Telework 101: Keep Your Passwords Strong and Accounts Safe – by Chris Zaccaro

“You know what, Toby, when the son of the deposed king of Nigeria emails you directly, asking for help, you help! His father ran the country! OK?”

With those words, Dunder Mifflin’s inimitable Michael Scott, proved that even a successful eight-time Dundie Award Winner is not immune to all the traps on the internet.

The “stay home, stay safe,” way of life ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic has made us more reliant on technology than ever before. According to the Pew Research Center over half of the U.S. population says the internet has been “essential” during the pandemic. It has allowed employees to keep working, students to keep learning and adults to keep shopping and paying bills.

But the internet has also made us more susceptible to bad actors, malware and online scams—and there are countless ways that someone can cause lasting damage to your financials, data, files and reputation. So while you are taking the steps to protect your personal safety, and that of your employees, customers and/or clients, don’t overlook the security of your online accounts.

With that in mind, here are some important tips to protect yourself and your company.

Ensure your personal and professional passwords are both strong and secure. Google’s Password Checkup (passwords.google.com) can help manage your passwords in Chrome and Android. This service notifies you if your accounts are already compromised or potentially vulnerable, allowing you to make changes to your credentials—hopefully—before any damage is done.

Never share passwords online. If a co-worker needs a password, provide the information over the phone. Also, avoid using your passwords on any shared devices. If you need to use your password on a shared device, be sure to log out afterward—then double-check by revisiting the login page to make sure you’re logged out and that your credentials were not saved.

Don’t use the same password—or something close to it—on multiple accounts. According to a Google survey from last year, “52% of people use the same password for multiple (but not all) accounts.” Don’t give someone a 50/50 shot at accessing another account by using the same password. Make sure passwords for each of your online accounts are different and be sure change them at least every quarter.

Here are some other useful cybersecurity tips that can help keep you and your company protected as this teleworking era continues…

• Avoid opening emails that seem suspicious—and definitely do not click on any links or attachments from people you do not know. Even what appears to be a harmless sales pitch could be a ploy.

• If you receive a suspicious or oddly worded email from someone you do know, either from them directly or through a third-party, play it safe and follow up with them in a separate email. It’s possible they may have been compromised and you’re the next target.

• Never download anything from a website you’re not familiar with. Take a few minutes, perform some Google searches, ask your IT Department and find out if the source is reputable and safe. If you can’t find information on them, take a pass and find a different option.

• Create a point of contact within your company where employees can report suspicious emails or other cyber threats. If one employee received something suspicious, it’s very likely another will too. The point of contact should communicate to your team what’s going on and provide guidance so that everyone is aware, prepared and on the same page.

• Reduce where payment information is stored. The fewer places it lives, the harder it will be to find. If you do not need to store payment information on a certain website, don’t!

This way, when you get an email from the former crown prince of any nation, you’ll be a little better equipped than Michael Scott!

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