How to ensure your freelance business is safe and secure

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The success of freelancing strongly depends on how well you advertise yourself. This often means openly displaying personal information — name, address, contact number, email ID, work experience etc. — on various websites and social media platforms.

Obviously, having all this information out there on the internet poses a security threat. Between posting information and sensitive email correspondence with clients, freelancers become easy targets for hackers or cyber criminals.

Cyberattacks can cost up to millions, and even though 87 percent of businesses are confident in their cybersecurity preparedness, 71 percent faced a cyber breach in the last year. The last thing any freelancer (with their limited budgets and usually smaller-scale operations) would want is for their personal information to be stolen or their business to be jeopardized.

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Thankfully, there are certain steps you can take to keep your freelance business secure. Here’s how to go about it:

Be aware of your digital footprint

To minimize your digital footprint, you need to familiarize yourself with what it currently looks like.

Googling yourself and other personal information is an easy way to find out. If you come across inactive profiles, outdated information or inappropriate photos or posts, flag them so you know what you need to get rid of.

Will Pelgrin, president and CEO of the Center for Internet Security, advises people to, “Be selective about which venues you participate in. If you regularly contribute to blogs or message boards, consider how others might interpret your statements. Be cautious about referencing where you work, as this might be used for social engineering and other scams.”

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Check your privacy settings

If you have a social media account, you’re essentially relying on a third party system to protect your personal data. Make sure you are fully aware of the social media platform’s privacy policies before parting with any personal information.

Additionally, make sure your privacy settings are set up in such a way that they offer protection from theft.

Pelgrin warns people about some sites that, “May share information, such as email addresses or user preferences, with other parties. If a site’s privacy policy is vague or does not properly protect your information, do not use the site.”

Learn basic encryption

Encryption is an important tool to have in your skillset to protect your information from hackers should they intercept it.

Upwork uses the analogy of leaving your house for a holiday to explain encryption. In this case, you wouldn’t leave the front door unlocked so that anyone could walk in and steal your belongings — you would lock the door.

Encryption is basically the equivalent of the lock, requiring a special key to open it.  There are many free online basic encryption courses, as well as plenty of how-to articles that show what type of encryption to use in a particular data setting.

Cover your bases

A well-protected security operation comprises of many components. Familiarize yourself with these to deter hackers, cyber thieves and to protect your personal brand:

  • Encryption protocols: As mentioned above, encryption will allow only those who have a key to access data. This is especially useful when it comes to fulfilling client deliverables and protecting data while it is in transmission.
  • Backup your data: Data backup is essential to stability and security. Any data that isn’t backed up risks being lost to theft or hacking. There are various types of backups — from backing up data on the cloud to an offsite backup — so make sure you consider all options and choose what best suits your needs.
  • Security engineering: From the very start, it makes sense to build your internet presence with security in mind. Rather than implementing later, this will help protect your brand as it progresses.
  • Firewalls and honeypots: Installing firewalls are necessary for blocking unwanted access to your network. Additionally, honeypots act as decoys to lure hackers towards systems that don’t hold any vital information.

As your freelance business expands, you might need to implement more advanced measures to keep your business secure. However, these steps should suffice to start with and will allow for your data and information to be protected from external threats.

What avenues have you explored when it comes to securing your freelance business? I’d love to hear it in the comments.

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About Devin Morrissey

Devin has been a dishwasher, a business owner, and everything in between. It took him a while to settle on a dream, so he tried out everyone else’s to varying degrees of success. You can find him in Daly City or on Twitter, whichever is closer.

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