Top 5 FREE Antivirus Software in 2020

There are so many choices with antivirus software on the market – which one do you choose?! Here’s a great article from Robert Bateman at Safety Detectives reviewing some of your best, and free, choices for antivirus in 2020.

Need more help? Local Computer Help can assist with choosing the right free or paid antivirus for your needs.

Some free antiviruses out there are actually malware designed to steal your private information. This is especially true for Windows because with so many users around the world, it’s the most popular target for viruses and other dangerous malware. That’s why it’s important that you don’t fall victim to one of these common scams and only download legitimate programs with a history of high-quality performance.

But with cybercrime rates on the rise, there are only a few free Windows antivirus applications available which actually offer decent PC protection. I’ve tested over 80 antivirus solutions to bring you a handful of free Windows antiviruses that are better than the rest.

While there is no such thing as a “free antivirus” with zero limitations, these 5 brands each offer a free plan which will help protect your PC. They are often pretty basic, but many are worth trying, and some are much better than Windows Defender — the default protection included with Windows.

Here’s a summary of best free Windows antiviruses for 2020:

  1. Avira: Overall #1 free antivirus for Windows for most users in 2020. Great technology which provides reliable antivirus and anti-malware protection.
  2. Panda: Exceptional antivirus technology, there are some nice extra features, and it comes with a free VPN!
  3. Sophos: The best free plan for families. Great interface with parental controls (up to 3 devices).
  4. AVG: Decent antivirus protection with a safe browsing extension.
  5. Avast: Comes with many extra features. But it has a lot of ads.

Why Computer Fans Are Important.

Computer fans may not be the coolest (no pun intended) part of a computer. However, they are essential for the daily function of your computer and helps ensure its longevity.

What do fans do exactly?

The computer fan is there to do one job. Push air around, ideally, hot air from inside the case out to allow for cooler to replace it. As electrical items are powered on and used, they create heat. The higher the workload, the more heat generated. This heat, if allowed to build, can severely damage your computer components, shortening their life span or even instantaneous death of a component.

So we have established that fans are a good thing. However, when looking at branded made desktops, typical loadout is two fans, one exhaust and one intake fan. This setup can get you through primary minimum workloads, such as checking emails or watching YouTube. For things like gaming, CAD, and rendering, you may find the two fan load out falling short.

A common symptom is a loss of a graphic process unit GPU. One of the most expensive outlays and biggest workhorses in a computer. They are responsible for the display information that is output onto your screen. A CPU can also suffer from overheating. Both would require a replacement to rectify.

While the GPU and CPU are costly to replace, they are not the worst victim.

NVME m.2 SSDs are a new form factor for SSDs they are about the size of a USB drive, and the thickness of a few credit cards. When they are working, they get pretty warm. But the placement of these SSDs is usually right under the GPU. As there are two sources of heat nearby, this is a real potential for catastrophic damage due to heat soak. The SSD will be your primary storage device in most cases, so the Loss of your m.2 SSD is a loss of your data.

So is there a solution? Luckily yes. Most cases have provisions for up to 5 fans in the case. So the easy solution is to add more fans. Next, you want to have the fans positioned so you can draw cold air in from the low while pushing hot air up and out the back.

If configured correctly, the fans can keep your computer cooler while also running quieter as they can run at a lower RPM. But that is dependent on the fans and Motherboard on the computer.

Clean your computer

Also, as you clean your house and rooms clean your computer. Dust impedes airflow, stopping heat from escaping your computer. So clean the case to reduce dust build-up. Using the brush accessory from your vacuum cleaner or compressed air around the vents can help loosen some of the dust to assist with clean up.

If you need help with installing fans or any other component in your computer, we can help. Call us on 1300 883 831 to book a time or come in with your pc and parts for us to install.

5 Online Security Tips for Secure Remote Working

The world was already shifting to remote working before COVID-19, but the pandemic significantly sped this process up. Now that so many people are working from home, it’s more important than ever to practice good online security. Here are some simple tips to keep remote workers and businesses safe, from our computer repair team.

Tip #1 – Have a Cyber Security Policy

A cyber security policy is a set of guidelines that every employee needs to follow while they are remote working. It should include which security programs need to be implemented on the devices that employees use for work (laptops, desktops, etc.), how to backup data, and how to identify and report security incidents.

