7 Essential Cyber Security Measures for Home-Based Freelancers
As a home-based freelancer you have a big responsibility over your client’s data security. Especially if you’re working as a remote Tech Support expert.
Even if you’re not able to afford investing in some of the most advanced cyber security systems that bigger businesses have, you can employ some security measures while working from home to safeguard your clients’ confidentiality.
Additionally, you also need to protect your own devices and networks. In a traditional office, this is something that the organization should take care of. However, as a freelancer you are the only responsible person for keeping your client’s and your own software tools updated and comply with all the necessary security protocols.
Cyber attacks are a reality that no one is exempt from. Identity and data theft, as well as other forms of hacking or misuse of information are posing a greater risk as the world shifts towards the digital world for various activities.
Common Cyber Security Risks that Freelancers Face
What are some of the cybersecurity threats you may face as a work-from-home freelancer? Here are some of the significant risks you should be aware of and protect yourself from:
- Malware – These are malicious software that can compromise your PC and customer data. Some examples are keyloggers, trojans, worms, and viruses.
- Social engineering – It involves enticing freelancers through emails, attached documents, and phishing links to submit their confidential information.
- Ransomware – These attacks lead to file encryption, with the attacker demanding a hefty ransom (payment) to decrypt them. In the worst scenarios, the attacker may threaten to publicize sensitive data if their demands are unmet.
- The exploitation of outdated software– Attackers take advantage of known vulnerabilities that providers fix through software updates and they attack those whose software is not yet updated.
Reasons Cyber Security Is Vital for Home-Based Freelancers
Let’s dive further into the importance that cybersecurity is getting now that working from home has become the new normal and IoT is entering our homes and businesses.
As a freelancer, you need to safeguard your customers’ data under your custody, as well as making your own computer and accounts safe.
As mentioned before, there are risks of criminals accessing confidential information and using it for fraudulent purposes. Statistics show that cyber attacks are becoming more frequent, especially after COVID-19.
Be mindful that your reputation as a Freelancer is what’s at stake; if a cyber attack occurs and client data is compromised, then you’ll probably lose trust and your reputation will suffer.
This could jeopardize your future business and opportunities, something which will take time to recover. Not to mention that if any bank account information is breached, you might face a very complex financial problem.
Thus, it’s of vital importance that you take some essential steps to keep your online activities secure and prevent cyber attacks through any available means. Read below to find out how you can do this with little or no budget.
How to Improve Cyber Security for Home-Based Freelancers
As a freelancer, you probably won’t compete against the budget of big corporations or even medium-sized businesses.
Nonetheless, there are many strategies that you can implement to secure your clients’ information as well as your own. Many of such strategies require only a time investment, while others are low cost. Here we have gathered 7 ways in which you can easily improve your cyber security.
1. Secure Your Communications
Since you need to communicate frequently with your clients, teams, and other parties, you face a ton of vulnerabilities if you have no proper telecommunication security. Even if you use commercial smartphones or traditional landlines this doesn’t mean you are exempt from threats.
Some common risks include interception of communication, accessing confidential information, and malware attacks through smartphones.
Instead, you may consider using a VoIP phone hosted by a secure and reputable provider. VoIP stands for Voice over the Internet Protocol, and it’s basically an internet-based phone that will reduce risks through various innovations such as cloud storage, data encryption, and top-notch identity management.
2. Update Your OS and Software Frequently
Software updates offer solutions or patches to problems that developers identify and fix. They are crucial when it comes to software functioning and security compliance.
Since these updates solve previously identified problems, attackers might take advantage of the window of time between the moment the issue is acknowledged, and the time in which the end user installs the update.
In other words, the longer you take to update your software, the more chances you are giving to hackers to do their damage.
You and your team should regularly update all software tools and install patches to get the latest protection available.
3. Use a VPN
Some of your clients may require you to use a virtual private network (VPN) to access their systems remotely.
Since a VPN secures the data between you and the client through encryption, you need to ensure the VPN is always on when you and your remote team members are working with sensitive data. This way, you’ll prevent cybercriminals and spies from accessing your valuable information.
4. Ensure You Only Use Secure Connections
As a home-based freelancer, you may want a change of working environment from time to time. As such, you may decide to work from coffee shops or other public places.
However, you should avoid using any unsecured Wi-Fi spots because they pose huge potential threats for cyber attacks.
Instead, use your modem or portable hotspot, for example, by sharing mobile data from your smartphone to your laptop. Also, make sure to constantly review your list of ‘trusted networks’ before going to work in public places.
Always be sure to delete public Wi-Fi connections used because malicious parties can use already familiar public hotspots to spy on unknowing users. That way, your computer connects automatically even before you approve the connections.
5. Be Professionally Suspicious and Informed About Scams
It’s a good thing to have a reasonable level of suspicion when working from your own devices and dealing with various parties virtually.
Be suspicious about unfamiliar online communications and make a thorough review before opening attachments or clicking links.
It’s also advisable to stay well-informed and updated about the scams and cybersecurity threats to avoid falling prey to things you could otherwise avoid.
In addition, activate your spam filter, and always run an antivirus scan before opening any link, attachment or before downloading documents.
6. Implement Password Security Standards
With many clients and personal accounts to monitor, you may be tempted to have duplicate or simple passwords on those accounts. However, you need to avoid such practices and implement strong password best practices.
Some techniques to enhance password security include:
- Use complex and unique passwords for each account. Always include a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Change passwords at least once a year, or more often for sensitive accounts.
- Use a password manager for safe password storage and use of password suggestions when you open new accounts.
7. Invest in a Reliable Data Backup Solution
While you may be using cloud storage options like Dropbox or Google Drive for storing and sharing clients’ data, you cannot expect this to be a backup solution. You may lose data if you forget to upload files, accidentally delete things or overwrite documents.
Therefore, you need to include a reliable cloud backup solution on your business continuity strategy. The beauty of a professional cloud storage backup is that the process is done automatically while scanning for changes happening as the process goes on.
Also, it has versioning, providing access to older files if you overwrite any file. Plus, it provides advanced data security and confidentiality because all files are encrypted.
You may face many cybersecurity threats as a home-based freelancer, and you need to be on top of your game to safeguard your own data as well as your clients’.
Some of the measures you can use to ensure your online safety include securing your communications using cloud-based phones, updating your OS and software, using VPN consistently, ensuring strong password security standards, and investing in a backup solution.
Remember that as a freelancer, what you ultimately sell is your own reputation, so be sure to start using these tips and never get caught off guard.