I’d like to thank Goalzilla for giving me a platform to talk about an issue that’s very important to me. Goalzilla is an amazing resource for personal and professional development, which is a subject very dear to my heart. For an example of their great work check out Freelancing – Your Ticket to the Express Train of Self-Improvement
If your livelihood depends on your online life and accounts, you can’t afford to take any chances with your cybersecurity. Your account passwords and the financial information of your clients are vital to your freelance business, and losing control of your accounts is worse than a store manager leaving the door unlocked. It only takes one cybersecurity mistake to make a negative impact on your career, and I hope to save others from having to learn the hard way.
If you’re using the internet in a productive way, you probably already know the basics such as using the firewall that came with your operating system and acquiring quality anti-virus software, so we’re going to skip those topics and delve a little deeper into ways you can stay one step ahead of hackers when it comes to your online freelancing business.
- Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a cybersecurity must-have. Using one creates a secure tunnel between your device and an offsite secure server which masks your IP address. This means you can use any network safely while remaining anonymous online.
This is especially relevant if you often work in coffee shops or other places with public WiFi. Any network that doesn’t require login credentials poses a huge security risk. Anyone tapped into that network could see what you’re doing as easily as they could eavesdrop on you from the next table in a restaurant.
Luckily, VPNs are incredibly easy to use. Your operating system almost certainly has the ability to use one built into it. All you have to do is subscribe to a VPN service to get access to the app or information necessary to connect. For even more security, you can mandate VPN use by every computer on your home network by installing one directly onto your router.
For more information on using VPNs and reviews of the best services, check out the Secure Thoughts blog.
- Use Secure and Varied Passwords
A secure password will include numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters. It will also include symbols if they’re allowed by the service you’re making an account with. Each password should be changed every two months.
Meeting these requirements can make your frequently changing passwords tricky to remember, but you should never write them down. Sometimes we forget it when we talk about cybersecurity, but physical security is just as important. If someone could go through your desk and find a sticky note with all your passwords, you’re not actually secure at all! Instead, a secure password manager such as LastPass can help you save (and automatically fill in!) your passwords without incurring any extra security risks.
- Keep Your Software Updated
Successful security is often a matter of staying one step ahead of hackers, so when a company discovers a security breach, they will usually put out a software update. These updates are critical if you’re going to keep your computer safe.
However, before you agree to an update you have to make sure it’s legitimate. Bogus update notifications are a common type of scam, so don’t trust any emails or pop-ups that don’t come from the app itself. Instead, open up the program and look for an update option.
- Don’t Trust Questionable Program or Links
This is related to the previous point. Most legitimate companies and services, such as your bank, will contact you through their apps rather than sending you an email. If you get an email that’s purporting to be from your bank or another similar service, sign into the app yourself rather than clicking on any provided link. An email could be a phishing scam that will take you to a fake site and harvest your information. Likewise, never type your credit card information directly into an email. Real companies and organizations will never ask you to do this!
Secondly, only open emails and attachments that you can verify are safe. If the email comes from someone you know but sounds strange, ask the person whether they sent it. Sometimes cybercriminals will hack someone’s email to send out bogus emails and trap others. If you don’t recognize the source, then definitely don’t open it! Report it to your email provider as spam instead and delete it.
Lastly, don’t trust free software. Whether it’s cracked and pirated or offered for free, make sure it’s from a trusted source before you download it. Often these .exe files will come loaded with viruses and malware, and they can sneak around your anti-virus because technically you agreed to download them.
- Set a Lock Screen on Your Phone
There is a greater danger of loss or theft with mobile phones than with laptops or desktops, so it’s extra important to keep physical security in mind. Setting a lock screen password that you have to type in to access your phone will ensure that even if the worst happens, a thief couldn’t breach your accounts by simply starting up your phone.
What are you doing to keep your freelance business secure? What will you be doing now that you’ve read this information? Let us know in the comments below!