Tip #2 – Secure Wi-Fi Networks

Home networks should be properly secured as a breach from an unsecured home Wi-Fi network can affect business as well as personal data. Send out a memo instructing all remote workers on how to secure their home Wi-Fi, including password best practices and installing firmware updates.

Tip #3 – Consider Using a VPN

A VPN is a virtual private network and it encrypts all your internet traffic, keeping business data protected and private. Use a reputable VPN service provider like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Private Internet Access VPN or IPVanish.

Tip #4 – Make Software Updates Compulsory

Ensure that updates to your data security software are carried out as routine maintenance. These can be tedious and annoying for remote workers, but they contain the most up-to-date patches to security vulnerabilities. Hackers are always looking for new ways to get into data systems and security providers constantly send out new updates to counteract these. Many security breaches are the result of individuals and organisations failing to keep their security software updated, so it’s worth the effort!

Tip #5 – Keep Remote Workers Informed

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen a significant rise in phishing and other cyber-attacks around the world. These malicious attacks are focusing on business data, personal data and especially any financial data. This makes it critical for your business security as well as your employee’s financial security that everyone is kept well-informed and aware of these attacks. Share information regularly on how to spot an attack, how to avoid downloading malware, and how to recognise a phishing email, text or phone call.

Tip #6 – Backup Your Data

No security policy is 100% effective, so ensure you automate business data backups securely to the Cloud. This ensures that your business is covered in the event of a cyber security attack or something as simple as a work laptop being stolen or damaged. Regular data backups help your business recover faster as well as minimise damage and downtime, so they are worth investing in!

Need Computer Repairs? Our Team can Assist You Today!

At Local Computer Help, our experienced team is ready to deliver expert, affordable computer repairs and IT support. We operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so you get the friendly, fast assistance you need exactly when you need it. With over 15 years of industry experience, we have you covered!

Can you save a computer or electrical device from water damage?

Oh no! You just spilled water all over your laptop, or console. Don’t panic, some quick thinking and taking a few initial steps may help prevent immediate permanent damage. It allows time for a repair centre to potentially save your device.


Water and electricals don’t mix, for several reasons.


First, water conducts electricity due to the dissolved ions in the water. An example is a salt as in saltwater. Electrical devices contain specific channels of safe passage for power to flow through, i.e. wires and circuit boards. Water making contact with these elements can allow electricity to short cut these paths to find the path of least resistance via the ions in the water. Hence the term short circuit. It can lead to damage to your electronics, or yourself if you are part of that path of least resistance, in this case to the ground. Both outcomes are harmful and dangerous and can lead to fire, injury or even death.


Second, water will corrode most metal elements that are in electronics. There are some exceptions, but they are few. While this will not show damage immediately, there is a chance that components exposed to water will corrode. This corrosion will increase the electrical conductive resistance, potentially stopping the flow of electricity altogether and resulting in a non-functioning component or device.


So, what should you do to try and save a device that is exposed to water?

  1. You can, if safe to do so, shut it off. If it is a plugged-in device, turn the power switch to off at the wall outlet, assuming it is dry.
  2. Pull the plug from the wall outlet.
  3. Wait at least 10 seconds or until the device’s lights have died, whichever is longer.
  4. Unplug the external transformer or power bank, if equipt.
  5. Depress the power button switch if dry a few times to discharge any power in the capacitors.
  6. Pull the plug from the device, if dry and able to do so.

If it has a battery, ensure the device if off and not plugged by following the above steps but skipping step 5 in and then remove the battery if safe and easy.


Once you remove power, the device is safe to touch again. You may try to dry it.

  1. Remove excess spillage from outer casings and around the device by letting absorbent towels or paper towels absorb the excess water.
  2. Pat dry it with more dry absorbent towels or paper towels.If your towels leave particulates, try to remove them or use towels that will not leave any in the process.
  3. Try to allow the water to drain out if any has entered into the device. If the electrical components are exposed, be careful with making contact with them as the act of drying can damage these components either from rough treatment or the generation of static electricity.


At this point, you should consider taking the device to a repair centre, where they may be able to save the device. Or, if it is a computer or other device with saved, they may be able to save at least the data you need to keep. Neither guaranteed successful due to luck as to how much damage occurs.

