As a freelancer, a majority of your professional (and personal) endeavors are most likely conducted online. This puts you at risk of being subjected to one of the most popular types of crime in the world: Cybercrime. Losing your data related to yourself, your clients, payment information, etc. can be disastrous –and it’s not too far of a possibility. Research shows that 1 out of every 40 small business is at the risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime, and that 43% of all cyber attacks target small businesses. This is because hackers assume that, compared to big and established companies, you’re more likely to lack the necessary cybersecurity skills to keep them off. To learn more about what the dangers of low data protection means for your business, and how to best improve your personal digital security, check out our recommendations down below.
What is cybersecurity? Why is it important for freelancers?
Cybersecurity, or digital security, is the act of protecting your sensitive information from potential data breaches. Being the victim of a data breach can be fatal for a self-employed freelancer, as both your personal devices and your sensitive information will be compromised. This can cost you a lot of money and time, and damage your professional reputation as a result. Getting back access to your data will additionally be very difficult. To make sure that this never happens to you, you should look into your local data protection laws and take the necessary measures to ensure your digital security and privacy.
EU data protection laws
The General Data Protection Regulation, or the GDPR, is the most strict and comprehensive data security regulation that currently exists in the world. It was created in 2018, and it currently applies to any organization that collects data from/related to anyone in the EU. The most relevant point of the GDPR for freelancers is that you need to be careful when handling client information. You need to take permission to collect and store client data, and be vigilant in handling them as well. Being aware of specific policies can come in handy. By taking this short self-assessment test by ICO that measures cybersecurity for small businesses, and see how well your freelance business follows data protection laws. Also, make sure to check out Ruul’s legal services to create and customize all your privacy-compliant agreements and contracts.
Main principles of cybersecurity
Now that you’re more familiar with the subject, it’s time to learn the main principles of cybersecurity to help you. Here are some tips on how to best ensure your digital security and privacy as a freelancer:
Encrypt your data
Protecting your intellectual property and copyrighted material should be among your top priorities as a solo professional. To shield yourself from any potential hacks, frauds, or forgeries, a great thing to do is encrypting your data. Data encryption is a method that adds password protection to your files, which ensures that only authorized parties can access it. You can encrypt anything from your in-computer files, files in your cloud storage, emails, and even your internet entry information. As long as you have a strong password that you update regularly, your information should be completely safe. Another important part of this is to back up your files regularly, and encrypt your backups as well. In case of any technical difficulties with your personal devices, it’s possible for your data to be wiped clean. Regular backups and an efficient file organization system are a must to having a reliable archive of data.
Always use a secure network connection
The ability to work from anywhere is definitely one of the biggest perks of freelancing. While having options of working from your home office, libraries, cafes, or coworking spaces is certainly freeing, it can open the door to one of the most common digital security risks: Being the victim of data breaches due to using unsecured wifi networks. Public wifi networks are usually not secured, which means that they leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks. As a rule of thumb, do not connect to any public wifi networks that aren’t password protected, especially while working with sensitive information. If you’re outside and unable to use a private network, it would be a better option to either use a VPN, or even better, invest in a better data plan and use your mobile hotspot instead.Of course, this doesn’t mean that any and all private networks are completely safe –including your own internet connection. Here are a few tips to increase the digital security of your home network:
- Upgrade to a WPA3 router instead of a WPA2 for better security.
- Don’t use the default login credentials (SSID) and preset password provided with the router.
- Update your network password frequently.
- Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to better protect your browsing data.
- Create a guest network for people that visit your home, and limit giving your actual network information whenever possible.
- Enable the digital encryption on your wifi network. This is available on all networks, but can be turned off by default.
- Similarly, turn on your network firewall.
- Check and verify the devices connected to your home network regularly.
Use comprehensive and trusted digital security solutions
One of the most important steps of assuring your cybersecurity is picking the right antivirus and malware protection software for your devices. Most computers now come with OS-native digital security solutions built-in. While somewhat useful as an antivirus software, these might not be enough to provide the extensive cybersecurity that you might need as a solo professional that handles sensitive information. Beware of antivirus software that are in actuality “bloatware”, these take up your disk space without providing much protection in return. Make sure you do your research on what other trusted vendors can better support you. Even though they might be more expensive, they will be worth it in the end to ensure maximum security. Specifically look out for more advanced features, such as fast virus detection, email and website spam filtering, lower RAM usage, etc. An additional step here is to choose an efficient and reliable VPN service. Don’t go for a VPN provider just because it’s free and/or relatively cheap, or you’ll be at the risk of coming across one that collects and sells your data to companies.
Keep your OS and softwares updated
As part of your extensive workspace, you should be paying extra attention to keeping your operating system and softwares up to date. Many updates, however unnecessary they may seem, are added to fix bugs and potential security breaches. Hackers are known to target and exploit these vulnerabilities in older operating systems, so keeping them updated can eliminate these cybersecurity risks by a long shot.
Ensure endpoint security
Endpoint security can be defined as protecting your electronic devices (computer, phone, tablet, etc.), which are defined as the endpoints of your connections. Most antivirus software don’t have specific protection measures for your devices themselves, and endpoint security tools are a way to establish cybersecurity. This means that a great part of guaranteeing your digital security is making sure that your devices are secured as well.Some of the most important parts of this are:
- Enabling multi-factor authentication on all your accounts
- Having secure and unique passwords that you frequently update
- Bewaring security scams, such as phishing
- Employing specific cybersecurity measures for mobile devices
Beware of phishing scams
Since you’re frequently online, you’re probably aware of how to protect yourself against phishing, but it’s still worthwhile to mention it.Phishing is when there is a harmful link, usually disguised as something else within a message or email, and which provides hackers with access to your sensitive information when clicked. Being exposed to this type of fraudulent message can create a big digital security risk for your freelance business.To protect yourself against phishing, you should make sure your spam filters are actively working, and not click on any links that look unsafe. FTC also prepares resources that can help you recognize and avoid them more easily.
Prefer secure solution providers that safeguard your data
Employing digital security solutions like antivirus and endpoint protectors aside, you should also choose tools and apps that care about the privacy of your personal data. No matter how much you work on securing your network connection and your devices, getting your data in the hands of unsecured storage and management software can also result in breaches. As a freelancer, you should especially be careful about the third-party software you use for invoicing, client communication, payment collection, and other managerial work. Ruul is extremely sensitive towards the privacy and security of its users. The reliability of their service is always of utmost priority, and they make sure to securely collect and store all sensitive data so you never have to worry about losing them to a cyberattack.
Take the necessary steps today
Safeguarding your data is one of the most important things you should care about as a self-employed solo talent. To avoid becoming an easy target for cyber crimes, you need to employ strict measures to protect your cybersecurity. To start working with your clients with maximum security, start exploring Ruul today.