Cybersecurity risks freelancer faces and the best ways to stay protected

Cybersecurity Risks

The possibility of losing confidential data has always been a security concern for any business. This is especially important for anyone who runs an online business, including freelancers. If you do online work, you are often required to share important information like credit card information, medical records, personal identification details, and other essential data with your online clients.

If this private information is compromised, it can have severe public and legal consequences on your business, your career, and you as an individual. This is why it is essential to safeguard your online business from external factors that can cripple it. One of the strategies you should employ is protecting your private information from foreign clients to ensure data protection.

If you are a freelancer worried about your data safety, the following strategies can ease your worry and protect your data.

Social engineering attacks

With the advancements of attacks and attackers online, viruses/malware are the most common methods used in social engineering attacks. This is a relatively new online threat technique used to trick freelancers or online businesses into disclosing confidential information. This attack can be launched on your computer in the form of fake downloads, emails, cookies exploitation, and phishing links.

In 2016, Yahoo reported multiple security breaches that caused data loss to billions of account holders in three years.

How to avoid social engineering risks?

Social engineering attacks can only work when the attackers use someone on the inside to reveal confidential information. Even though antimalware and antivirus programs can help protect your device, practical cyber-security training is the most effective way of dealing with social engineering risks.

As a freelancer working with multiple foreign clients online, you must be aware of the potential risks and educate yourself on the numerous ways your personal and work data may be at risk. You need to identify outside attacks and how best to handle suspicious emails and fake invitations. Learn of the potential weak points used for social engineering attacks.

Trojans, viruses, and spyware

Malware is a collective term for Trojans and spyware programs meant to infect your computer and permanently corrupt your content. On the other hand, a virus is a malicious code meant to alter how your computer operates. These codes and programs can infect active programs to modify applications, cause system malfunction, data breaches, and files encryption.

Over the past few years, multiple attacks have been launched on IoT devices to take advantage of the widely connected networks. This is especially common in homes where various devices are connected to the same network. This increases the risk of attack through a virus on the web or intrusive spyware.

How to avoid Trojans, spyware, and virus attacks?

As a freelancer connected continuously to the Internet, you can ensure you are a step ahead of these attacks by providing you enable and configure your firewall settings and by using a reliable antivirus or antimalware program. The firewall and antivirus program should be set to regularly run scans on your system to identify potential system breaches and deployed malicious programs.

The best antivirus program should always be updated to ensure it can detect and eliminate even the latest malicious threats on your system before they become a problem.

Accessing sensitive or unauthorized data

In 2018, Dubsmash, a New York-based video messaging company, reported a breach of user data, later sold on the Internet. While the company did not disclose how this data was leaked, they urged their users to change their login credentials.

As a freelancer, you are always working with different clients on multiple projects. While doing so, protecting and managing confidential client information can become a challenge yet very important. Human error and negligence is the most common cause of data breaches in a business. The best way to avoid data leaks from your freelancing agency is by monitoring access rights to sensitive data and only allow it based on need.

How to avoid data leaks?

It is essential to be informed of the best cybersecurity practices, including using strong passwords and enabling multi-factor authentication for your accounts. It is a crucial step to secure your data and prevent other parties from accessing it.

Secondly, people choose to encrypt their files or hard drive with sensitive information. There is built-in software on Mac computers as well as Windows devices for this function.

What’s more, you can encrypt your traffic and protect the data that passes through the Internet. One way to do it is to install a VPN. Using a VPN for device security is a practical method that reduces the chances of data falling into the wrong hands. VPNs or virtual private networks are designed to ensure data privacy and protection on a shared and unsecured network.

A VPN converts data into packets that are encrypted and transferred with a header containing the routing information. The best VPN service should not store any records of your online activity or save logs. Given the nature of a freelancer’s work, an ideal VPN service should not saturate user traffic. Do your research and subscribe to a trustworthy and reputable provider.

Outdated or unpatched software

As technology continues to advance, online businesses and freelancers are often required to update hardware and software components more often than not. Regular updates are essential since they come with security patches that decrease system vulnerabilities.

Using outdated or unpatched software or hardware components makes your computer vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks, which advance every day. The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack is strongly believed to have affected unpatched systems in more than 100 countries globally. Months before this attack, Microsoft had rolled out new security patches meant to address a known weakness in Microsoft computers.

How to avoid running outdated or unpatched software?

The most common way of avoiding this risk is to ensure your software, hardware components, and computer programs are updated as soon as a new update is available.

Ransomware attacks

Ransomware attacks are also a common problem for freelancers and any business with a web presence. A ransomware attack infects a device with a malicious code that takes over files or the entire system. Once it encrypts system files, it blocks user access to these files. This data is held hostage with a demand for a hefty ransom to gain back control.

In the most complicated ransomware cases, the attackers threaten to go public with the breached information if their ransom demands are not met. A ransomware attack not only threatens sensitive user data but also causes a loss of reputation and money to a freelancing agency online. This can jeopardize the ability to attract new clients in the future.

How to avoid ransomware attacks?

Ransomware attacks can be avoided by deploying a reliable and updated antivirus program. It is also highly advisable to create a reliable backup for your files and sensitive data. This gives you a position of authority over the attackers in the event of a breach. Put in place a foolproof disaster recovery plan to stay ahead of any potential ransomware attacks.

Online security tools for online businesses and freelancers

StaySafeOnline.org

This is an online service operated by the NCSA (National Cyber Security Alliance). It offers a national program that avails a wide array of resources and tools meant to help small and medium-sized online businesses learn how to enjoy better data and system protection.

The service offers a series of interactive online workshops meant to educate every business owner on internet security under the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) cybersecurity framework.

Tail OS

This live OS uses enhanced cryptography tools to encrypt instant messages, files, and emails. It runs on any PC through a DVD or USB stick, leaving no evidence on the computer used unless commanded. This OS forces all its connections to go through a Tor network, ensuring anonymity online for security and safety.

Open DNS

Open DNS gives the user complete control of a network by restricting access to certain domains flagged as suspicious. It also allows the user to set filters to block unwanted sites and a category or sites. Open DNS gives the user access to internet statistics, making it easier to investigate long-term internet activity.

ProtonMail

This is an emailing application that focuses on security and user privacy. It offers end-to-end encryption of mail, ensuring it is encrypted before leaving the sender’s system and when it arrives on the recipient’s end. ProtonMail also supports the use of two different passwords for added security. HTTPS Everywhere This browser extension can be used with most browsers, including Opera, Chrome, and Firefox.

HTTPS Everywhere

automatically encrypts all websites visited from your computer, ensuring safe and secure connections by rewriting requests directly to HTTPS sites.

Conclusion

As cyberattacks become sophisticated, online businesses and freelancers should use defensive strategies and tools to ensure their computer systems and data are always protected.

Protecting valuable business and client data is very important and does not have to be expensive. Most of the privacy services and tools in this article are offered at affordable rates to ensure every online business can access a reliable, secure data system.

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