For DIYers…


Below are suggestions that you may have found on the internet, I have added them here for clarity but not recommended. Always proceed with caution when taking advice from an internet source

You may, at your discretion, expose the device to air currents and gentle heat. However, if the device can not vent the vapour, it is not recommended. It may increase the amount of exposure of water to components that may not have been in initial contact with water. Also, heating the device or its components too high or too aggressively can cause damage.
Isopropyl alcohol is effective in decreasing the evaporation times of water when mixed due to its hydrophilic nature and lower boiling temperature, reducing the chance of damage over time.


Agitating a device around in an attempt to remove the water should be avoided. Again, to minimise water contacting more components. Shaking the device can cause damage to the device itself.


There are also suggestions to bury the device in the sand or dry uncooked rice. Reputable, professional repairs do not practice it nor recommend it. There is a high risk of just introducing more contaminants that can damage the components further.


Opening up the device is done on your own volition. The recommendation is always to take the device to a repair centre to be diagnosed as it is a controlled environment with qualified and experienced technicians.


By these steps, you can give yourself options to decide your next course of action. It is always possible to save the device by taking the device to a repair centre, or at least to collect your essential data and memorabilia.

Are you Steam Powered? Free and paid PC gaming.

No, we aren’t being paid to write this article. We just want to share with you this great platform to get gaming online!

Need a new gaming PC or upgrades to your existing one? Local Computer Help can assist with a custom gaming rig built.

Steam is the ultimate destination for playing, discussing, and creating games.

Looking for something to do while social distancing and following all pandemic guidelines? Look no further than Steam. Steam offers a great range of free to play games along with premium paid PC gaming titles at your fingertips. Check it out here >

Join the Community

Meet new people, join groups, form clans, chat in-game and more! With over 100 million potential friends (or enemies), the fun never stops.

Experience Steam Hardware

We created the Steam Controller and the VR technologies that power the HTC Vive to making gaming on the PC even better.

Release your Game

Steamworks is the set of tools and services that help game developers and publishers get the most out of distributing games on Steam.

Features

We are constantly working to bring new updates and features to Steam, such as: Steam Chat Talk with friends or groups via text or voice without leaving Steam. Videos, Tweets, GIFs and more are supported; use wisely. Game Hubs Everything about your game, all in one place. Join discussions, upload content, and be the first to know about new updates. Steam Broadcast Stream your gameplay live with the click of a button, and share your game with friends or the rest of the community. Steam Workshop Create, discover, and download player-created mods and cosmetics for nearly 1,000 supported games. Available on Mobile Access Steam anywhere from your iOS or Android device with the Steam mobile app. Early Access to Games Discover, play, and get involved with games as they evolve. Be the first to see what’s coming and become part of the process. Learn More

Multilingual

Creating a global community is important to us, that’s why our client supports 28 languages and counting.

Purchases Made Easy

Our storefront supports 100+ payment methods across over 35 currencies, giving you the flexibility to pay how you want.

Controller Support

Steam encourages developers to include controller support in their games including PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo controllers.

And so much more…

Earn achievements, read reviews, explore custom recommendations, and more.

How to enable Dark mode for Windows 10 on your Computer.

With many people working from home in this climate of Covid restrictions throughout Australia, it is easy to lose sight of work life balance. We are finding many people are neglecting breaks simply as there is no one around to have that simple coffee break together with.

Apart from the obvious health implications of less body activity and muscle atrophy, there is also the harm that staring at a computer screen for hours on end can do to your eyes being over tired from the bright glare of white most of Microsoft’s software is draped in.

However there is a slight reprieve for your eyes on Windows 10 in the form of dark mode.

To enable, elect the Windows logo Start button > Settings Gear-shaped icon > Personalization > Themes. Select Color and under “Choose your default Windows mode select the dark button. If you choose to do so repeat with the “Choose your default app mode”

Selecting a dark windows color along with checking the “show accent color on the following surfaces” and checking both boxes will help complete the look.

You can follow suit with browsers but as this is still in beta, your mileage may vary.

To implement on Windows Edge simply select the three dot icon under the close button, >Settings > and select Dark on “Choose a theme”.

With Chrome, again select the three dot icon > Settings > Appearance > Themes. Here you will be able to select and download a variety of different themes to use with chrome. For now select a dark style that suits your tastes and add to chrome.

