Being a freelancer isn't all job freedom, setting your own hours, and working from anywhere. As you'll know if you've done your first set of taxes, there are a lot of challenges involved in working for yourself. While many freelancers love to consider themselves tech-savvy, the reality is that this population is uniquely at risk for one of the biggest problems in the business world: cybersecurity threats.
Sure, we know you keep your login secreted away in an ultra-secure vault and we're aware you've stopped using "password123" as your password for everything (please say it isn't "password124"). But are you really doing enough? Here's how to protect your data, keep your business thriving, and find a better way to work in the digital age.
Understanding the Scope of Security
To stay safe in the cyber realm, you need to know what you're up against. So how can freelancers assess their threat profiles and prepare for the future of work?
It's important to consider the whole picture — unlike working for a company that safeguards your information, you have to protect your own data yourself. You're also responsible for your employers' data and their clients' info, not to mention potentially sensitive records concerning their partners, vendors, and practices.
This may seem unfair, but it is an important reality, and the penalties for falling short are unforgiving. Small businesses make up 43 percent of cyber-attack targets – partially thanks to criminals viewing them as easier pickings and the fact they lack the security resources of larger enterprises.
Don't think you'll somehow get lucky either: One in five small businesses are attacked successfully each year, and for 60 percent of these unwitting victims, the fallout is so severe they have to shut down within 6 months.
Fortunately, you can take a few easy steps to protect yourself and your clients. Here are some of our top strategic picks:
Use a Password Manager
Some 75 percent of Americans find it frustrating to manage their passwords – so perhaps it's no surprise that 81 percent of breaches transpire because of bad password habits.
Using a password manager can help alleviate this frustration. These software applications securely store your passwords, credit card details, and other sensitive information in an encrypted form. They let you create strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts and store them all conveniently in one secure place.
Password managers also have features such as auto-fill fields, which allow you to quickly log in without having to remember or type out long strings of characters. This eliminates the need to use weak or reused passwords across multiple sites - something hackers love taking advantage of! As a freelancer who may have to work within client portals or backends, having a password manager is a must.
Secure Your Equipment
Securing equipment like laptops, phones, and other devices used for business is one of the most important aspects of being a successful on-demand professional. After all, there's a reason why data centres don't just let anybody walk in and take a tour, and it's not because they're worried about the local kids stealing their server racks. When someone has access to your hardware — whether physically or remotely — they can wreak havoc.
Build a moat around your digital domain:
- Keep all software updated with the latest versions, and patch any vulnerabilities immediately. This includes not only operating systems and commercial third-party apps, but also APIs, libraries, and open-source tools. Since around one-third of people neglect updates, making this small change instantly puts you ahead of the pack.
- Install robust anti-virus software that can detect malicious activity before damage occurs, especially if your job involves crossing security boundaries by connecting internal systems to the public web.
- Reduce your threat exposure by avoiding careless moves, like using public Wi-Fi to access secure information or transmit files. If it comes down to the cost of paying for the data charges, just remember: You'll be in an even worse financial spot if a security mistake costs you your contract!
- Make regular, comprehensive backups of your important data — preferably stored in an external hard drive or on cloud storage so that you can easily retrieve it even if something happens to go wrong.
Use Stronger Authentication
Another way to keep your data safer is to use stronger authentication, such as multi-factor authentication (MFA).
MFA requires two or more credentials from different categories — such as something you know (e.g., a password) and something you have (e.g., an email code sent to your phone) — for access to be granted. Even if someone steals one of those pieces, they still won't be able to get into the account without the rest, which makes it much more difficult for malicious actors to break through your other defenses.
This added security layer can help protect not only your accounts but also your clients by making it safer to access sensitive information like financial records or customer databases. While it may cost you a small bit of extra hassle, MFA is a must if you access accounts via public networks or devices that could easily become compromised by malware, spyware, and viruses.
Find Better Freelance Websites
By now, you should realize that your work environment is an essential component of your security stance. That includes where you find jobs, work with contracts, and manage payments.
There's no shortage of freelance job sites out there, but not all provide the same level of security. Oomple stands out by being specifically designed with freelancers in mind — it's the ultimate secure platform for searching and applying for jobs as well as managing digital payments safely. Put your business on track for success by signing up today.