find a previous version of your file, right-click from Windows Explorer and click on “Version history”. A window appears and allows you to choose one of the previous versions.

7. Secure your web browser

Let’s repeat our first advice: first of all, update your Edge browser . Like all modern browsers, Edga offers protection against downloads and malicious sites.

Protection options for Microsoft Edge in Windows 10 Pro can be found in Windows Security> Application and Browser Control. From there you can activate SmartScreen, which blocks malicious content via a reputation system. SmartScreen also works for Edge but also with any web browser for analyzing downloads.

8. Protection against advertising tracking

To protect your privacy and limit advertising tracking, web browsers all offer protection that activates the “Do not track” mode, which is supposed to tell the server that you do not want to be tracked. To activate it on Microsoft Edge, go to the options, click on “Show advanced settings” then check “Send Do Not Track requests”.

Unfortunately, this is not enough and several solutions are available to strengthen this protection. Thus, extensions like Ghostery or uBlock Origin exist for Edge.

9. Videoconferencing: protect your environment

Telecommuting is often synonymous with videoconferencing with your teams or clients, in an environment that is not your office. It may happen that private or sensitive information is hidden in the decor, and you do not necessarily want to show your bedroom or your living room, or that we see your family members or your cat in the field. The latter, anyway, will pass in front of you and work on your keyboard whether you are in video or not.

But for what’s going on behind you, Skype or Microsoft Teams offer a background blurring feature that puts focus on your face while protecting your loved ones. In a Skype call, you will find a small “More” menu at the bottom right of the video window, and an option “Blur my background”. In Microsoft Teams, the same functionality is available from the toolbar during a meeting. You can also opt for personalized funds.

Finally, in Zoom , you cannot blur the background, but the client manages the personalized funds. To add one, in the conference window click on the webcam options, then on “Choose a virtual background”.

10. Lock your PC when you’re not in front

When working at home or at the office, you don’t necessarily want to leave your session open when you are not at your PC. Windows 10 Pro offers several lock options in addition to the traditional password. If you find it too long, you can replace it with a PIN code. Manipulation requires a Microsoft account.

The Win + L shortcut allows you to quickly lock your screen without putting it to sleep.

In the control panel, go to the Accounts section, then Connection Options. You can then choose a PIN code. Better: if you have a Windows Hello compatible webcam (in the case of Surface tablets in particular), you can unlock your PC by facial recognition. Another option: use a Bluetooth device connected to your PC to ensure unlocking if it is detected, for example, your phone.

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