For all web pages to follow suit, this is where the beta part comes in. settings here if changed can dramatically affect your browsing experience so use caution when in this area. In the address bar type in the “browser name”://flags, so for edge you type edge://flags and chrome type chrome://flags.

There are a lot of items you can change here. However, there is a search bar to assist. In the search bar type “dark” and enter.

 You will see a “Force Dark mode for Web Contents”. Simply selecting the Enable from the drop down menu and closing the tab will enable that.

It is a beta so have a look at the content you browse, if you are not happy with the look simply change back.

Of course there are other strategies to reduce strain and fatigue, like buying a new monitor that will filter blue light, as well as buying more ergonomic peripherals to reduce muscle strains. We can assist you in acquiring such items or with other IT matters. Again, taking 15 minute breaks from the screen and stretching and light exercise to get blood circulating helps. Our health is important.

Curved vs Flat Monitors

What are the benefits of a curved monitor? Check out this great little article to learn more.

Curved monitors are relatively new technology, but they are quickly overtaking flat monitors among discerning users. Why make the upgrade? There are a number of benefits to curved monitors unique to their design, including reduced eyes strain and better field of view.

Do you remember comparing the difference between CRT and LCD monitors?

Well, that’s in the past! Today, those shopping for monitors must decide between curved monitors and flat monitors

Do you know which is best for your needs?

If you don’t, then let’s take a step back.

Long story short, curved monitors are the new flat! At least that’s what it seems like based on the number of curved monitor options entering the market for applications spanning from gaming to work, and even to general entertainment.

With a curved monitor, your eyes are immediately drawn to their flowing curved screen and sleek look – but how do they perform? Below, we’ve set out to compare curved monitors and flat-screen monitors to find out for ourselves. What are the benefits of curved monitors? What are the benefits of flat monitors? Read on below to see our list of curved monitor advantages and full breakdown between curved monitors and flat monitors. Moreover, we will provide some info regarding the ultrawide variants of curved and flat monitors.

Curved vs. Flat Monitors Compared

Curved Monitors Are Immersive

In the world of viewable media, immersion is a golden standard to work towards. If a product can make you forget, so to speak, that you’re staring at a screen, then you’re much more likely to enjoy the experience.

To create this sense of immersion, products must be engineered in a way that replicates real life. The monitor technology specifically used in this case is called ocular perception. This is something everyone learns from an early age.

We see the world in three dimensions – length, width, and height. If our collective reality was based only in two dimensions, then everything would appear to be flat. This is where the battle of curved vs. flat monitors come into play.

Curved monitors take advantage of all three dimensions. Further, they expand on peripheral vision. In contrast, flat monitors, which live up to their namesake and don’t require the use of peripheral vision, offer a weaker immersive experience. 

Curved monitor benefit #1:

  • A more immersive experience

Curved Monitors Eliminate Distortion

Imagine how annoying it is when you experience a blurry picture. Next, consider how you feel when that blurriness is not due to a poor internet connection, but instead a hardware issue. In another example, consider how when you enlarge a video or picture, the quality ends up suffering a fair amount of distortion, particularly at the edges.

When it comes to the debate between curved vs. flat monitors, the situations above are almost exclusively associated with flat monitors. Although examples of distortion can occur on screens of any size, they become more prevalent as monitor size increases. Less distortion is one of the advantages of curved monitors over flat monitors as distortion issues are minimized on curved monitors.

There is a simple explanation for this.

The difference between curved and flat screen distortion comes down to the physics of light projection. Put simply, flat screens blast their images in a straight line, both at the viewers and past their sides. Curved screens, on the other hand, take advantage of their shape, and aim everything at the viewer, thus limiting distortion. 

Curved monitor benefit #2:

  • Less distortion on a curved monitor

Curved Monitors Are More Comfortable for Your Eyes

The same physics that limit curved-screen distortion also make their use more comfortable. Essentially, the curvature of the monitors allows our eyes to take in everything at once, without strain.

This comes in opposition to flat screens, which, depending on the size, may cause eyestrain if the screen exceeds a viewer’s natural field of view. The ability to take in a scene without strain is something that occurs naturally in everyday life.

By being able to take in the entirety of a curved screen, even at its largest sizes, your eyes will take advantage of that natural feeling to remain comfortable. All in all, when considering curved vs. flat monitors, bear in mind that your eyes will be able to do their job more comfortably when viewing the former.

