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At most large companies, there’s typically an IT department responsible for managing computer software and hardware, including virus protection and other cybersecurity measures. We’ve all laughed (nervously) at those IT department emails warning us about the latest email phishing scam as we’re reminded not to open messages from strangers.
Being a successful freelancer is about more than producing the best blog posts. When you work for yourself, you have to wear many hats. Until you outsource it, you’re the billing department, production, sales, customer service, planning, marketing and IT. You have access to client data, and it’s your responsibility to protect it.
Trust is everything, and if you lose your clients’ trust in a data breach, it may not be possible for you to recover. Let’s take a look at what you can do as a freelancer to secure the data belonging to you and your clients.
Work on Secured Wi-Fi Connections
Are you one of the many freelancers who travels the world (or at least your town), doing work in various restaurants and cafes? Do you go to Starbucks so often that any location’s Wi-Fi will automatically recognize you and log you in? Maybe you’re doing work in the quiet of the public library. It makes sense — we all need a change of scenery, and separating your workspace from home by heading to a public location is an inexpensive way to do it (plus, you’re surrounded by cool stuff like coffee and books).
When you connect publicly, you may have options. Sometimes public Wi-Fi is secured, and other times it’s unsecured. When possible, choose secured. On public Wi-Fi, avoid any kind of transaction such as shopping or checking your bank account. You should also remember to keep an eye on all your electronics; think of them like luggage in an airport — it’s risky to leave them unattended.
Secure Your Computer
Securing your workstation is also imperative to maintaining data security and privacy. There are several ways to make this happen:
- Encrypt your data: Services like FileVault and BitLocker can help you here, but the more affordable option is to use a virtual private network (VPN).
- Keep your software updated: Scammers love to exploit weaknesses of outdated software. Many times, software providers release new patches to address discovered security weaknesses. These are vital for freelancers using WordPress and related plugins to maintain sites for themselves and their clients.
- Anti-virus and anti-spyware: By now, just about everyone understands the importance of using anti-virus software. However, this isn’t the only security measure to consider. Anti-spyware is necessary to prevent various individuals and organizations from accessing your browsing data and using it for their own purposes. While many of these purposes aren’t necessarily nefarious, you’re potentially violating your customers’ data if you leave it exposed to those hungry big data giants.
If you use multiple devices, such as a desktop and a laptop, don’t forget to secure each in all of these ways. Further, if you want to take your cybersecurity efforts to the next level, take time to sharpen key cybersecurity skills to prevent computer hacking.
Research All SEO and Content Marketing Tools
It makes sense that any tool designed to harness the power of your social media or Google Analytics data will need you to connect your accounts by logging in. What many marketers fail to do is research these tools themselves.
Although top tools are reputable, most are based internationally. Other countries are governed by different laws when it comes to data privacy, and some are more or less strict than the United States. The truth: Big data is big money, and if you’re representing a large corporation, that data is potentially even more valuable.
Review Your Security Procedures
A quarterly review of your security procedures can help prevent data intrusion and loss. Performing these procedures right before you file quarterly taxes is an appropriate time to keep data security updated. It’s best to have the knowledge that your computer and data are secure before you start analyzing bank accounts and business expenses.
Here’s a frightening statistic: 21% of companies don’t have a backup plan in the event of data loss. Imagine losing all your in-progress work, any client credit card information on file, and more. This represents a major loss for you as a freelancer and severely endangers both your reputation and livelihood.
Prevent this by reviewing on a regular basis, ensuring your backups are active and working, and doing your best to access only secured wireless networks while using a VPN. While much of this may seem like common sense, being able to work how and when you want as a freelancer can tempt you to sacrifice security for convenience. Resist that temptation and follow these cybersecurity practices to keep yourself and your clients safe.