The dangers of working from home

Posted on August 24, 2021

Long gone are the days of paper records and filing cabinets. The shift to digital records and cloud servers has introduced the ability to originate and process loans from anywhere in the world. When you choose to access or store client data and documents from outside of your office network, it presents new cybersecurity risks that need to be understood and accounted for.

Before you take your work home with you (or to a public network for that matter) you will want to make sure regulations in your state don’t prohibit working outside of the office. Consult your company policies and procedures, or if you aren’t sure about your state’s regulations, get in contact with us.

The Problem

Your office network should be configured in a way that makes it as secure as possible, and if you’re LendSafe certified, we make sure it is. But every time you access documents and data through an outside network, you’re introducing the possibility of vulnerabilities or bad actors on that network compromising the security of your sensitive data. Savvy hackers can use public networks to more easily access your documents, data, and passwords. Even your home network may not be as secure as your office, especially as you add all of your smart devices and family members’ devices.

It’s important to remember that no matter what network you connect through, there is always some degree of risk when you connect to the internet. Your job as a steward of your clients’ data is to mitigate that risk as much as you can, making it negligible.

The Solutions

Since you’re responsible for the safety and security of your clients’ data, it’s your job to be proactive about data security when using outside networks. Here are a few things that you can use to mitigate the dangers of working from outside of the office.

  • Use a VPN

VPNs act as a tunnel between your computer and a secure remote VPN server, making it harder for hackers on a public or home network to get to your data. Without a VPN, whoever has access to the wifi access point could theoretically steal passwords and documents, upload malware to your computer, and more.

VPNs act as a tunnel that encrypts and securely transports your data to its destination.
There are many VPN services out there, but not all of them are secure. You want to make sure you do your research to find one that is trusted and truly secure.

We have done our own research and use NordVPN for our business needs. They have years of experience and have developed trust among lenders and cyber security experts alike. When you use their service, your internet traffic is encrypted and sent to their secure servers where you can avoid hackers sniffing out your data and protect your privacy. Click here if you’re interested in signing up for NordVPN.

Whoever controls the VPN servers you connect to has the choice of whether or not to protect your data. Choosing a service that is reputable and has been vetted by cyber security experts is a must when using a VPN to work from a home or public network. Free VPN services may have no obligation to keep your data secure and could potentially be selling it to third parties.

In order to depend on a VPN service for work, you also need speed and reliability. NordVPN provides speed and reliability as well as security to give you the full package. They offer VPN services for computers, smartphones, and even your router. Watch the video below to learn more about VPNs.

  • Pay attention to the network you connect to

A common tactic used by many hackers is to deploy a public network that they specifically set up to lure in people looking for free wifi. Don’t just connect to any open network when you’re using work devices. Do your best to determine who is providing the network, and verify that it does indeed belong to them.

This means if you’re working in a coffee shop, you confirm with an employee the network name and password, instead of connecting to a random network named “free wifi”.

After doing all you can to confirm that the network you’re connecting to doesn’t belong to someone with nefarious intent, there is still a lot that can go wrong. A common tactic by hackers is to set up a network with the exact name as common free WiFi networks such as “Starbucks WiFi”, making it even more difficult to know for sure whether the network you connect to is what you think it is. To be safe, you really should not be working over open networks without a secure VPN as stated above.

  • Configure your settings

In your computer settings, there should be an option to toggle network and file sharing as well as network discovery. Make sure if you’re on a public wifi network, that you have these turned off. On Windows computers this is located in the Control Panel as seen below.

The next settings you should check are your anti-malware and firewall settings. You should already have active anti-malware and a firewall installed on your work computer if you’re LendSafe certified. Double-check they are running before you start working and that they are fully updated.

The final thing you will want to check is that your computer forgets the public WiFi network after you’re done using it. If you have the option to uncheck “Connect Automatically”, do so. But either way, after you’re done using a public network, get into the habit of manually checking that your computer no longer remembers it. This prevents hackers from using those common public network names to randomly connect to your computer later on.

  • Be aware of your surroundings

This may seem silly, but be aware of where your screen faces when working from home or in public. Many of the documents you access as a mortgage lender are full of sensitive data. If you open these documents on your screen, there’s always a possibility that someone behind you could read and steal that data.

  • Practice makes permanent

The above practices will help protect you as you take your work home or on the road with you. But they only work if you remember to use them. Make a short list on your computer, or bookmark this page so that the next time you connect to the internet to work outside of your office, you know exactly what to do.

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