Cybersecurity Threats and Solutions Freelancers Need to Know About

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Cybersecurity is a major concern for businesses and enterprises. According to Accenture, the number of security breaches has been growing by double digits since 2014. 

As a freelancer, it should be at the top of your mind too. However, you may be thinking this is a problem that affects only businesses, not freelancers. After all, you do not have millions of credit card records that would entice a hacker. 

On the contrary, if you have data, you are a target. Moreover, some hackers use freelancers as a stepping stone to gain access to client data. 

As such, you should take steps to understand and protect yourself and your clients from cybersecurity threats.

Cybersecurity Threats Facing Freelancers

Unlike businesses and enterprises, the cybersecurity threats facing freelancers are low-tech and often involve a string of soft exploits. 

Here are the most common cybersecurity threats that freelancers face: 

Social Engineering

Social engineering lures potential victims into unknowingly taking actions that compromise their security. Common methods used are phishing, website cookie exploitation, and fake downloads. 

Malware

Types of malware include viruses, trojans, worms, keyloggers, and any other type of harmful software that can compromise your computer. One attack used a harmless looking Microsoft Word document that prompted the user to enable macros and installed a trojan on their machine when they did. 

Public Wi-Fi Hacks

Public Wi-Fi is notorious for giving hackers access to sensitive material. The most common public Wi-Fi threats are snooping and sniffing, malware distribution, and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Ransomware 

Ransomware encrypts files and demands a ransom to decrypt them. As a freelancer handling multiple client files, such an attack could bring your business to a screeching halt.

Outdated Software Exploits

Hackers love outdated software because it presents an easily exploitable target. Such attacks use public information on vulnerabilities, which the attackers use to target people who have not updated their computer’s software. 

How to Protect Yourself and Your Customer’s Data

As a freelancer, you are your own IT department, so the responsibility to protect yourself and your customers is up to you. 

How Freelancers Can Stay (Digitally) Safe

Stay Vigilant 

Hackers rely on ignorance and naivety to succeed, so the first step to freelancer cybersecurity is to stay vigilant. Be skeptical about everything you encounter on the web, no matter how enticing. 

Maintain Cyber Hygiene

Cyber hygiene is a set of steps or practices that ensure your machine works well and remains secure. The measures you must adopt are frequently updating your software, minimizing software installations, and limiting the number of people with access to your computer. 

Use a Password Manager

Setting highly secure passwords and frequently changing old passwords is simpler using a password manager. Consider free options like LastPass, NordPass, RememBear, Bitwarden, and Dashlane. 

Backup Everything

If you work on the Internet, backups should be standard operating procedure because anything can happen to your computer or local files. Use backup options like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Dropbox to back up all your essential files to the cloud. 

Avoid Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is attractive because it is free. Yet, the risks are usually too high. Instead of using public Wi-Fi, create a hotspot with your phone or tether your laptop to it and use your phone’s data. 

What To Do If You Get Attacked

So far, we’ve looked at what threats freelancers face and how to protect yourself. 

But what happens if you do get attacked. 

If you find yourself in this situation, follow these five steps:

Identify the Type of Attack

“What is the threat?” is the first question you should ask. Is it a virus, trojan, ransomware, or something else? By identifying the threat, you have the right information to take the next steps. 

Secure Your Network

The fastest and most effective way to secure your network is to take it offline. Put simply, switch off your Internet so whatever attack has occurred does not escalate. 

Investigate

How much damage has been incurred? How did the attackers gain access to your computer? You may need to become a cybersecurity expert for a day to achieve this. Thankfully, there’s lots of information available on the Internet to help you.

Contact Your Clients

If client data has been accessed or compromised, alert them at once, so they also take steps to secure their systems. This is especially important if you fell victim to a phishing scam that compromised your client’s data.

Recover

Finally, take steps to eradicate the threat by scanning your computer with an antivirus or formatting it. Remember also to change your passwords. Once done, start the process of restoring your files from your cloud backup and getting your business back on track. 

Conclusion

Freelancing often means wearing several hats simultaneously, and cybersecurity expert is one more you should wear. Although you cannot avoid all cybersecurity threats, if you follow the tips in this article, you will become a difficult target for attackers, a good thing, especially when you make your living on the Internet.

Read Next: New Study Shows Impact of Cyber Security on Freelancers

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