Set Up Your Home Office for Privacy
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented number of people around the world are working or learning from home. We, at Startpage, are proud to say our global team is now 100% remote. We acknowledge that we can only provide the best private search and browsing product for our users if our own team members and their families are safe and comfortable during these difficult times.
We are also aware that relocating work or classrooms into the home introduces new challenges, including personal privacy. In a statement regarding smart devices, users were warned to evaluate the security of devices that include cameras, microphones and, in some cases, facial recognition technology which are often poorly secured by their manufacturers. The FBI said “At the low end of the risk spectrum, they can change channels, play with the volume, and show your kids inappropriate videos” and “in a worst-case scenario, they can turn on your bedroom TV’s camera and microphone and silently cyberstalk you.” (https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/portland/news/press-releases/tech-tuesdaysmart-tvs)
Thus, we created an easy and straightforward guide on how to set up your home for privacy.
How to Set Up Your Computer for Privacy
How would you feel if your boss randomly showed up at your home? What if they brought all of your colleagues? And even strangers interested in stealing your personal data came along as well?
If you’re anything like the folks at Startpage, you value your privacy. When you bring your company-issued computer into your home or use your personal computer for work, you may not realize you’re opening yourself to cyber-attacks and breaches of privacy.
Here are some steps on how to protect your personal and work data while you work from home:
- Cover Your Webcam: Your webcam can grant hackers and unwanted eyes access to your home. A webcam cover provides a barrier to keep your webcam from being used against you. You can invest in a sliding cover or simply use a post-it to cover the webcam. For a chance to receive a free Startpage Webcam sliding cover, check out the end of this post!
- Review Your Browser Privacy Settings: Check your browser privacy settings to make sure you’re not leaving a trail of your personal data. If you’re not sure whether your browser is up to privacy standards, visit Think Privacy https://www.thinkprivacy.ch/browsers and PrivacyTools IO https://www.privacytools.io/browsers/#browser.
- Make Startpage Your Default Search Engine: Use Startpage to receive Google results without any search history saving, tracking or profiled search results. As an added bonus, use the Anonymous View feature to browse results in total privacy. In other words, you can search the web without leaving a trace.
- Update Your VPN: Whether you use a VPN to access your company’s network or encrypt your online activity, it’s important to update your VPN to protect yourself against the latest vulnerabilities.
- Use Encrypted Messaging Apps & Email Services: If you’re sending sensitive information, you probably don’t want eavesdroppers (this includes your company!) having access to your conversations. Apps like Slack aren’t as private as you may think, retaining even your edited and deleted messages. (https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/1/24/21079275/slack-private-messages-privacy-law-enforcement-lawsuit) We compiled a list of leading messaging products that respect your privacy: https://www.startpage.com/blog/privacy-awareness/dont-naughty-weve-got-nice-tips-sending-holiday-messages-private/
- Be Cautious When Joining a Video Conference Call: If you’re part of a team, chances are you’re jumping on several video conference calls throughout the week. You may not have the option to use a secure product, but you can protect your personal privacy by putting these habits into practice:
- Before you join the conference call, close all non-work related windows and apps. This will keep you from accidentally sharing your screen with embarrassing or NSFW windows open.
- Make use of your webcam cover and the “mute microphone” option. This will keep your co-workers from getting too familiar with your home-life.
- If you’re using video, check your background. Your bookshelf or wall, while aesthetically pleasing, may offer unlimited details about you and your family.
- Beware of Cybersecurity Threats: Cybercriminals are using the COVID-19 pandemic to launch phishing attacks on unsuspecting people across the world. Before opening an email, check the sender’s email to make sure it’s not from an impersonator.
Practice Privacy in the Home
If you’re in quarantine, your home is your sanctuary. You can protect your home and privacy by following these easy tips:
- Secure Your Home Wi-Fi: Make sure your home wi-fi is secure by updating your password, using a guest network to limit access, and disabling remote access, Universal Plug and Play, and Wi-Fi Protected Setup. For detailed steps, check out Wired’s guide: https://www.wired.com/story/secure-your-wi-fi-router/.
- Create a Private Work Space: Regardless of whether you have a full house or just one person in your space, it can be helpful to create your own private work nook or office. If it doesn’t help with increasing your focus, at least it will help protect your work from prying eyes.
- Turn Off Smart Products: If you have an Echo or Ring Security Cam, your smart home devices may be capturing personal data on you. Check your settings and privacy policies. Even if you think the convenience of these products outweighs the privacy concerns, you may benefit from turning them off during select moments or moving them to a different area of your home.
If you have any additional privacy tips, share them with us through social media!
Bonus: First 50 people who share this blog post on social media and email us at email@example.com will receive a free Startpage webcam cover. Please include a link or screenshot of your social media post and mailing address. We’ll delete all personal information once we’ve sent you your free Startpage webcam cover.
For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
General Tips on Working from Home via NPR
Cybersecurity Tips on Working from Home via ZDNet