If you use the Internet to work, online security should be at the top of your list of priorities. As a freelancer, you have the freedom to choose your own clients, set schedules, work on projects you like and more. But, in addition to this freedom, every freelancer also has a certain responsibility. This responsibility does not only mean delivering the work you were hired for and adhering to deadlines, but also to ensure that any sensitive information your client trusts you with is secure.
We live in the age of Internet. Information and data is readily available to us and is just a few clicks away. This is a good thing for freelancers, who often must rely on online resources to gather information for their next article, but also to communicate with clients or get paid. However, there is another side of this and it’s one that every freelancer must be aware of. This is why it is important to always keep an eye on online security and ensure that your information, but also that of your clients are safe and don’t get into the wrong hands.
The Internet is full of security traps and pitfalls and if you are not careful, it can be very easy for hackers to take advantage of you. This post will show you a few online security tips that will be useful for freelancers and hopefully explain how to protect your data and your client’s data.
Use Strong Passwords and a Password Manager for Better Online Security
An average Internet user has about 20 passwords to remember. This includes, your Google account password (which in turn includes Gmail, Google+ and a few other Google services you might use like Adwords and Analytics), your computer’s password, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… the list goes on. Freelancers, often having to use various online resources in their work, often have even more passwords to remember.
With so many passwords to remember it can be easy to forget them. Which is why many use easy-to-remember passwords. According to SplashData, “password” and “123456” were the two most widely used passwords on its annual list “Worst Passwords” for 2016. I shouldn’t have to tell you what kind of online security risk you are getting into by using these and similar passwords, but if you are, you need to change your password right now. Every day you use a weak password, the risk of your adjoining account getting hacked increases. This way, hackers can get access to your sensitive information such as bank accounts, email, or in some cases even your client’s information and you need to make sure this doesn’t happen.
A strong password includes, in addition to letters, other symbols. Try using capital letters and numbers, even switch some letters for numbers, for example. This way, it will be much harder for hackers to figure out your password.
Of course, this also means it will be harder for your to remember the password, but luckily, there’s a solution for that as well. And no, it’s not writing down your password in an unsecured txt, Word or Excel file, as these will also be exposed anytime a hacker manages to get access to your computer. The solution lies in using a good password manager, like LastPass. You can use it on all your devices, it’s free and it will allow your to store and organize all your passwords, as well as encrypt them for extra online security.
Use a Good Cloud Backup, Not Just Storage Solution
A good cloud storage solution can help you better manage files. Most of you are probably aware of Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive and use them to store, share and synchronize files.
But these are storage solutions and should not be mixed with backup solutions. You also need to invest in a good cloud backup services such as IDrive. This will not only allow you to backup files and data automatically, but also to easily recover files if your laptop gets damaged or stolen. Also, with cloud storage, you have to manually upload files to them and you might not get the chance to do so before an online security threat knocks on your door. Like I said, with cloud backup, this goes automatically.
Cloud is an incredibly useful technology for freelancers or anyone else who wants to store and share files, but you need to invest time in selecting the proper solution for you. I recommend checking specialized sites like Cloudwards.net to find out what are the best Cloud Storage and Cloud Backup providers for the current year.
Protect Your (and Your Client’s) Data with a VPN
A Virtual Private Network or VPN is another good way for freelancers to ensure online security. It can be particularly important for keeping your financial and other sensitive information safe from the prying eyes of hackers.
Basically, a VPN establishes a virtual tunnel between point A (your computer) and point B (a remote 3rd-party server). So, when the data comes out of that server, to any hacker lurking nearby, it will look like you are accessing the Internet from that point and there won’t be anything they can do to threaten your online security since the VPN has expertly hidden your real IP address and encrypted your data.
There are many VPN providers out there and knowing which one to use is not simple. Not only do they differ in prices, but also in features or even their purpose. For example, you might need a VPN to create a unique dedicated IP address, for torrenting, to unlock a certain service like Hulu or you just want the overall best for your privacy.
Tbest way to know which are the best for you is to take a look at some reviews from specialized websites. A website called VPN Creative is a good place to check for the best VPN service.
Work From Trusted Freelance Websites
New freelancers are an especially ripe target for online scammers. But experienced freelancers also need to be careful who they’re working with. As such, it’s important to only work with trustworthy clients and through secure freelance websites to ensure your online security.
When looking for a good freelance website to work on, always keep an eye on the address bar and see if its URL starts with HTTPS and not HTTP. This last letter, “S” is very important as it stands for “secure” and it means that the site has an extra layer of encryption in place to keep your data protected. On the other hand, websites that start with simply HTTP don’t have this layer of encryption and are, as a result, less secure.
Freelancing is becoming such a sought-out way of working. There are more and more websites offering jobs for freelancers. Use only trusted services like Upwork, Guru, TopTal or PeoplePerHour and stay clear of those new ones. At least until they have established themselves on the market.
Make Sure That all Your Software is Up-to-Date
Freelancers often use a number of tools and apps to work on projects. With each, there’s an increased chance for a breach a hacker might use to get access to your data. However, by installing the latest version of that program, you can ensure your online security. For example, if you have a blog or websites that runs on WordPress, you need to make sure you’re using the latest version of not just WP, but any plugins you’ve installed as well.
The same goes for your operating system or OS. A lot of folks don’t think that it’s all that important to update Windows. Some even turn off automatic updates. But this is a mistake as this way you will miss out on the latest virus and other security fixes. In other words, you leave your computer vulnerable to online security attacks.
Most of the time, you won’t have to do anything when it comes to updating your software or OS. Normally this is an automatic process. However, neglecting to do so can end up in dire consequences.
What other ways to ensure online security would you recommend to freelancers? Let me know in the comments below!