Over the years, the Truckee/North Tahoe region has seen the continued growth of remote work and freelancers. Virtually anywhere that there is access to the internet or a strong mobile signal, remote employees can setup shop and begin working. To accommodate some of these employees, a number of co-working spaces have opened.  In Truckee, you’ll find Lift Workspace and The Hub; Tahoe Mill has locations at the base of Alpine Meadows and in Tahoe City; and Incline Village is home to Mountain Workspace. 

As remote work has grown, so has the threat of cyberattacks. These threats are not just an inconvenience, they can be absolutely devastating to any business, large or small. Even organizations with robust security systems in place are not safe. As we recently learned, the Town of Truckee fell victim to a cyberattack in July 2021. That attack crippled the town’s IT systems for months and left lasting damage. About a month earlier, the City of Grass Valley was victim of a similar attack, and in May 2021, Sierra College was hit. These attacks show that even rural Northeastern California is not immune.    

Such threats come in different forms. It could be malware or a virus that infects a computer rendering it unusable. It could be a hacker who intercepts sensitive information and uses it for unauthorized access. Or it could be ransomware that takes a computer and data hostage.

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As the convenience of co-working spaces and free public Wi-Fi access has grown, these attacks have become more of a risk. We must be ever more cautious of the threats to our digital lives. Co-working spaces that offer internet access as part of their membership often have a secure network. That is helpful in mitigating threats, but that network security is only as secure as each user on the network. Free public Wi-Fi represents an exponentially greater threat because anybody can access that network and conceivably any device on the network. 

Many remote workers and freelancers work on a system of BYOD (bring your own device); we no longer separate a business computer from a personal computer. This increases risk because not only is business data vulnerable, personal data is as well. Without a team of IT professionals, how are remote workers and freelancers to protect themselves from these threats? There are a number of measures that can be taken to mitigate the risks:

  1. Establish a reliable backup process. If your information were ever to be encrypted by ransomware, you could simply restore your backup instead of paying. Test restoring your backups to ensure that they work.
  2. Don’t fall for phishing e-mails. This is ransomware’s most common mode of transportation. As a general rule, if an email comes in unexpectedly or looks suspicious, simply delete it.
  3. Apply software updates in a timely manner. The longer you delay updating, the longer you could be vulnerable to the latest ransomware (and other malware) attacks. Software updates should be applied to not only your PC or Mac, but also your mobile device.
  4. Use antimalware and antivirus software, which can help quarantine any malware or virus (including ransomware) that does make it into your systems.
  5. Trust HTTPS over HTTP. Be sure that any website where you enter sensitive information is running HTTPS, which uses encryption and therefore is more secure than HTTP.
  6. Look out for cloned sites. To harvest information from users, attackers sometimes “clone” the code for a website and create their own version of it.
  7. On mobile devices, look out for “clone” apps. Before downloading an app, always check that:
    • The app title is correct
    • The company is legitimate
    • The number of reviews or ratings is consistent with the app’s popularity

Perhaps one of the strongest cybersecurity measures is the use of a VPN or a virtual private network. A VPN is a service that runs on your computer or your mobile device and connects to a secure server. The VPN will protect your privacy online while providing a secure connection between your computer or mobile device and the final destination on the web, which might be a bank account or a web-based work site. Transmitted data is protected because once the secure connection is made, internet traffic that is transmitted between your device and the destination is encrypted so that the risk of a hack is greatly mitigated. 

With a little diligence and the use of regularly available tools, the risk of being victim of a cyberattack can be greatly reduced. 

Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Commonwealth Financial Network®.

~ John Manocchio (CA Insurance Lic# 0H73423) is an investment adviser representative with Commonwealth Financial Network, Member FINRA/SIPC. Contact him at Pacific Crest Wealth Planning, jcmanocchio@pacificcrestwp.com or (530) 562-5250.

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