As a small freelance business, you might think you are off the radar of hackers, but in reality, small businesses tend to be more susceptible. This is because cybercriminals know that freelancers and small businesses don’t have strong cybersecurity measures in place, which makes them an easier target.
Now more than ever, it is crucial that freelance businesses start taking their cybersecurity efforts seriously. Since the pandemic, businesses have turned even more towards the digital world to share and store data. Unfortunately, this means there has been a significant increase in cybersecurity breaches as well.
With so many freelancers and small businesses owners increasing their digital marketing efforts, these cybersecurity breaches will likely only continue to become more prominent. Thus, as you seek to grow your business and look for new ways to market yourself and your services to others, it’s important to make cybersecurity a part of your strategy.
Cybersecurity Tips and Best Practices for Freelancers
Cybersecurity isn’t just a smart choice for freelance businesses; it’s essential. There is no way around it. With the increase in cyber threats, you have to take measures to protect both your business and the private information of your clients.
Since 2019, data breaches have increased by 50%, putting almost everyone who uses digital marketing at risk. However, avoiding cyber hacks and data breaches is not impossible, even for small business owners. As a freelance business, there are steps you can take to improve your data security when putting yourself out there to draw attention and get new clients.
Below are some of the top cybersecurity tips and best practices you can follow to avoid breaches:
1. Protect Your Network
The majority of cyber criminals target unsecured networks and routers. So, the first thing you should do to protect your data boosts your network security. Often, this is as simple as changing the default settings of your WiFi, such as:
- Changing the admin credentials for the router
- Creating a complex password and updating it every few months
- Change the default network name
- Activate the network firewalls and encryptions
- Disable remote access
2. Update Your Operating System
Another primary way cybercriminals hack into businesses is through their operating systems. While most vulnerabilities are fixed by developers periodically, it is still a good idea for you to stay on top of updates and patches. Make sure you are installing any new updates as soon as they are released.
3. Use Encrypted Passwords
One of the easiest cybersecurity practices you can follow is to continually update and encrypt all of your passwords. Set a regular schedule for updating all of your business passwords, and don’t share them over the internet. It’s best to keep a physical hardcopy of them stored somewhere or even in a note on your phone. Also, every time you create a password, make sure it is complex and unique.
4. Encrypt and Back Up Data
You should already be in the habit of regularly backing up your data in case something happens, but this is especially important if you want to avoid cybercrimes. Hackers will gain access to your data and then hold it for ransom, requiring you to pay a fee to get it back. But if you have your data backed up, there is no need to pay to have it returned.
You should also be encrypting all of your data wherever possible. This means everything on local devices like your laptop and external hard drives, as well as digital storage, such as the cloud. Microsoft and Apple have built-in encryption software you can use, or you can use third-party security software.
5. Use Trusted Payment Systems
When sending or receiving payments with clients, make sure you are only using systems that you know are highly protected and trusted. As a freelancer, you are also likely invoicing clients often for the work you have done, so make sure your invoices don’t give away any important information either.
6. Use a VPN
Freelance work is great because it often means you can work from anywhere on your own terms. However, open networks make it easy for hackers to access your data. If you are working in a public location or using someone else’s WiFi that you can’t guarantee is protected, you should use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to keep your information secure.
7. Use an Overall Quality Security Solution
Antivirus software and general security software solutions are a must. However, it’s best to avoid cheap ones. While more affordable software might be appealing, it will likely not be enough if cyber criminals decide to hack your system. Look for software and solutions that provide comprehensive security that offers WiFi protection, antivirus software, VPNs, identity theft protection, and fraud monitoring.
Safe Marketing Solutions
Just because everything is going digital, doesn’t mean that you should throw out more conventional methods altogether. Sometimes, physical and tangible marketing solutions can still make an impact and help you stand out to clients. Using older marketing methods might seem odd, but as no one else is doing it much anymore, it can feel different and unique, which can help you garner attention and stand out to potential clients.
For example, no one really uses business cards as much as they used to, but handing them out can show your clients that you are professional and have thought about the little touches that matter. A well-designed business card can go a long way towards helping a client remember you and keep you in mind for future projects. And of course, there is no threat of a data breach when you use this type of marketing.
If you run any sort of business over the internet, no matter how small, you should be taking precautions to protect your data. The more things transition to a fully digital landscape, the more cybercriminals will find ways to hack into systems and exploit vulnerabilities. If you’re feeling lost and still aren’t sure what you specifically need to do, you can always look into security testing.
Professional security testers will know where and how exactly to assess your systems for vulnerabilities and can give you pointers and tips for how to protect yourself. Having a professional offer you guidance can provide you with peace of mind that you are taking all necessary steps to protect your business as well as the private information of your clients.