With national lockdowns in place due to COVID-19, millions of new remote workers have jumped online to start working from the comfort of their homes. Unfortunately, personal privacy is being lost as companies, many of which are new to remote work arrangements, are increasing their employee monitoring policies. It’s safe to assume that everything you do on a work computer could be and is likely monitored. While not blatantly an issue, there is a thin line between personal and professional life when working at home.

Outside of employer privacy concerns, scams are also on the rise, with Google reporting a staggering 18 million daily malware emails detected related directly to COVID-19. Not only does this put you at risk, but it can also put your employer at risk. With these risks in mind, it is important to adopt basic OpSec and privacy best practices that will help reduce your vulnerabilities. Below are five easy solutions that can be implemented in less than 24 hours.

1. Use a Sliding Webcam Cover

Webcam covers do exactly what they appear to do, help block your phone and or computer webcam when not in use. Webcam covers eliminate the risk of being spied on visually, as well as the risk of inadvertently having your webcam on during a work call with many people. They come in all shapes and sizes and cost just a few dollars to purchase. It is recommended that you use these for all of your devices with both front and back-facing cameras. In the case you can’t fit one on your device, you should resort to the next best option: disabling your camera access in your device settings.

2. Disable Mic and Camera Access When Not in Use

Have you ever spoke privately about something specific, only to find a related ad on your phone or computer just minutes later? If so, you are not alone and the reason this happens is due to applications that automatically request and or are given access to your device´s microphone and camera. The easiest way to prevent this is by disabling access to these functionalities in your device’s settings. This process is manual and can be an annoyance with frequently used apps, such as WhatsApp or Zoom, since you would need to log back into your settings and allow access again to use the app for a call or video chat. This is the classic dilemma and tradeoff between more privacy/security and convenience.

3. Leverage a VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) helps protect your internet traffic by masking or rerouting your IP Address and helping protect your data across public networks. VPNs are easy to use and offer a user the ability to choose country-specific networks that will give access to local services that might not be available normally. For remote workers, VPNs are essential when working in public places like co-working spaces or cafes. While there are free VPNs on the market, it is advised to do your research to make sure the VPN you are using is trustworthy. The top-tier paid VPNs typically offer up to five to devices per user license, allowing you to install the VPN on all of your work and personal devices.

Arguably the most important point on the list, personal and work devices should be used only for what they are intended to be used for. You should not leverage a work computer to browse your personal social media networks and or even use desktop applications to communicate to your personal contacts. Once again, assume everything you type is being recorded by a virtual keylogger, all of your browsing history is being logged, and each activity is being closely monitored. Why take the risk if you can easily keep your personal phone or computer at your side when needed?

5. Backup Your Data

Security experts will argue about the risks imposed by backing up data to a cloud service provider, but there are also easy ways to backup your data using external hard drives. This goes back to the privacy/security vs. convenience tradeoff. The benefits of the cloud include having all of your data synced across multiple devices, if required. Imagine never having to worry about losing your device and or having your external hard drive malfunction. With the proper cloud storage, you could simply buy a new device and restore your backup to have the exact same information you had prior. For those more concerned about security, there are cloud service providers with advanced encryption, 2FA, and other safeguards in place to prevent any breaches.