Over 57 million people in the US are freelancers. This represents 35% of the working population. Freelancing is no longer just a side hustle. Thanks to groundbreaking technology, internet connectivity, and advanced devices, freelancers can now work at home full time. You can employ yourself, earn an excellent income, enjoy the freedom of setting your own schedule, and pursue different projects simultaneously. Whether you are a programmer, developer, or web designer, you can now build a successful career as a freelancer.
However, working remotely has its challenges. Cybersecurity is one of the major concerns that freelancers have. At home, you don’t have powerful security tools, and robust policies at your disposal like those employees in large organizations have. This leaves freelancers to fend for themselves when it comes to protecting their personal and work files. Still, your clients entrust you with sensitive information which they expect you to keep secure. To safeguard your client and personal data, and protect your systems from intruders, follow the tips below.
Use a Secure Connection
Although it’s tempting to go to your local cafe to sip some coffee and enjoy free Wi-Fi while working on a project, such an innocent action can expose you to danger. If you want to access work files or personal information in a public space, never connect to a public network. Cybercriminals utilize public networks to waylay unsuspecting users. To be safe, use your smartphone as a mobile hotspot or carry a portable modem.
When using your private hotspot in a public area, encrypt your data using a virtual private network (VPN). VPN tools protect your traffic from snoopy individuals. If you have a long list of Wi-Fi connections that you have accessed in the past, you need to trim them and leave a small number of the ones you trust. Hackers can mimic a network that you used previously, and your computer may connect to it automatically.
Update Your Operating System and use the Latest Software Version
An outdated operating system has loopholes that can be exploited to penetrate your system. Some of the most damaging cyberattacks, such as the WannaCry ransomware, exploit vulnerabilities in the OS to infect the computer. These attacks mostly affect devices that are behind in updates.
To avoid being a victim of such onslaughts, you need to patch your operating system after every update release. All your personal and work applications, tools, and other software need to be kept up to date. All these tasks need to be conducted at home. Hackers can use public networks to give you false update alerts, which may fool you into downloading harmful files.
Improve Your Password Security
You can’t talk about cybersecurity and fail to mention passwords. Even though it seems like basic knowledge, your login credentials can make or break your relationship with your clients. Poor password measures can leave you vulnerable to attacks such as phishing and account takeovers. To stay ahead of the capabilities of digital criminals, use strong passwords or passphrases that have lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
Since you are likely to have multiple accounts, such as emails, social media sites, and work sites, you need to create a unique password for each account. When you reuse one password, a hacker can use it to log in to all your existing and future accounts. Instead of using sticky notes and notepad apps to save your passwords, utilize a secure password manager to keep track of your login details. Other measures you should implement include using multi-factor passwords and changing your passwords regularly.
Purchase a Reliable Backup Solution
There are endless scenarios where you can end up losing client files. Your computer may get hacked, your laptop may be stolen or damaged, or you may accidentally erase or alter a word document. Without a backup, you will be forced to redo the work and even seek deadline extensions.
To avoid finding yourself in an embarrassing and potentially damaging situation, invest in a backup solution. These solutions are more advanced and secure than storage services. Backups synchronize and preserve all your files online in real-time. They save your work automatically, encrypt all contents, and allow you to retrieve lost data, access previous work, and share documents at will.
Protect Your Devices and Encrypt all Data
Even if you don’t have access to cutting-edge cybersecurity tools, you can still deploy strong security measures at home. First, analyze any risks that your home computers, devices, and files may face. Next, invest in antivirus systems and firewalls. To protect the contents of your computers, look for a secure end-to-end encryption tool. This will protect every file you send over a network, and prevent anyone other than you and the recipient from viewing its contents. Even if that data is stolen, it will be useless to the criminal.
To forge a long-term relationship with your clients, freelancers need to take extra measures to protect their work data. If you feel you don’t have the capabilities required to secure a client’s data, you can ask them if you can utilize their company’s cybersecurity infrastructure. If granted access, your work environment will be safer from digital criminals, you will have peace of mind, and you will always maintain strong relationships with your clients.
Jordan MacAvoy, VP of Marketing
Bio: Jordan MacAvoy is the Vice President of Marketing at Reciprocity Labs and manages the company’s go to market strategy and execution. Prior to joining Reciprocity, Mr. MacAvoy served in executive roles at Fundbox, a Forbes Next Billion Dollar Company, and Intuit, via their acquisition of the SaaS marketing and communications solution, Demandforce. He brings to the team nearly two decades of marketing and business development experience helping to grow early-stage, venture-backed companies. Mr. MacAvoy is a graduate of Boston University.