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Tips for staying secure while working from home

Because many devices attached to home networks don’t get patched or updated as frequently as corporate devices, the most common exploits detected so far in 2020 have targeted older systems. Nearly two-thirds of attacks targeted vulnerabilities disclosed in 2018, and a quarter targeted vulnerabilities from 2004.

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Due to the global pandemic, nearly two-thirds of companies have moved half or more of their employees to telework. Sixty-two percent of employed Americans, for example, say they have worked from home during the crisis, with the number of remote employees doubling between March 13 and April 2 of 2020, and this is not just a temporary change. Nearly a third of all organizations with remote workers expect that half or more will continue working from home after the pandemic. 

The security implications of such a dramatic transition in such a short period of time cannot be overstated. Under normal circumstances, moving an entire workforce from secure IT environments to home networks with very little cybersecurity would take long-term planning and preparation. But that was not an option in 2020. As a result, 32% of respondents to Fortinet’s 2020 Securing Remote Work Survey found that setting up and managing secure connectivity to be the most challenging aspect of switching to telework.  

Part of the problem was that the devices at the company’s core network were not designed to manage the volume of VPN connections required. As a result, many connections were not secure. Or even if they were encrypted, existing firewalls were incapable of inspecting VPN tunnels to ensure they weren’t being used to deliver malware – at least not without significantly slowing down connections. 

But the other part of the challenge is that many home networks were not setup to support the bandwidth requirements of VPN, let alone bandwidth-hungry business applications such as video conferencing. In addition, end user devices (many workers began working from home using a personal device) were often unpatched and unsecured as were other devices connected to the home network. These challenges made home networks an ideal target for cybercriminals. 

Cybercriminals Are Targeting Remote Workers 

And as one might expect, threat researchers saw a significant shift in the behavior of cybercriminals. According to the latest Threat Landscape Report from FortiGuard Labs, global sensors detected that the top attack targets identified in the first half of 2020 switched from targeting corporate devices and applications to things like consumer-grade routers and devices such as DVRs normally attached to home networks.  

There was also a significant increase in attacks targeting end users that used concerns about the coronavirus to lure them into clicking on malicious web links or open attachments infected with ransomware or other malware.

Part of the problem was that the devices at the company’s core network were not designed to manage the volume of VPN connections required. As a result, many connections were not secure.

The FortiGuard Labs team saw an average of about 600 new phishing campaigns per day during the spring. And because home users were no longer protected by corporate security devices, web-based malware became the most common attack vehicle, outranking email as the primary delivery vector used by cybercriminals for the first time in years.  

And because many devices attached to home networks don’t get patched or updated as frequently as corporate devices, the most common exploits detected so far in 2020 have targeted older systems. Nearly two-thirds of attacks targeted vulnerabilities disclosed in 2018, and a quarter targeted vulnerabilities from 2004. 

Seven Recommendations for Remote Workers 

During the last several months, IT teams have been scrambling to close the security gaps in their remote worker strategy. But while 92% of organizations report budget investments to address teleworker security, end users are still the front line of any security strategy – and never more so than now. Here are a few suggestions of what they can do to reduce risks. 

  1. Learn to Spot Attacks: Many organizations are sponsoring training programs to help their workers identify suspicious emails, websites, text messages, etc. In addition, there are free programs available online to provide end users with essential security training and information. And make sure everyone at home using the network, from roommates to children, get cybersecurity training as well. 
  2. Harden Passwords: Another easy step is to simply make passwords harder to guess, and also use different passwords for different accounts. To manage these passwords, use a secure password management system that can remember passwords. Then all anyone needs to remember is the login information for that one application. 
  3. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Also known as two-factor authentication, MFA combines something a user knows, such as a password, with something they have, such as a fingerprint or a security token. MFA should especially be used when accessing financial information or logging onto the company network. 
  4. Patch Home Devices: Have users look at all of their devices at home and make sure they are running the latest versions of their operating systems. Even gaming and entertainment systems have options that let users check to see if they are running the latest version. 
  5. Secure Home Networks: This is probably a good time to consider adding or upgrading a security application to protect the home network and devices from attacks. In addition, many home routers now include gateway security which should also be enabled. Some cable operators and internet service providers also provide free security. Remote workers should make sure that logging onto the home WiFi requires a password. They should consider an email gateway that can detect and filter out malicious email attachment and links. 
  6. Improve Device Security: New advanced endpoint security solutions, known as endpoint detection and recovery (EDR), not only provides better threat detection, but also prevents infections that manage to get onto your device from executing their malware. EDR solutions should not only be applied to remote worker devices, but also on other endpoint devices in the home.   
  7. Upgrade Internet Connections: Remote workers should consider upgrading their internet service so they can run business-critical applications even when others are streaming movies or playing online games. Companies should consider providing funds to help offset the cost of a bandwidth upgrade. 

Enhance Your Remote Work Security Now 

Cybercriminals will continue to target remote workers, with no signs of letting up. Adding these seven steps to any corporate security strategy is the right way to begin protecting today’s distributed networks that include remote workers. 

Strategies

4 Keys to a successful side hustle

Most part-time small business owners get started because they want extra income, low-risk wages, flexibility and the opportunity to contribute to the common good. However, these benefits are not enjoyed evenly across the many different types of businesses you may be considering.

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Photo by Annie Spratt from Unsplash.com

Deciding to join the leagues of entrepreneurs launching a part-time small business can be a major personal and professional step. It’s a way to stretch your creative muscles, build new skills, earn extra income from home and potentially unlock additional possibilities for you and your family in the future. It’s also a significant investment of your time and talents, which is why it’s important to choose the right “side hustle” for you.

