Home Office

Below is a list of recommendations to secure your home office from potential attacks or issues: 

  1. Setup Physical Mail Security: Package theft can be rampant in both city and rural environments so it is important to do what you can to secure these deliveries. For letters (non-packages), in most cities you can obtain a Post Office Box and have your mail delivered there. For packages, it is best to visit the shipping company’s website once you have a tracking number and ask them to hold it for pick-up at your nearest facility.

  2. Get a Shredder for your Home: If you do not have one already, today is the day to order a micro-cut shredder. You won’t need anything industrial strength, so a model like the Amazon Basics 6-sheet micro-cut shredder will run you about $40.00 USD. You should get into the habit of shredding anything that has sensitive or identifiable information on it about you or your family before putting it in the trash / recycle bin for pick up. Note: You should always think before you print. If you are printing a sensitive document, you might be safer if you don’t print it. You will also save a tree in the process.

  3. Secure Your Home Network: When possible, use a wired connection. If you are going to use wireless, you must ensure that your home network is secure by turning on WPA2 (do not use WEP or WPA) with a strong pre-shared key (PSK). Your router will also often require software updates, so you should make it a habit to check for updates and apply them when they are available. You should also not utilize your local ISPs DNS unless you have to. CloudFlare offers a privacy enabled DNS (1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1) so that what you do from your home and the sites you visit are not logged via your ISP. All you have to do is go into your home router configuration and navigate to a setting that is typically called “WAN Interface”. Here you can manually configure your DNS entries to be the ones that CloudFlare has provided for free use.

  4. Upgrade your Door Locks: Most homes come with weak locks by default. Weak meaning they can be easily picked or bumped open by a criminal. The “Do Not Duplicate” imprint on keys does not guarantee it will not be duplicated by a shady locksmith. There are few companies that make true high security locks and deadbolts. Two of these companies are Medeco and Mul-T-Lock. You should assess your own residence and decide if your locks will be able to defend against picking and bumping. If not, strongly consider upgrading your locks with a locksmith recommended by one of those companies listed above. In addition, you could replace your door frame and hinge screws with 4” hardened screw. This will take about 20 minutes to replace and improve your protection against forced entry. There is also a product called Nightlock which could protect against intrusions.

  5. Utilize Window Security Film: Even with strong locks in place, a common entry method for criminals is to break a window near a door and just open it from the inside. This is where Windows Security Film comes in to play. The security film is installed on the inside of the window which reinforces the glass and makes it much more difficult to break. If a criminal were to attempt to break the filmed glass, it will shatter but not fall apart and gaining entry will be much more cumbersome. Given most criminals want to get into a home, grab some valuables and exit quickly, the amount of effort required to successfully break through a window coated with security film can reduce the likelihood of a break-in. Local resellers or installers can be found by searching for “3M Safety and Security Window Films”.

  6. Get a Safe: When you leave your home, you should get into the habit of putting your sensitive electronics and other information into a safe. You should also make sure it is one that cannot be easily carried off by an intruder. Many models can be bolted to floor. If you are able to do this, it is another layer of security to mitigate the risk that the belongings you have in the safe are not easily removed from your home.

  7. Remove Your Home from Google Street View: There is a chance that a Google Street View camera could visit your area to take a picture of your home and capture something sensitive in the process. You can request that Google blur out your home so that anytime your home is looked up, the street view will not show your home. To do this, just find your home on Google Street View and in the lower right corner of the map, click “Report a Program” and fill out the form accordingly. This might take some time to get changed, but the reporting process only takes 2 minutes and could help with your overall privacy.

  8. Install a Monitored Burglar Alarm (and use it): Use a burglar alarm system when you are away and at night. Sensors should be installed on all accessible ground floor doors and windows and the service can be enabled to call the local police should an intrusion be detected by any of these sensors. There are multiple providers for burglar systems and they will usually differ from city to city. A wired alarm system should be your first choice, but that may not be feasible depending your your home situation (eg. renting or home age). You could also go through a provider that offers DIY kits allowing you to design and install your own home security systems – check out Simplisafe and Scout Alarm.

  9. Have Insurance: Bad things can happen even after you’ve worked hard to put all the controls in place. It is possible to become a victim of theft or damage to your residence that would prevent you from working or living there for a period of time. You should ensure you have the right insurance coverage to provide you with living continuity should something happen.

  10. Utilize Cameras to Monitor Your Home: At the intersection of security and privacy, camera use in and around your home tends to be a gray area. If something like a break-in was to happen, having this footage recorded could be vital evidence. Not only might you be able to identify the perpetrator but also know exactly what they did when they were in your home. For example, if they were only after the wallet that was sitting on the kitchen counter and then left, that is a very different scenario than someone walking around your house, looking through files, plugging things into your computer and home network.\ When choosing a home camera, you should be very careful of the provider and type you select. Follow strong account security guidelines (e.g., strong passwords, 2-factor, etc.) and update the devices frequently. If you fail to secure and support them in the correct way, a home camera can quickly become an invasion of privacy rather than a security tool. You should stay away from the ultra-cheap cloud cameras and consider the more robust and supported cameras like Nest or Ring. You may have to pay 10x more for the camera but with that comes peace of mind that they will take your security and privacy much more seriously than a $20 camera provider from Amazon.

(This guide is part of a series on Personal Security.)