Curved monitor benefit #3:

  • Curved monitors are comfortable for your eyes

Curved Monitors Cover a Wider Field of View

When researching curved vs. flat monitors, it’s common for the specs of curved screens to correlate greater immersion with superior field of view. Frankly, this is true for the same reasons that curved screens are also more comfortable than their flat counterparts.

Since a curved screen directs light from all angles towards the viewer’s eye, the idea is that you will be able to take everything in without much ocular exertion. Therefore, if your eyes are more easily covering a larger field of view, as compared to flat screens, then curved monitors will thus feel larger

An additional benefit of a wider field of view is that it also attributes to your perceived level of immersion.

Curved monitor benefit #4:

  • Curved monitors offer a larger perceived field of view.
Curved vs. flat monitors FOV

Things That Will Take Some Getting Used to with Curved Monitors

Nothing is ever 100% perfect; there’s always a catch. Although that certainly goes for claims that appear too good to be true, it, unfortunately, goes for curved screens as well

Thankfully, the drawbacks of curved screens are very minor and will probably not be sending any buyers running for the hills to purchase flat screens instead. 

Wall mounting

First and foremost, as a result of its eponymous shape, curved screens face difficulty when it comes to wall mounting. Unlike flat screens, which are typically flush with the adjacent wall, curved screens require specific mounts and positioning in order to be mounted.

Broadly speaking, curved screens necessitate a situation where they are kept from being too close to the wall. Although they don’t resolve the fact curved screens will jut out, tilt & swivel brackets and adjustable arm mounts are great options to overcome the hurdle of mounting in general.

The good news here that this is mostly a superficial issue and has no impact on performance. 

Glare

Due to the geometry involved in its curvature, a curved screen will regrettably be prone to glare, when viewed at certain angles. As compared to a flat screen, which projects light at a single uniform angle, curved screens will do so at a countless number.

With that in mind, while it is easy to keep light sources away from a single angle, it may become nigh impossible when dealing with many.

The best way to mitigate this issue is to place the screen away from as many light sources as possible. Or, simply using your monitor with most lights turned off.

5 TIPS on how to get your computer running FASTER for FREE!

I’m sure we’ve all encountered a computer that is frustratingly slow and it drives us to our wits end. Here are the top 5 tips to consider to try before you a) throw it out the window or b) give your local computer technician a call for help.

Perhaps B should come before A!

1. ‘Control+ALT+Delete’ and check out your task manager. Consider what unnecessary programs are consuming resources and potentially slowing down your computer by viewing the ‘processes’, ‘performance’ and ‘start up’ tabs. You can disable any programs you may not need at launch by simply right clicking on it.

2. Clean up your registry with a great piece of free software called CCleaner – https://www.ccleaner.com/
You can download this light weight program, install it and use it to clear up all unwanted and old registry entries no longer required. Simply select the ‘registry’ tab and ‘scan for issues’ and follow the prompts.

3. Don’t have any anti-malware software on your computer? It’s time to grab a free copy of Malwarebytes (which we highly recommend – the premium paid version does even more) and run a scan of your computer to clean up any ‘nasty’ malware and files that shouldn’t be there. Download it here – https://www.malwarebytes.com/mwb-download/

4. Check your computer’s operating system and software is up to date. Depending on the operating system you are running here are some simple guides to check you are up to date.
Update Windows 8.1
Update Windows 10
Update your Mac O/S

5. Tried all that and you’re computer is still running slow? If you’re running Windows 10 perhaps it’s time to take it back to factory state – just like you got it out of the box – with the inbuilt and easy to use Windows Reset feature. Ensure you back up all your files first and note all software you will need installed once completed and click here for the steps to complete a Windows Reset.

This was previously sent out to all our Local Computer Help members as part of our mailing list – https://mailchi.mp/localcomputerhelp/5-tips-to-make-your-computer-run-faster-for-free

Don’t miss out on great helpful articles like this by subscribing to our mailing list in the footer of our website!

How to sit at your computer

Sounds basic right? But I’m probably doing it wrong as I write this article!

Here’s some great tips on how to stay safe and healthy while using your computer.

We see too many workplace injuries that could be avoided. And prevention is better than cure. Here is a four-step checklist that you can carry out at your workstation, to make sure you’re comfortable, safe and productive at the office.

