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Keep Your Data Private and Secure While You Work From Home With These 5 Steps

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Image for representation

Despite not having enterprise security at hand, you can insure your data and privacy by following a few easy steps.

Data security and privacy is of tantamount importance, especially as the volume of cyber crimes and their frequency increase around the world. Couple that with our present work from home situation, and it has become exceedingly important for you to ensure that you follow basic cyber hygiene in order to keep your data as secure and private as you can. Contrary to many expectations, doing your bit for data security does not require exhaustive knowledge of technology, or spend a lot behind specialised hardware. On this note, here are five do-it-yourself steps that you can implement from your end at home, to make sure that you keep your network and devices as safe and secure as they can be.

Update router firmware regularly

Routers are the entry point to your network, so naturally, makes for the most commonly targeted piece of technology by hackers. As a result, router manufacturers roll out firmware updates on a regular basis to patch known vulnerabilities and flaws, in a bid to reduce the window for hackers to infiltrate your network. As a result, it is extremely important to ensure that you update your router firmware as frequently as possible. As users, this is a step that we often overlook.

Router IP addressThis is what your router's IP address would look like. (Image: News18.com)

To update router firmware, go to the support website of your router's manufacturer, and look for an option to search for the latest firmware by entering your router name. Alternately, find your router's name (typically found at the back of a router) and simply search for it on Google. By ensuring that you have the latest security patches on your router, you will ensure that you do not have any tensions with regards to making banking and other transactions on your devices. Latest firmware updates also debug routers regularly, and ensure that your Wi-Fi works at its best possible speed at all times.

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Use WPA2-PSK AES encryption

While many might think that this is too technical, in truth, it really isn't. For Windows 10 users, click on the internet indicator on your desktop status bar, and click on the 'properties' tab that is beside the 'disconnect' button of the Wi-Fi network that you are connected to. This will open up the detailed page of your network. There, simply scroll down to find 'IPv4 address'. For Mac users, click on network settings from the Wi-Fi icon, select 'advanced' from your Wi-Fi window, click on TCP/IP and find the address. Copy this address and enter it in your browser's address bar. Now, enter the router's user ID and password (found in the router manual/webpage).

Router encryptionAlthough not failsafe, WPA2 encryption is far stronger than default router settings. (Image: News18.com)

Once you enter this page, find a tab that says 'Wi-Fi security', or 'security', or something related. Click on this tab to access your router encryption setting. From here, select 'WPA2-PSK' and save the page. Log out of the page, and subsequently, reset your router a couple of times for the changes to take effect. By doing this, you will be giving your router a far stronger encryption standard than what may be saved by default. While WPA2-PSK AES encryption is not infallible, it can still be much better than not having any layer of protection at all.

Access internet through VPN

We have already spoken about the benefits of using a VPN (virtual private network) at length, which you can read all about here. Long story short — VPNs can mask your address on the internet and hide your actual point of presence online. In many ways, this can help you stay protected from multiple forms of online tracking, and keep you safe especially when you do sensitive tasks such as filing online documentation and doing financial transactions.

VPNs such as NordVPN are easily accessible and implementable, and are much needed in today's internet, where you may be tracked for an innumerable number of reasons.

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Disable cookie tracking on browsers

Cookies are essential to the targeted advertisements that you see all over your internet. To prevent this, access your browser settings, head to privacy, and typically, access the 'advanced' section. Here, you can choose to send every website a 'do not track' request, and disable the option for websites to read your cookie data. Also ensure that you choose to block all 'third party' cookies, and you can also choose to clear cookie and website data saved against your profile in your browser cache, every time you close the browser.

Myriad third party websites use cookies to track entire browsing histories and create behavioural patterns — something that is severely detrimental towards user privacy.

Cookies are essentially your own footprints on the internet, while leave a digital trail of your activities online. While cookies are not inherently harmful to your data security, what's troubling is that myriad third party websites use cookies to track entire browsing histories and create behavioural patterns — something that is severely detrimental towards user privacy. Hackers can use such data for identity forging and isolated acts of online bullying (especially if you are searching for sensitive data online), and given the possible threats that may rise, it is best that you avoid cookies as far as possible.

Monitor how much internet is being consumed

Over time, once we get used to our phones and laptops, we often forget to check exactly which programmes are running in the background. This is particularly important, since an old app that may not have been updated over time could have fallen prey to a vulnerability, and in turn, exposed you to a remote access threat. Such apps are known to silently work in the background and send data that could be potentially private to distant servers controlled by attackers. These acts, in fact, are more prevalent in phones, particularly those that run Android.

Windows task manager network statusMonitoring background internet activity, especially for background services, is key. (Image: News18.com)

As a defense, always attempt to track the amount of data that is being used on your device. Android devices nowadays have a data monitor that shows up in the status bar to show interact access speed in real time, while Windows PCs can show real-time network usage in the task manager. As an alert user, it is always good practice to keep a tab on these numbers every now and then, to ensure that no apps are using too much internet without proper authorisation.

This also gives you proper insight into which of the apps are running upon startup, and lets you take full control of which services are important to you, which can be trusted, and which are behaving fishy. This can help you detect possible signs of a hack, and if you see any, asking for help from a cyber security expert can help you prevent loss of sensitive data.