4 ways to make sure your PC is secure—no matter where you are working

An HP security expert on what you can do to protect your work PC from malware, hackers, shoulder-surfers, and more.

Sarah Murray Apr 13th 2018 A-A+
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The traditional, cubical-bound 9 to 5 job is a thing of the past. Nearly 60 percent of us work outside the office walls — catching up on emails at a cafe, editing a presentation on an airplane and dialing into a video conference call from the kitchen table are the new normal.

But does this newfound mobility put you, your life and your PC at a greater risk for security threats?

It sure does, says Gagan Singh, global head of premium product management and security at HP, who explains that it’s trickier to maintain the same level of security when working on-the-go. With researchers predicting that more than 70 percent of U.S. workers will work from a mobile location by 2020, security is a top-of-mind concern for IT departments. On top of ever-evolving business threats, workers' own browsing habits, app and device preferences and travel schedules are making their mobile offices more vulnerable.

“We’re not telling people to change their habits,” says Singh. “When you work from an HP business laptop, we want you to be way more secure — even if you don’t do anything different. The goal is for security to be as unobtrusive as possible to your daily work.”

Here are four ways you can make sure your office-on-the-go is as secure as it can be.

Make your password more than just a word.

Show of hands: How many of us have jotted down our login password on a sticky note and stuck it to our laptop? “Bypassing passwords is not particularly hard,” says Singh, “which is why they remain very vulnerable to security breaches, no matter the combination of characters.” Enter multifactor authentication. Adding in an extra step that makes sure you can’t rely solely on an (easily hack-able, easily forgotten) password adds an extra layer of security to your PC. If you layer in some biometric data, it’s 1 million times more secure than with a single password alone, HP’s data shows. That’s the thinking behind Multi-Factor Authenticate, which enables IT administrators to require users to enter more than one identifying feature (say, a fingerprint, facial recognition and password, or any combination of those) to log on.

Browse confidently when roaming around the web.

Whether it’s in the airport lounge or your local Starbucks, logging on to public networks are risky. But road warriors, eager to work any time there’s some downtime, are still going to do it. Likewise, free-range internet browsing, regardless of your Google-fu, can result in introducing malware to your PC.

It’s not just an individual problem – it’s a widespread threat. Ransomware is projected to attack a business every 14 seconds by the end of 2019, up from every 40 seconds in 2017.

In fact, Singh believes “you are never more than three clicks away” from a website that could put your device into the danger zone. It’s this so-called “oops-clicking,” such as accidently triggering an ad when trying to dismiss a pop-up, that introduces security breaches through browser windows. Sure Click software from HP isolates each browser tab as if it were in a virtual sandbox, so anything fishy that is clicked on and downloaded won’t infect the rest of your PC. 

Keep airplane shoulder-surfers at bay, and uninterested.

The idea that sensitive data can be exposed with a glance at someone’s screen is a real security concern, especially in small spaces like planes. So much so that “visual hacking” as it’s called, can impact employee productivity on one end of the spectrum and can make-or-break businesses with strict regulatory requirements, such as in healthcare, public sector and finance. HP teamed up with 3M to help workers do their jobs more confidently from public locations without fear of data on the screen being exposed to others. HP Sure View integrated privacy screen lets the user see what’s on the display from head-on, but obscures it for anyone who looks from an angle (such as the nosey suit in D15). “Any public place, or even an open-seating office, is a risk for people to look over your shoulder and see your screen,” Singh explains. “Sure View protects against that, whether it’s inadvertent or intentional.”

Control when your camera is on — and what it can see.

HP’s customer research showed that video conferences—especially the first few minutes where everyone is setting up—can be nerve-racking. “The number one thing we found is that people didn’t want to be caught in an embarrassing moment on a video call,” Singh says. “They wanted an extra few seconds at the beginning of a call to get on camera when they were ready to be seen.” That’s in addition to general concerns about hacking, so that workers can ensure they aren’t being watched while the camera is not in use. That’s why HP included a very simple fix: A privacy camera shutter that you can manually slide open or closed. In the larger format screens, HP turns this feature into a popup camera that stows away. According to the Verge, this simple addition is “still relatively rare across the industry, despite what a common sense, important security feature it is.”

HP has made it part of its mission to help on-the-go workers stay secure, with a suite of smart features that up the security game so they don’t have to miss a beat amid busy travel schedules, back-to-back meetings, client demands and looming deadlines. Among its latest offerings is a slate of new EliteBooks for businesses that take the heavy lifting out of PC security.