Working from Home
This page provides tips and advice for people who are working from home.
- Store University Private Data on University Owned Equipment
- Use a University Provided Laptop or Computer
- Secure your Home Personal Computer
- Secure your Home Wireless Network
- Use the University VPN
- Protect your USB Drives/Removable Media
- Use Safe Computing Practices
Most of these resources require advance preparation, and we encourage you to learn how to use these resources before a situation requires you to work off-campus. Work with your local IT Support staff to ensure that the computer or electronic device (e.g., mobile phone) has been properly set up to securely access the University systems, data or resources needed while you work off-campus.
Store University Private Data on University Owned Equipment
University Policy requires University private data must be stored on University-owned computers. Employees must not store University private data on personally owned computers or other personally owned electronic devices. See the Securing Private Data, Computers & Other Electronic Devices Policy. The other documents, spreadsheets and files containing University data should also be stored on a University file server. Talk to your local IT Professional staff about where to store your data.
Use a University Provided Laptop or Computer
If your department can provide you with a computer to work at home, this is the best approach.
Before you take the computer home, make sure you talk to your department’s IT Professional to have them setup the computer to securely work from home. This includes making sure the computer has been properly secured by following the requirements in the Securing Private Data, Computers & Other Electronic Devices Policy and installing the University VPN software.
While at home, allow the security auto-updates to be applied as they become available for the operating system and application software. Do not change the computer’s configuration without the permission of your department’s IT Professional.
If you bring a University owned computer home, you should NOT let family and friends use that computer. Use Safe Computing Practices.
Secure your Home Personal Computer
Not all departments are able to provide their employees with computers to work from home. In cases where it is absolutely necessary to use a home personal computer, it is important to review the security on your home computer.
Also use Safe Computing Practices.
Secure your Home Wireless Network
More people are choosing to setup a home wireless network to connect to the internet. A wireless network must be properly secured.
US-CERT has created a guide. See Securing Wireless Networks to secure your home wireless network.
Use the University VPN
The University VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a tool that allows you to create a secure connection back to the University network from anywhere in the world. Use the VPN prior to starting Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) to connect to a Microsoft Windows computer on campus.
Whether you are using a wired or wireless connection at home, using the VPN provides a couple of benefits.
- The VPN’s connection is secure and encrypted. The information you are accessing or sending cannot be intercepted or read.
- The University’s VPN provides the same level of access to resources (e.g., Libraries) as being directly connected to the campus network, giving you added convenience and increased security for U of M resources.
Protect your USB Drives/Removable Media
Some people take their work from campus to home by storing documents on USB Drives or CD/DVD’s. To protect the data stored on these devices, encrypt them so if they are lost no one can read the information stored on the device without the encryption password.
Use an encrypted USB drive like Kanguru Defender or encryption software like TrueCrypt. See Encrypting Data for more information. Plans should also be made to allow recovery from unexpected problems.
If you copy University data to removable media (USB flash drive, CD or DVD), the physical security of the removable media should be at least equal to that of the machine the data originated from.
Use Safe Computing Practices
Our recommended steps can only protect you from what is known. Using safe computing practices can limit your exposure to these new things that appear on the Internet before the makers of our recommended products can produce updates to protect you.
Some safe computing practices include:
- Never open an e-mail attachment from a questionable source. If you receive an unexpected attachment from a trusted source, contact the sender and ask them if they meant to send you this. Many virus will send you attachments while posing as someone you may know.
- Maintain multiple strong passwords. Don't use the same password for your online banking that you do for your e-mail. This could open you to serious risk. Check the strong passwords section for more guidance on picking a password.
- Do not download and run files you receive from chat buddies without first making sure that the person intentionally sent you the message.
- Whenever you download software, make sure you read the user agreement. Many programs that you download from the Internet come with unwanted programs known as spyware. See Security Tools & Downloads page for utilities that try to detect spyware.
- Periodically run an application (e.g., Secunia or metaquark) that scans and identifies missing security patches for commonly-installed software (e.g., Adobe Reader, Flash, Java, and QuickTime). See Security Tools & Downloads page.
- To protect the privacy of faculty, staff, and students on a daily basis, the university recommends installing R-Wipe & Clean on all University-owned Windows PCs. This software will securely erase the contents of the Recycle Bin, temporary files, browser cache, etc.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are so many computing scenarios that they could never all be recorded. When you are presented with an unknown situation, always err on the side of caution and ask your department's IT Professional for guidance on how to proceed.