Most part-time small business owners get started because they want extra income, low-risk wages, flexibility and the opportunity to contribute to the common good. However, these benefits are not enjoyed evenly across the many different types of businesses you may be considering.

Learn to ask smarter questions about these highly sought-after benefits to make sure you find the right fit for you and your family:

1. Extra income.

Many people seek a side job with a specific, money-oriented goal in mind. That can be increasing the monthly household income, saving toward a down payment for a new home or going on a vacation. In order to make the income you want, it’s important to look at how much you can expect to earn on an ongoing basis. Look for a side gig that solves daily problems around necessities like cooking or eating to ensure your services are in-demand year-round.

2. Low-risk wages. 

The ideal side job is easy to start without heavy investment or training. An independent consultant business, for example, can provide low start-up costs, easy ways to join and the built-in appeal of an already established brand, so you can get to earning extra income faster. Before jumping on board, take time to learn the start-up costs associated with any part-time gig and how long it will take you to learn the necessary skills to recoup your investment.
“Starting a business can be a very expensive thing,” Pampered Chef consultant Rachel Hanson said. “I was looking for something that was affordable and gave me everything I needed to get started.”

3. Flexibility and family time.

Being your own boss allows you to decide when you will work and when you won’t, but some side gigs require work during “high-traffic” times that can detract from the freedom you are seeking. Be sure to pick a side hustle that fits your schedule and can be done at any time – or even from the comfort of your own home – if flexibility is important to you.

4. Work with purpose.

If you get your drive from a powerful sense of purpose, like improving people’s health or bringing families together, a side job that makes an impact is likely to give you the job satisfaction you need to succeed long-term. There are many franchise and direct-sales businesses that have strong charitable partnerships so you can give back locally while you earn extra cash. Beyond charitable work, look for roles where you are teaching important skills or solving common problems for your customers, beyond simply selling products.

Learn more about opportunities for creating your own part-time business at pamperedchef.com/be-a-consultant.

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Strategies

Considering franchising to open your biz

Opening a franchise allows you to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of making your own business decisions and being your own boss, while working toward your goals of personal and financial independence at your own pace.

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Photo by @cyzx from Unsplash.com

Creating a business from the ground up is no small endeavor. From planning to financing to putting standard business services in place, there’s a lot to tackle. All of that is in addition to operating the day-to-day business.

To overcome these obstacles, franchising is an ideal solution for many aspiring business owners. It provides the advantages of business ownership, but with the added support of a recognized brand and an established method of doing business. Partnering with a franchise like The UPS Store offers numerous benefits.

Flexibility.

Opening a franchise allows you to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of making your own business decisions and being your own boss, while working toward your goals of personal and financial independence at your own pace.

Start-up resources.

Getting a new business off the ground requires a wide range of activity, from site selection and lease negotiation to hiring and training staff. A franchise can help you navigate these early decisions and needs with a deep pool of experience and knowledge to help overcome the hurdles you may encounter.

Training. Even a well-educated business owner has room to learn. With a franchise, you have the opportunity to receive in-depth training in areas such as business operations, technical systems, human resources, marketing and financial management.

Networking opportunities.

Connecting with other franchisees at area meetings, regional conferences and national conventions helps you stay informed of industry trends, discover new tools and resources, and develop lasting relationships with fellow franchisees. The result is a peer group that has intimate knowledge of your business model that can serve as a valuable resource as your business grows.

Product development.

Part of developing your business is understanding your customers’ needs and introducing new products and solutions. As a franchise owner, you can contribute insight to the process but focus on running your business while development experts dedicate themselves to researching and innovating new products and services that can help you better serve your customers.

Marketing support.

Many franchises conduct national advertising campaigns to build brand awareness, while regional efforts and local store marketing can build excitement in your market. A layered marketing plan extends the reach of your marketing budget and lends credibility to your business.

Financing assistance.

Funding your franchise according to your unique goals and background can help eliminate many of the financial pitfalls that those without experience or industry expertise may encounter.

Learn more about franchising and the options available to aspiring small business owners at TheUPSStoreFranchise.com.

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Strategies

5 Tips for creating a business plan

Once you’ve settled on a business model that meets your needs, developing a business plan is an essential next step.

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Photo by William Iven from Unsplash.com

Once you’ve settled on a business model that meets your needs, developing a business plan is an essential next step.

These five tips can help you get started:

1. Think long-term.

A solid business plan should account for your start-up, of course, but also the longer range future of your operations. Consider how you want your business to look five years down the road. Create goals and build in milestones to chart your progress on that long-term path.

2. Write it yourself.

No one can embrace your vision as completely as you can and developing the plan yourself gives you a deep understanding of every aspect of the business, which is essential for good management. Even if you hand over certain responsibilities down the road, being aware of each aspect of your business can make you a stronger, more successful leader.

3. Review the plan over time.

Know that time brings change. The business climate and other variables that influenced your original plan will likely shift over the course of your ownership. That’s why it’s important to revisit your plan at least annually to ensure your original roadmap is still on the right track strategically.

4. Share your plan with others.

Inviting input from an adviser or experienced friend or colleague is a great way to spur new ideas and identify potential problem areas. Be sure you’re prepared to accept constructive criticism to help shape the best possible business plan.

5. Stick to it.

After all the sweat equity you invest in creating your business plan, the worst thing you can do is allow it to collect dust on a shelf. Use the plan to guide you in launching and growing your business. When business is booming and you’re too busy to think strategically, you’ll be grateful to have a well-conceived plan to rely upon.

Learn more about franchising and the options available to aspiring small business owners at TheUPSStoreFranchise.com.

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