Being a freelancer has many advantages. Working from anywhere is possible, as well as creating your own schedule and paying rates. Freedom can, however, come with a price if you aren't careful. Your work computer probably contains a lot of client data, and that information is a goldmine for cybercriminals, so caution is critical.
If you are a freelancer, you will likely be targeted by online criminals, so you should avoid costly data breaches by taking the necessary precautions. We will talk about cybercrime to help you better understand the risks and issues and what you can do to avoid becoming a victim.
Freelancers: Why they're at risk?
When you are a freelancer who works online most of the time, you are constantly creating and accumulating data. When you visit a website to research your current project, the companies that own that website will collect information through cookies and fingerprints. Hackers are aware of this process and can get the personal information they need for malicious purposes. Your digital movements can also be studied by criminals to attempt to hack into your system. They can then steal the information of your clients.
In addition to this, it is crucial to recognize that any piece of personal information that hackers acquire can be used against the owner. Numbers associated with social security and credit cards may be used to make fraudulent purchases as well as take out loans without the victim's knowledge. Phishing emails can even be sent using email addresses in an attempt to steal data from others.
Freelancers may not know they are primary targets of hackers because they assume they are small businesses, and that cybercriminals only target large corporations, but this couldn't be farther from the truth. Small businesses are attractive targets for hackers since they realize that smaller organizations might lack the resources to secure their data, but rest assured, even if you have less of it, the data on your system is worth just as much to hackers on the black market.
Common Scams to Avoid
Aside from the fact that freelancers are easier to hack, hackers target them because common scams allow them more access to their systems. You may find yourself vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack if you connect to the wrong Wi-Fi network, like in a cafe or library. There is basically a fake Wi-Fi network created by a hacker that looks like the legitimate Wi-Fi network at the business but is actually not. By connecting, you are in fact directly connecting to the hacker, and they can access your data from there.
Hackers also know that freelancers often network with new clients, which means they can disguise themselves as someone legitimate. The cybercriminal sends a phishing email with a link that appears to go to their website, but clicking that link opens a door between yourself and the hacker, and your data is immediately at risk.
You should take the time to validate new clients before getting further into business with them once they are in your portfolio. If possible, require an upfront payment or complete a background check. Do your research online and speak with your peers to determine whether these people are legit and if you can work with them in the future.
Keep in mind that cybercriminals don't always need complicated technical solutions to steal your data. They can also exploit you in person. A thief needs only a few moments to steal a few email addresses at the coffee shop by peering over your shoulder. When you leave your phone or laptop unattended, they can simply grab them and take them without a problem. This is why you should always use your own equipment, never plug an unfamiliar USB drive into your computer, and don't let anyone see your work except you.
Keeping data secure each day
Even if we are superstars at freelancing, we are still human, so we need to establish standard security procedures in our everyday lives to make sure we don't fall victim to those scams. Begin by choosing smart passwords. It is advisable to use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, and to change them frequently. Additionally, consider using two-factor authentication for your phone. This would be a measure of added security that is unique to you, such as a thumb or eye scan, so hackers can't crack your password even if they guess your identity.
Installing a virtual private network (VPN) on your computer and phone is also a smart idea. By installing this software, you will ensure that your data will be automatically encrypted, and you will be able to conceal your location, so hackers cannot locate you, even if you are sitting right next to them. Installing anti-virus software and updating it whenever a new version is released is also a must.
Last but not least, back up your data regularly onto an external drive. In addition to being a smart practice in case your computer crashes, hackers are sometimes able to install ransomware that takes over your computer until you pay them. Back up your data if you don't want to play into their game. Then you can get what you need and notify the authorities.
You can keep your clients happy and protected if you understand common cyber scams and take the appropriate precautions.
Check back here to learn more about freelancing and how to protect yourself from fraud.