STEP 1: Your Chair

  • Push your hips as far back as they can go in the chair.
  • Adjust the seat height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees equal to, or slightly lower than, your hips.
  • Adjust the back of the chair to a 100°-110° reclined angle. Make sure your upper and lower back are supported. Use inflatable cushions or small pillows if necessary. If you have an active back mechanism on your chair, use it to make frequent position changes.
  • Adjust the armrests (if fitted) so that your shoulders are relaxed. If your armrests are in the way, remove them.

STEP 2: Your Keyboard

An articulating keyboard tray can provide optimal positioning of input devices. However, it should accommodate the mouse, enable leg clearance, and have an adjustable height and tilt mechanism. The tray should not push you too far away from other work materials, such as your telephone.

  • Pull up close to your keyboard.
  • Position the keyboard directly in front of your body.
  • Determine what section of the keyboard you use most frequently, and readjust the keyboard so that section is centred with your body.
  • Adjust the keyboard height so that your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are in a slightly open position (100° to 110°), and your wrists and hands are straight.
  • The tilt of your keyboard is dependent upon your sitting position. Use the keyboard tray mechanism, or keyboard feet, to adjust the tilt. If you sit in a forward or upright position, try tilting your keyboard away from you at a negative angle. If you are reclined, a slight positive tilt will help maintain a straight wrist position.
  • Wristrests can help to maintain neutral postures and pad hard surfaces. However, the wristrest should only be used to rest the palms of the hands between keystrokes. Resting on the wristrest while typing is not recommended. Avoid using excessively wide wristrests, or wristrests that are higher than the space bar of your keyboard.
  • Place the pointer as close as possible to the keyboard. Placing it on a slightly inclined surface, or using it on a mousebridge placed over the 10-keypad, can help to bring it closer.

If you do not have a fully adjustable keyboard tray, you may need to adjust your workstation height, the height of your chair, or use a seat cushion to get into a comfortable position. Remember to use a footrest if your feet dangle.

STEP 3: Screen, Document, and Telephone

Incorrect positioning of the screen and source documents can result in awkward postures. Adjust the screen and source documents so that your neck is in a neutral, relaxed position.

  • Centre the screen directly in front of you, above your keyboard.
  • Position the top of the screen approximately 2-3” above seated eye level. (If you wear bifocals, lower the screen to a comfortable reading level.)
  • Sit at least an arm’s length away from the screenand then adjust the distance for your vision.
  • Reduce glare by careful positioning of the screen.Position source documents directly in front of you, between the screen and the keyboard, using an in-line copy stand. If there is insufficient space, place source documents on a document holder positioned adjacent to the screen.
    • Place screen at right angles to windows
    • Adjust curtains or blinds as needed
    • Adjust the vertical screen angle and screen controls to minimize glare from overhead lights
    • Other techniques to reduce glare include use of optical glass glare filters, light filters, or secondary task lights
  • Place your telephone within easy reach. Telephone stands or arms can help.
  • Use headsets and speaker phone to eliminate cradling the handset.

STEP 4: Pauses and Breaks

Once you have correctly set up your computer workstation use good work habits. No matter how perfect the environment, prolonged, static postures will inhibit blood circulation and take a toll on your body.

  • Take short 1-2 minute stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes. After each hour of work, take a break or change tasks for at least 5-10 minutes. Always try to get away from your computer during lunch breaks.
  • Avoid eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes periodically. Look away from the monitor and focus on something in the distance.
  • Rest your eyes by covering them with your palms for 10-15 seconds.
  • Use correct posture when working. Keep moving as much as possible.
Correct sitting at desk posture ergonomics advices for office workers: how to sit at desk when using a computer and how to use a stand up workstation

Cyber Security Tips

With many workers and students now working and studying from home it’s an important time to ensure all your computers are secured against unwanted issues and access.

If you believe your computer has been compromised Local Computer Help can assist with checking over it and cleaning it up from any viruses or malware that maybe present.

Check out these tips from ACSC to keep your computer safe while online.

COVID-19: Cyber Security Tips When Working From Home

his guidance outlines key cyber security practices for people who are working from home.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many people working from home for the first time. Working from home has specific cyber security risks, including targeted cybercrime. When compromised, unauthorised access to your stored information can have a devastating effect on your emotional, financial and working life.

Cyber security tips

Here are nine things you can do to in your new working environment to protect your work and your household’s cyber security.

