Working as a full-time freelancer offers you the opportunity to be self-employed. Freelancers always work on new projects and can also set their schedules. Nonetheless, freelancers often overlook one aspect of their work, which is cybersecurity. In the course of your freelancing work, you will be working on your computer without security policies and tools that employees who work in large organizations might have.
This puts you in a precarious situation, given that you must protect your business and personal files. According to cybersecurity experts, this is the same challenge that BYOD often presents to companies. Typically, IT staff have little or no visibility when it comes to software loading or configuration on employees’ computers. Therefore, the remote worker risks running software or even using hardware that is susceptible to attacks.
Even if you do not have enterprise-level security of a backup strategy, there’s so much that you can do as a freelancer to secure your clients’ data. Here are some best practices for blocking unauthorized entry into your systems, thus ensuring that you do not lose data inadvertently.
Work from Secure Connections
It’s always tempting to work from restaurants, public libraries, train stations, and other places that have a free Wi-Fi connection. What many people don’t know is that public Wi-Fi hotspots are arguably the most significant source of potential problems and potential targets for hackers. The hotspots are not secure, and thus put you at risk of falling victim to a breach.
If you need to work from a public space, ensure that you tether your smart devices to your computer. Better still, use your hotspot or mobile modem rather than the public Wi-Fi. Whether you use an open hotspot or your private hotspot, it’s advisable to encrypt a significant portion of your traffic. Likewise, ensure that you only input your sensitive data such as credit card numbers on websites that use HTTPS.
At some point, you’ve used ‘trusted’ public Wi-Fi networks. To secure your data, you should crop down the list of ‘trusted’ public Wi-Fi networks, which you’ve used in the past. Hackers like using the names of public Wi-Fi hotspots to set up clone networks that they use for eavesdropping purposes.
Your computer is likely to connect automatically to these clone networks even before you approve the connection. When this happens, hackers will have a conduit for accessing your data. You can prevent such incidents by pruning your list of ‘trusted’ networks whenever you work in public places.
Update Your Operating System and Software
By failing to install the latest versions of operating systems, programs, or software, you leave yourself vulnerable to security gaps that might have been left open in the preceding iteration. Cybersecurity experts advise anyone who works outside a secure enterprise network to ensure that their security devices, applications, operating systems, and software are updated and patched.
You can do this bit of maintenance from home. Besides slowing down your Internet connectivity by downloading large files of updates (usually on public Wi-Fi), hackers can use fake update alerts to fool you into downloading infected files. Updating your systems should also entail changing your passwords regularly. Freelancers ought to periodically create new passwords that are hard to guess for all their programs, devices, and personal wireless networks.
Invest in Backup Solutions
Often, freelancers use cloud storage solutions such as Dropbox and Google to store, share, and synchronize their files when handling client projects. Nonetheless, there is a difference between data storage and backup. If you wish to manage and preserve your work and any data in your computer systems, consider having a backup solution.
By using cloud storage as your primary substitute for backup, it’s easy to lose data by accidental deletion. Likewise, you can forget to upload files or overwrite it before a security incident occurs. With cloud backup in place, user files and data will automatically get backed up to the cloud. Similarly, the software will scan your files for changes along the way. Some cloud backup solutions also help with versioning. Therefore, if you overwrite files, you can still access older versions. This saves you time that would have otherwise been spent redoing the work.
Backup solutions guarantee you enhanced privacy and security because all your files will be encrypted. In particular, cloud backup makes it easy to recover files in cases where your data gets damaged, or you lose your laptop. As a freelancer, you should keep in mind that restoring files is an essential element of protecting your digital assets. Having a backup solution is a means to that end.
Encrypt and Scan Data
Freelancers are technically self-employed business owners. Therefore, you need to find a way of protecting your devices just the same way that a business would. Even though you might not afford top-notch enterprise security solutions, you can still leverage encryption software to secure data stored on your devices.
The most effective way of protecting your customers’ data is through end-to-end encryption. In doing so, your data security will be guaranteed. If any part of your network gets compromised, the encrypted data therein will be rendered useless. As an additional security measure, ensure that all files uploaded from USB drivers and those that you download from emails get scanned using antivirus software to eliminate security threats.
Ask Clients to Access Their Resources
In case you have doubts about your ability to protect client’s data from breaches, consider asking your point of contact for access to the clients’ cybersecurity resources. A secured enterprise can easily know about the location of employees’ devices, how its data is getting accessed, and who has access. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask for access. The worst that your contact person will tell you is a “no.”
Typical solutions that big business has included mobile device/BYOD management, VPN/IPSec tunnels, and device or end-point device security management software. Even when granted limited access to these data security resources, your activity and data will be safer due to the presence of enterprise-level firewalls and filters. The encryption and backup options that you get from your clients’ data security resources also help you to secure your devices.
There’s never been a better time to work as a freelancer. Apart from a fast Internet connection and the availability of tools that you can leverage to further your career, the industry presents a myriad of exciting opportunities to test your expertise. Nonetheless, freelancing comes with a fair share of challenges. Though hardly mentioned, cybersecurity is one of the most significant challenges that you face as a freelancer.
While working on clients’ projects, it’s easy for hackers to target you to access your clients’ data. Any misstep in your data security strategy can leave your data (as well as your clients’ data) exposed. Failure to protect your system is a recipe for disaster. Knowing that your system is well-secured not only gives you peace of mind but also enables you to serve your clients better.
Even with your meager resources, you can still create an enterprise-level security standard. As a freelancer, you should keep in mind that a one-size-fits-all solution won’t guarantee the security of your clients’ data. Nonetheless, implementing the aforementioned tips goes a long way in helping you attain your data security goals.