Technology at Home with Your Family During the Coronavirus Crisis
Here are some thoughts about managing technology at home during the Coronavirus crisis. Technology can be frustrating and challenging during normal times, and now we need to look for ways to try make things easier, more secure, and improve your knowledge and skills. Technology is an essential asset, especially now that so many are working and going to school from home.
Cybersecurity in context
We can aid ourselves in this crisis by following two main premises of my first book, Cybersecurity for the Home and Office. First, cybersecurity begins in the home, because home is where we need to secure our family, teach our children, and gain practical hands-on experience. Second, when we improve our knowledge and competence with technology, we increase both security and efficiency.
Cybersecurity — and its parent information security — is not just about technical settings, but about making decisions about how to protect our information assets. These assets include our networks (and access to the internet), data (wherever it may be stored) and computer devices. Two information security objectives are critical for us in the home: confidentiality (keeping systems safe from exposure or data breach) and availability (making sure your systems are accessible to you). [In the interests of completeness, the third information security objective is integrity, which I cover in my book and other articles.]
To visualize how we start to make decisions about our cybersecurity and privacy and how we balance security and availability, think of a security dial, a concept I set forth in my book. We need to make reasoned choices about how to secure systems — not simply lock everything down. Therefore one needs to first consider “how secure” the system should be. Security choices often involve compromises between security (confidentiality), access (availability), time and money. You need to decide where to set your dial, and it shouldn’t be at zero, because that is too lax, but neither should it be maxed out at 11. Any changes to security (or other settings) need to be made gradually and methodically, because you do not want to lock yourself out of your systems.
This article is about working with technology and unfortunately cybersecurity and cybercrime should always be a consideration. The risks for cybercrime have increased due to this crisis since many cybercriminals have no empathy. For them this crisis is merely a business opportunity steal money and data or cause disruption. Continually improve your “four pillars of security”: knowledge and awareness, device security, data security, and network security.
Thoughts on becoming more efficient while the family is doing everything at home
Here are some tips for the family in the home during this crisis.
1. Work methodically, taking notes as needed.
This is not the time for rapid and impulsive changes which could bring down your system or lock yourself out of devices or accounts. If you are dealing with a mass of new school related internet accounts it is helpful to write down the website, account usernames, and passwords. Remember to store passwords in a safe place — if they stored on a computer that file should be password protected.
2. Improve your knowledge and proficiency with all of your technology tools
Your essential technology tools include computer devices, web browser applications, online accounts (email, cloud storage, web conferencing, and more), and internet connections.
No matter your current skill level, look to improve how you understand and use them. Even (and especially) technophobes can improve their skills. When you have the opportunity, try take a few minutes to explore the features, options, and account settings on your devices and internet accounts.
3. Cross-train your family
If one person in the family is the “tech expert”, it is time to share some of that knowledge with other family members. If no one is an expert, this is the time to improve, and solving tech problems is aided through free reputable online resources. All members of the family should improve their knowledge on how to get technology running, troubleshoot common problems, and about security and privacy.
4. Organize for school
As mentioned above, remote learning means a flood of new internet accounts for children (email, classroom, web conference, math, more). Create a list of these accounts, including website address (URL), username, and password, while storing this information safely.
Consider creating a daily “to-do” list, and a weekly schedule chart so that kids (and parents) remember what they need to do, when their web conferences are, and to keep track of what is done. Structure and reminders help.
All of this will improve learning, reduce stress on the family, and ease the burdens on teachers and schools.
5. Organize for out of school learning
Brainstorm and create a list of things the kids and family want to learn. Social distancing has challenges, but also presents a tremendous learning opportunity. Expand beyond the school’s curriculum.
6. Learn to type
Anyone who cannot type should learn now, including kids. Ten minutes a day for a few weeks can be the difference between agonizingly pecking out a sentence letter by letter, or blasting it out effortlessly. Consider a reputable free website, free app, or free trial.
7. Check your computer devices
Where family members are sharing computer devices, consider if separate local accounts are needed on the device. Children should probably not use administrator accounts, nor have access to parent’s work accounts.
If you need more computers, a chromebook is a relatively inexpensive option (though prices have gone up in the last week considerably).
8. Check how you use web browsers
Web browsers (like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Explorer) are essential for so many online activities, and we use them to sign in to many online accounts. These browsers can also sync data across devices, if desired. Where family members are sharing a computer’s local account, consider creating separate web browser profiles for each user (using Chrome or Firefox) so that they can stay signed into their own accounts and create their own bookmarks.
9. Back up your data
Know where your data is (on your devices, in your cloud accounts, in your social media accounts, and more) and back it up. Buy an external hard drive for this purpose. Now is not the time to lose your data permanently due to mistake, tech disaster, or ransomware.
10. Know your Internet connections and providers
Losing internet would be a hardship. Locate the contact information for your providers and have it handy. You probably have a wired connection into your house from the cable or phone company, and you probably have one or more smart phones with cellular service. In a pinch, your cell phones can be used as a “hotspot” so your laptops can tablets can access the internet.
11. Keep learning
12. Stay calm, take care of your physical and mental health.
13. Do your part to slow the spread of the virus by staying home when possible and through social distancing. We need to “flatten the curve” or there could be potentially catastrophic consequences if our health systems become overwhelmed.
14. Look to facts and science. Avoid disinformation, propaganda, conspiracy theories, and falsehoods. Be a good online citizen.
15. Watch for cybercrime attacks, malicious emails, impersonating emails, and funds transfer frauds. Consider two factor authentication for all your important online accounts, and verbally confirm any payment instructions. Continually improve your security and privacy, then bring that knowledge to the workplace (when you return there).
From the perspective of the organization you work for, what you learn at home will help at work. Remember that working from home does not erase the cybercrime threats to your organization (it may make them greater), nor does it eliminate legal duties your organization may have regarding cybersecurity. Organizations need a cybersecurity program, and a good program protects from crime and disaster, including crises like these. This crisis will pass, and when it does resolve to continually improve the cybersecurity governance and practices of your organization to protect it, customers, and comply with legal duties.
My first book is a comprehensive guide to understanding computers, networks, information security, privacy, and how you protect yourself and your business, it is Cybersecurity for the Home and Office: The Lawyer’s Guide to Taking Charge of Your Own Information Security and you can order it on Amazon or read more about it here at: https://johnbandler.com/cybersecurity-for-the-home-and-office/
This short article is for your information but is not tailored to your circumstances, nor is it legal or consulting advice. I have more articles on cybersecurity, cybercrime, and privacy here on this website including:
- Cybersecurity and Working from Home
- Cybersecurity, Privacy, You, and Your Organization
- Policies, Procedures, and Governance of an Organization
- New York Cybersecurity Requirements and the SHIELD Act
- Privacy, You, Your Organization, and the New NIST Privacy Framework
This article is also available at Medium at https://medium.com/@johnbandler/technology-at-home-with-your-family-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-cd1a079d4d93