Beware of scams

Cybercriminals see a crisis as an opportunity. Major change brings disruption, and businesses transitioning to working from home arrangements can be an attractive target.

Be aware that the COVID-19 pandemic will be used by cybercriminals to try to scam people out of their money, data and to gain access to systems. While working from home you should:

  • Exercise critical thinking and vigilance when you receive phone calls, messages and emails.
  • Exercise caution in opening messages, attachments, or clicking on links from unknown senders.
  • Be wary of any requests for personal details, passwords or bank details, particularly if the message conveys a sense of urgency.
  • If in any doubt of the communicator’s identity, delay any immediate action. Re-establish communication later using contact methods that you have sourced yourself.

For more ACSC information on how to identify and protect yourself from scams see:

Use strong and unique passphrases

Passwords are passé! Strong passphrases are your first line of defence. Enable a strong and unique passphrase on portable devices such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets.

Use a different passphrase for each website and app, particularly those that store your credit card details or personal information. To use the same username (such as an email address) and passphrase for multiple accounts means that if one is compromised, they are all at risk.

For more ACSC information, see ‘Passphrases’ in the:

Implement multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication is one of the most effective controls you can implement to prevent unauthorised access to computers, applications and online services. Using multiple layers of authentication makes it much harder to access your systems. Criminals might manage to steal one type of proof of identity (for example, your PIN) but it is very difficult to steal the correct combination of several proofs for any given account.

Multi-factor authentication can use a combination of:

  • something the user knows (a passphrase, PIN or an answer to a secret question)
  • something the user physically possesses (such as a card, token or security key)
  • something the user inherently possesses (such as a fingerprint or retina pattern).

If your device supports biometric identification (such as a fingerprint scan) it provides an additional level of security, as well as a convenient way to unlock the device after you have logged in with your passphrase.

For more ACSC information on how to implement multi-factor authentication for specific services, see:

Update your software and operating systems

It is important to allow automatic updates on your devices and systems like your computers, laptops, tablets and mobile phones. Often, software updates (for operating systems and applications, for example) are developed to address security issues. Updates also often include new security features that protect your data and device.

For more ACSC information on updating operating systems and software, see:

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections are a popular method to connect portable devices to a work network. VPNs secure your web browsing and remote network access.

Sometimes organisations specify that you use a VPN on work devices. If this is the case, you should familiarise yourself with your organisation’s VPN requirements, policies and procedures.

For more information on VPNs see advice from the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security:

Use trusted Wi-Fi

Using free wireless internet may be tempting; it can also put your information at risk. Free Wi-Fi by its very nature is insecure and can expose your browsing activity to cybercriminals. Cybercriminals have also been known to set up rogue Wi-Fi hotspots with names that look legitimate and can intercept communications, steal your banking credentials, account passwords, and other valuable information.

Use trusted connections when working from home, such as your home internet or mobile internet service from your telecommunications provider.

For more ACSC information on the steps you can take to secure your Wi-Fi, see:

Secure your devices when not in use

It’s much easier to access your information if other people have access to your devices. Do not leave your device unattended and lock your computer when not in use, even if it’s only for a short period of time.

You should also carefully consider who has access to your devices. Don’t lend laptops to children or other members of the household using your work profile or account. They could unintentionally share or delete important information, or introduce malicious software to your device.

If you do share your computers or devices with family or your household, have separate profiles so that each person logs in with a unique username and passphrase.

For more ACSC information on good cyber security behaviours, see:

Avoid using portable storage devices

When transporting work from the office or shop to home, portable storage devices like USB drives and cards are easily misplaced and, if access isn’t properly controlled, can harm your computer systems with malware.

If possible, transfer files in more secure ways, such as your organisation’s cloud storage or collaboration solutions. When using USBs and external drives, make sure they are protected with encryption and passphrases.

For more ACSC information on portable storage cyber security, see:

Use trusted sources for information

Cybercriminals and other malicious actors use popular and trending topics such as COVID-19 to spread disinformation or scam people. Impersonating, cloning or creating websites to look genuine is one way to do this (see ‘Beware of scams’ above). Producing and sharing false information on social media is another.

Be sure to only use trusted and verified information from government and research institution’s websites. Think critically about the sources of information that you use, and balance all evidence before believing what people share.