Corona crisis demands good cyber hygiene

Monday 01 June 2020

Skype with colleagues, consult in a Teams meeting or discuss the latest situations in Zoom. The coronavirus has meant the Netherlands is now working from home. The kitchen table has become your new head office where e-mails, meetings and documents come together. But how do you make sure you can work from home securely? “It’s mainly a case of using your common sense,” says Jurjen Jansen, senior researcher in the research group Cybersafety at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences.


At the beginning of April, Europol, the European law enforcement agency, warned about an increase in cybercrime now homeworkers were making mass use of online services. “Cyber criminals exploit these kinds of trends and developments,” notes cybercrime specialist Jurjen Jansen. “And we see this a lot now with this corona crisis. For instance, there are corona maps being spread that, when you click on them, download a virus without you realising it. And phishing mails have been spotted in which criminals offer special antibacterial bank cards supposedly on behalf of your bank.”

Jansen knows from research he previously carried out into safe internet banking that it doesn’t take much to trick people. “Simply cutting and pasting the bank’s logo, or that of the RIVM or World Health Organisation into an email is enough to deceive a lot of people. It’s really not that they are all whizz-kids who have been working on a virus for years. They’re usually just devious types who make cunning use of the trust we have in these kinds of reliable organisations.”

In addition to sending viruses and malware, there is another danger lurking: the homeworker themselves. “In large organisations, employees often get a laptop from their employer to take home. But you also see lots of homeworkers dusting down their old laptops. The first question you should ask yourself is whether the software is up to date – and if the virus scanner is too. We call this cyber hygiene, jargon for security best practices.”

Jansen warns that this still doesn’t mean you are 100% secure. “One area most people don’t think about is the security of their internet connection and router. You should always use a personalised password and not use the standard setting with ‘admin’ as the username and password. Otherwise criminals need only work out what router you have in your home in order to easily seize your network data.

Using a unique password is often the key to working securely but can also mean extra hassle. If you have to remember new passwords for everything, it can get tricky,” admits Jansen. “I recommend using a password manager. It’s a kind of digital safe where you can save all your passwords. The LastPass app is an excellent solution and you can download it easily from your app store.”

And, finally, a tip Jansen himself, as a father, has had the necessary experience with. “Only use your laptop for your work and not as game computer for the children,” he laughs. “It sounds contradictory but especially now we’re all working from home, it’s even more important to keep our work and private life separate.”

Jurjen Jansen is senior researcher in the research group Cybersafety at the Thorbecke Academy at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences and studies issues concerning the digital resilience of individuals and organisations.