Avoiding the rat race and breaking out on your own as a self-employed business owner or freelancer is one of the most empowering things you can do. Your future is in your own hands and that can mean there is a steep learning curve. From managing your freelance finances to finding clients and marketing yourself, the responsibility for your success rests solely on your shoulders. As a self-employed small business owner or freelancer, one area that you may overlook when starting out is cybersecurity defenses.
However, it’s one of the most essential ways to protect yourself and your new business venture. With 48% of small businesses becoming unfortunate targets for hackers in 2021, and 31% of those facing repeated attacks weekly, safeguarding yourself as a small operation is a must.
Those attacks can impact small companies through a loss of data or financial costs, causing damage to reputation that can drive customers away. Fortunately, there are ways you can protect your self-employed and freelance status using smart methods and simple practices.
Why are freelancers and self-employed businesses vulnerable?
The reality is that no business is immune from cyber attacks, whether they be large-scale attacks or small events. For some hackers, taking down a large organisation’s defenses is seen as a challenge. In contrast, others may target smaller businesses as they are deemed easier.
Self-employed individuals and freelancers are easier targets for hackers because they don’t have the resources to implement completely robust defences. Not only do you risk having your personal data fall victim to hackers but also the data of your clients.
From unsecured laptops to phishing attacks, there are many avenues for hackers to infiltrate the defence of a small business. Let’s look at the ways freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs can fight back and tighten up their cybersecurity defenses.
Protect your passwords
It might seem obvious but insecure passwords are one of the most common ways for freelancers and self-employed people to protect against hackers. Selecting strong passwords that differ from one login to another ensures that hackers can’t guess your details. A good password will be longer than eight characters, difficult to guess and a mixture of numbers, characters and symbols.
If you have multiple logins, then you must store each one safely. Many people will use a notebook / password book or note them on their phone. To protect these passwords further, consider a password management tool. This will avoid the need for keeping your passwords anywhere but there. Not only do they safely store your passwords, including when you update them periodically, but these tools can also alert you to any potential data leaks.
If you work from home, then it’s necessary to secure your home network too. Firstly, by changing the default password of your router’s login details. Secondly, change the name of your network, known as SSID. This is because it includes a code from the manufacturer that signposts where the vulnerabilities are for hackers.
Follow the latest cybercrime trends
The cybercrime landscape is constantly evolving and you must stay up-to-date on the latest threats. Knowledge is important and even picking up a few tips here and there can make a huge impact on your overall cybersecurity. From updating your software to understanding how to spot a phishing attack. Literally, everything you can pick up matters.
For example, phishing and ransomware attacks are the most common entry points for hackers into company systems and networks. These attacks commonly appear in the form of an email that on first impression comes from a reputable source. However, it contains links or attachments that infect your system.
Redscan, an industry-leading cybersecurity service provider, explains, “Attackers create emails purporting to be from a trusted source and attach a malicious file. Once the attachment is opened by the recipient, the ransomware is downloaded, leading to the system becoming infected, encrypted and compromised, with the user’s files being held for ransom.”
Use a VPN for multi-location working
If you are a freelancer working from home five days a week, you may get bored of your surroundings and seek some human interaction by working from a cafe. That’s totally normal and there is nothing wrong with doing so. However, it’s important to bear your cybersecurity in mind when venturing out into the world of shared WiFi and networks.
You may be using a network that isn’t secure. Therefore, the best protection against this is a VPN. A VPN is a virtual private network, which adds another level of security by encrypting traffic between your device and the internet.
Hackers can’t see what you are doing or access your private or company data. While a good defense, it’s important to note that a VPN won’t replace antivirus software.
Invest in cybersecurity software
You may feel as though you can’t see the results of installing cybersecurity software onto your device. However, it’s important that you do. The latest and best cybersecurity defenses for business owners options are built to handle current threats in the industry.
It may be tempting to just install the free version of protective software but this typically only includes the basics. Upgrading to the paid version is essential for protecting your data and your client’s data.
Additionally, make sure that the software you are downloading is genuine and comes from the website of the company responsible for it. You may be tempted to cut costs and install a ‘cracked’ version of protective software that a friend of a friend can set you up with. However, not only is this illegal, but it may also come with its own malicious software.
Keep your software updated
Not only is it important to install genuine software from the source, but it’s also essential that you install the latest software updates across all of your devices. Have you been putting off updating your laptop or desktop for weeks? Even thought you’ve had regular reminders that an update is available?
Norton, an anti-virus specialist, says, “Performing these updates will deliver a multitude of revisions to your computer. This includes adding new features, removing outdated features, updating drivers, delivering bug fixes. And, most importantly, fixing security holes that have been discovered.” Anything you use to make your living should be regularly updated, including phones and tablets.
Guest Post Author: Annie Button is a freelance writer who has written for various online and print publications specialising in lifestyle, business, branding and career development.