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IT safety for studying or working from home

While we work or study from home, it is worth us all taking a few minutes to consider safe IT practices.

Here are a few tips to help you to work and study safely online.

Protection for your work

If you are working from your own laptop or computer at home, check that the anti-virus software is up to date and follow this is basic guidance:

  • Try and run a virus scan once a day
  • Ensure your firewall is turned on
  • Check your Windows operating system is up to date
  • Check any software you use is up to date
  • Lock your laptop or computer if you are spending time with family or enjoying a lunch break (CTRL+ALT+DEL). This will avoid any accidental pressing of keys by pets or children – especially if you have mischievous cats like John Vinney!

The BU remote working guide for staff and students gives some great advice about how to protect your devices, emails and documents.

There is also a range of other information on our website about staying safe online.

Data protection

Of course, working or studying from home brings with it a few challenges, especially if you don’t have a separate work space in your home. Here are a couple of ideas to help you:

  • Try and have a “clean desk” policy – don’t leave documents containing personal or confidential information lying around. Try to keep paperwork together to avoid it getting muddled up with the children’s artwork or your partner’s work documents
  • Check the email address is correct and be diligent about considering email/website links and attachments before opening them. You can find out more about how to spot malicious emails links on the website.
  • Make sure you have a backup of your work
  • Try not to download any company data or information to your device

Of course, it is crucial we still follow all the usual data protection rules while working from home. Colleagues can check out the advice on our data protection site. Students undertaking research can find out more about responsibilities for handling personal data on the website.

Avoiding scams

Fraudsters are taking advantage of the pandemic by sending various phishing/spam emails related to Covid-19 in order to spread malicious malware to BU and personal devices. This malware enables them to collect online credentials and personal information.

Scammers encourage victims to purchase face masks, antibacterial hand gels and even claim that they can provide the recipient with a list of people in their region affected by Covid-19. However, these emails contain malicious links, attachments or lead to malicious websites - individuals may even be asked to make a payment in Bitcoin. We have also been made aware of scams relating to government support schemes (such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)) and pension scams. 

We encourage all staff and students to remain vigilant when studying and working from home. There are a number of steps that will help you stay safe online.

If you are at all uncertain about the links in an email:

  • Navigate to BU’s dedicated coronavirus pages via the main BU website, rather than clicking the link embedded in the email or you could just type the link directly into your web browser
  • Report any suspicious emails to IT Services. This could be messages with a web link that does not point directly to the BU website or an email that requests that you open an attachment to read the message.

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure has some guidance around spear-phishing attacks, which are sophisticated, cleverly tailored attacks. You can watch this short animation for more information.

Security measures for online lectures and meetings

There are various tools available for online meetings lectures, but only some are supported and endorsed by BU’s IT Services. When using any video conferencing tool, it's important to ensure that any security risks are managed as far as possible. 

Here’s a handy guide from the National Cyber Security Centre about using video conferencing services securely. Even if you are familiar with video conferencing, it is worth taking a few minutes to review how you are using it. 

Zoom video conferencing software is now available for BU staff and students, allowing meetings of unlimited length with up to 300 participants at a time. Find out more about setting up and using Zoom safely.