If you’re running a freelance business, chances are you work online a lot. Whether you’re a graphic designer, web developer, or coach, you probably communicate with clients, handle your finances, and manage your gigs in the virtual sphere. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure the digital safety of your data – and your clients’.
Especially now that cybercrime is up 600% since the pandemic started. Since many freelancers fail to take even basic precautions, they’re easy targets.
A breach can damage your freelance business irreparably. For one, you’ll struggle to regain control of your own information, from online banking access to your social security number. You’ll also have to tell your clients that the data they trusted you with – from website access to payment details – has been compromised.
To help you ensure the digital security of your freelance business, here are seven easy-to-implement tips.
1. Step up Your Network Security
To start with, you need to increase the security of the networks you use for your business. Statistics show that 90% of hack targets are actually routers and IoT devices.
Leaving the default settings on your home WiFi makes life easy for cybercriminals. Luckily, there are few straightforward steps to remedy the situation:
- Create a complex router password and change it periodically.
- Change the router admin credentials.
- Change the default network name.
- Activate network encryption and firewalls.
- Disable Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) and Remote Access.
When you’re not at home, be careful about what networks you connect to. Don’t use public WiFi for sensitive business. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help you stay secure wherever you are.
2. Be Suspicious And Keep Up With Scams that Compromise Digital Security
Knowing about them is a huge part of staying safe from cyberattacks.
The majority of cyberattacks take the form of phishing and other social engineering scams, delivered via email or social media.
Fake invoices are the most popular disguise for malware distribution via email, with 15.9% of scams taking this form. This is closely followed by email delivery failure notifications (15.3%), and messages relating to legal issues and law enforcement (13.2%).
To stay safe from these attacks, you need to stay suspicious and keep up with popular scams in your industry. Make sure you enable your spam filter, and never open attachments or download documents without running an antivirus scan.
3. Update Your OS and Software
Most hackers exploit known vulnerabilities in operating systems and applications, rather than look for new ones.
In most cases, these vulnerabilities have already been fixed by developers. To benefit from that, though, you need to install updates and patches.
For the best security, install any updates as soon as possible. Alternatively, create a schedule to update your business devices and software all at once.
4. Maintain High Password Standards and Hygiene
As a freelancer, you probably have a million accounts to keep track of – both your own and those of clients. Consequently, it’s all too tempting to choose simple passwords.
However, in terms of cybersecurity, high password standards and hygiene are crucial. That means choosing unique, complex passwords for every single account – and regularly changing sensitive ones.
Using a password manager makes this much easier. It safely stores your existing passwords, and will suggest new, secure ones when you open an account. Plus, some solutions will also alert you if your passwords are too weak or have been compromised.
5. Encrypt All Possible Data for Maximum Digital Security
This includes your local devices – your laptop, phone, tablet, external hard drives – as well as cloud storage solutions.
On Windows, you can enable Microsoft’s native BitLocker. Macs have Apple’s FireVault. Or you can opt for third-party encryption programs.
In addition, many security software and antivirus providers include encryption or offer it as a standalone service.
6. Invest in Quality Digital Security Solutions
Given the disastrous damage a breach can do to your freelance business, you should consider investing in quality security solutions.
When it comes to antivirus, encryption apps, VPNs, and password managers, cheap options can cost you in the long run.
Ultimately, you should opt for a solution that provides comprehensive security. Renowned cybersecurity vendors such as Kaspersky, Avast, Norton, and Bitdefender may not be easy on your IT budget, but offer unparalleled protection.
An additional aspect to seriously consider is identity theft protection. Identity fraud is more rampant now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, than ever. Consequently, there is now a wide range of companies offering targeted digital security services to safeguard your identity. Lifelock is the most well-known among them, but there is also a large market of alternatives, many of which offer tailored solutions for online businesses and digital professionals.
Another option to consider are all-round digital security solutions, such as Aura. These combine tech aspects like antivirus, WiFi security, and VPNs, with personal and financial protection like identity theft insurance, credit monitoring, and criminal fraud monitoring.
7. Have a Strategic Backup Plan
Finally, part of your digital security strategy should also be to plan for the worst-case scenario.
Your data gets compromised. Now what?
You fall back on data backups to minimize the damage.
Regular physical or cloud backups make it possible to recover files after a local failure.