Homeworking and hacking fears during a global pandemic

As the global lockdown continues, and we’re finding new ways to settle into the ‘new normal’, reliance on home Wi-Fi has never been so high. Whether as a means of continuing to do our day jobs and connecting with colleagues, or supporting our kids with school work – staying connected has been essential to everyone worldwide. 

As time has passed, it’s become clear that this reliance doesn’t stop here. As housebound as we are, we continue to rely on the same Wi-Fi network to entertain ourselves during our free time – whether by gaming, streaming our favourite TV programs, using social media, or video calls to check in with friends and loved ones. Overall, we’re online more and outdoors less, which means new threats have surfaced at the same time.  

In times like these, a decent Wi-Fi connection is essential, though one with high-quality security features attached is just as important to ensure protection for the home and those in it. This applies to everyone who finds themselves spending more time in front of a screen, interacting across a broader digital landscape – especially as cybercriminals and fraudsters are more likely to take advantage of vulnerabilities and exposed networks during this time. 

An increase in this kind of criminal activity has been reflected in recent reports across Europe, highlighting the need for heightened awareness of scammers taking advantage of the current crisis. For example, in the UK, investigators have uncovered more than 500 coronavirus-related scams and upwards of 2,000 phishing attempts. 

Protecting ourselves from vulnerabilities online should be a priority for all of us. Before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, D-Link Europe conducted European-wide research to explore how much people across the continent consider their online safety, the lengths they’d go to defend themselves, and general attitudes towards keeping ourselves, our devices and our home network ecosystem safe and secure. 

At this time, we found that there was some level of anxiety, as just over a third of Europeans said that they were already concerned about hackers gaining access to their home network – a total that would have likely to have grown over the weeks that followed. 

Bearing in mind the higher likelihood of phishing emails, fake websites and even text message scams surfacing; individuals play an important role in raising their awareness – especially as just over three in five Europeans believe they are the family member who uses the most Wi-Fi data in their home. 

As the working population take to their dining, kitchen or coffee tables to carry out a day job or run a business, an unprecedented amount of time is spent using the home Wi-Fi system. While in an office, a degree of protection is usually afforded through regulated enterprise-grade systems in place, alas, the home Wi-Fi is not built to the same specifications. 

This means carrying out work via our home internet connection could lead to exposure to more vulnerabilities – which is especially relevant for those dealing with confidential information and sensitive materials. With data now being considerably more at risk, and businesses naturally being more susceptible to being targeted by hackers or caught out by pre-existing vulnerabilities, it is essential to consider the security of home internet systems.

Implementing the right equipment and ensuring security measures are in place is important, however reporting suspected attacks, raising awareness and alerting family members and friends are also great places to start. Exposure is not only worrying for businesses and employees but also particularly troubling for older generations and those with children – research findings suggest that 1 in 6 respondents were already concerned about their household viewing inappropriate content before lockdown. 

Home schooling has meant children spend more time using computers, smartphones or tablets for online learning and entertainment purposes, often unsupervised. Kid’s access to the internet is perhaps more worrying now for a large number of parents. Yet, before the pandemic, only a fifth of Europeans knew if their router included parental controls and just over a quarter of Europeans did not believe their home Wi-Fi network needed to be protected using parental controls at all. 

However, the increase in unchecked access to the internet raises the likelihood of children being able to access or simply stumble upon inappropriate content – a problem for which parental controls would be helpful. In opposition to most, almost a fifth (19%) of Europeans say that parental controls do make them feel more confident that their family are protected. 

Home Wi-Fi performance and security is a concern for many across Europe, as such, it is pivotal that we ensure we have the right equipment in place to minimise risk to keep ourselves safe online. One way of doing this is by upgrading a home router to a device with advanced and sophisticated security features in place. Again, according to our research, almost half (47%) of Europeans have not replaced their home router to improve their home Wi-Fi performance – yet, this is an essential and cost-effective measure to boost performance and security for a smart home ecosystem.  

The importance of securing a home network is evident, though how is this reflected by the actions people take? People across Europe are concerned about hackers and cyber-criminals accessing their personal data and home Wi-Fi networks. Ensure your home network is ready for the challenges of doing business at home in a few simple ways:

  • Plan your remote working set up around your environment, bandwidth requirements and level of security to ensure better capacity 
  • Extend your Wi-Fi to where you need the best connection with wireless range extenders and the latest Wi-Fi 6 routers or consider expanding your wired connection using affordable switches. 
  • Protect business data consider by employing a 4G or 5G router to create a dedicated network for your business data; or alternatively use a VPN route allowing you to securely connect to your office  
  • Centrally manage your team whilst providing business class Wi-Fi at home with Nuclias Cloud and Nuclias Connect
  • Regularly monitor who and what is connected to your home network
  • Choose a strong Wi-Fi password, and change this every so often
  • Optimise parental control features to protect your children from inappropriate content 
  • Shut down the network when it is not being used
  • Use good wireless encryption

As we continue to adapt to a new way of working, the extent to which we rely on our home Wi-Fi is worth considering – whether in terms of working from home, supporting family and children with their education or as we continue to connect socially. Creating and maintaining a safe and stable connection is key to allowing us to live a protected and productive life in lockdown and thereafter.

Profile photo of Neil Patel,  Director European Marketing and Business Development
Neil Patel, Director European Marketing and Business Development

A highly-regarded voice in the networking industry, Neil Patel has spearheaded D-Link's European Marketing and Business Development for nearly a decade.