Can you imagine a worse excuse than having to explain to a client that you are charging them more simply because you had to pay a cyber criminal who had stolen their data? Chances are that you will definitely lose that client. As sad as this situation is, it’s quite common to many freelancers working online today.
Freelance work involves having to pass large volumes of data through devices such as computers, network routers and Wi-Fi networks in public places. And this makes it such a temptation to the numerous cyber thieves who are looking for opportunities to steal such data and identities. As a freelancer, you have to be careful what you do online so that you avoid falling victim to such schemes. And maybe you are exposing yourself by the things you are taking lightly.
Here are the top 5 mistakes you may be making regarding cyber security as a freelancer. You will need to avoid such if you want to stay on the safer side.
1. Failure to secure your passwords.
In order to properly secure your client’s data, you have to have some good passwords to offer protection. Many freelancers just use the standard ‘12345…’ or ‘password’ because they are either in a hurry to get the registration done with or are too lazy to change them. But this is very risky. Cyber criminals have mastered the art of deciphering even the most difficult passwords with the help of some high tech software. So, do not aid them by making the job easier for them. Make passwords that are secure enough, easier for you to memorize but difficult for hackers to guess. And never attempt to use the same password across several accounts.
The best thing to do would be to make use of a password manager program. Such programs are capable of generating secure passwords for you and keeping them safe for you in case you forget. They also remind you when there is need to change passwords to your accounts, a practice that should be undertaken after every three months. Be careful how you even keep such information because hackers can even break into password managers.
2. Imagining that public Wi-Fi is secure.
Restaurants coffee shops, public libraries and similar other places are popular joints for freelancers to frequent. They usually go there to make use of the free public Wi-Fi in these establishments. But you should never imagine even for a moment that such internet connections have been secured. It’s actually very easy for hackers to break into such public Wi-Fi connections to steal credit card information, passwords and even plant computer viruses in the system. Such cyber criminals make use of fake credentials and login pages which can allow them to get hold of your personal data. Always treat public Wi-Fi networks suspiciously, because that’s exactly what they are.
To be on the safe side, try as much as possible not to use such connections especially if you are handling private data. But in case you have no alternative, check to ensure that the login page for the network has been secured. This is indicated by a padlock icon in the address bar and normally starts with an ‘https’. You can also make use of browser-specific plugins that detect and warn you in case you are entering an unsecured website.
3. Failure to take advantage of Virtual Private Networks.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are the latest technology in securing confidential information. Through it, you can have your data encrypted and passed through a much smaller private network that is secure. Additionally, the VPN servers have the capacity to transfer data between two different points without anyone else knowing where the data originated from. It’s the best way of remaining anonymous when you are online. At every stage of browsing, VPNs enable you to create encryption for your data, even when you are trying to get into public networks. This makes them quite indispensable for any freelancer working from a remote location.
Ensure that your VPN is kept updated with the latest encryption tools. Leaving you VPN software to be out of date won't help you at all. It will simply leave you exposed to the threats that you want to avoid in the first place. Always run a compliance test for your VPN server from the original designers to ensure that it is secure.
4. Being oblivious to your surroundings.
Your efforts to secure your passwords and use VPNs won’t be of much help to you if you keep being careless in your habits. Being oblivious to your physical surroundings can expose you to the risk of theft. Thieves can also easily capture that data on your screen if you let them. Ensure that you remain alert and completely aware of your surroundings.
Here are some of the steps to take to prevent such theft from occurring.
Ensure that your computer screen is always locked when you are away from the computer
When working with your computer, keep the screen, keyboard, and even notes away from direct view of potential thieves.
Get rid of private and confidential documents by shredding them
Always take with you any document with important information written on it.
Detach external storage devices from the computer as soon as you are through with using them. These include DVDs, USB drives, and hard drives.
Buy a cheap laptop privacy screen to protect your screen from the prying eyes of the public.
5. Ignoring offers to use free antivirus software
This is another big mistake made by freelancers. Secure passwords and VPNs can only go so far in protecting you from cyber criminals. But nowadays, hackers use such computer viruses as botnets and Trojans to inject malicious content into your computer. And such programs are attached to emails and other downloaded software. The ransomware is usually responsible for the capturing of your client’s data after which you are forced to pay a ransom to recover such data. A good antivirus program can keep you safe from such eventualities and prevent you from losing your clients. There are numerous free antivirus software that you can use for securing your computer.
A freelancer that takes computer security seriously will be able to avoid these 5 mistakes. And the result will be peace of mind form the knowledge that all your online dealings are protected from attack by cyber criminals.