Learn how to keep your online business and customer data safe with these tips on ways to protect your online business.
As more and more of the processes and tools we use in our everyday lives shift to the online world, the number of passwords we need to create and remember increases. Creating passwords for each and every online account you open can seem exhausting, but the consequences of opting for passwords that are easy-to-guess or are reused across many accounts can be dire. As data breaches and mass-scale thefts of personal data increase in frequency, it is vital now more than ever to be password savvy to help prevent your personal details from being compromised.
As a freelancer or owner of a small business, your computer is essential to your income. You are the IT department for your business, which means it is your duty to protect yourself and your client’s data against an attack.
In a cyber survey done by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) in 2019, it was found that over 23.2 million compromised accounts were using the password ‘123456’, closely followed by ‘123456789’ at 7.7 million users. Other common passwords included ‘qwerty’ and the classic ‘password’.
“Passwords are the new keys to your safe locks, take it seriously.”Robin John, co-founder of The Gestor & technical expert
The State of Cybersecurity
One of the biggest threats in cybersecurity is a lack of basic knowledge of cybersecurity threats. Freelancers are most likely to face four major threats: malware, unpatched software, password phishing and social media account hacks. Understanding what you’re up against is the first step in securing your home office.
Social Engineered Malware: The most common cyberattack is malware, and today’s online criminals use carefully worded emails and false websites to trick even the most diligent users into downloading harmful software onto their computers. Hundreds of millions of malware attacks occur each year, making it the dominant cybersecurity threat for freelancers today.
Unpatched Software: Software companies release patches all the time, which guard against newly discovered exploits and security weaknesses. Keeping up with all of the updates available for your computer and other devices can help prevent an older, out of date application from causing vulnerabilities in your device’s defences.
Password Phishing: Spam emails that replicate legitimate, trusted sources are major risks for personal computer users. A convincing phishing email looks legitimate and usually asks for confidential information such as login credentials. Some phishing emails even warn users about fraud to alert them into taking immediate action.
Social Media Hacking: With so much personal information in one place, it was only a matter of time before criminals sought to exploit social media. Friend requests from people you don’t know maybe an attempt at obtaining information for identity theft. Many scammers will pose as legitimate businesses in order to gain access to sensitive data, like your credit card information.
How to Protect Yourself against Cyberattacks
- Be Skeptical of Everything
Most cyberattacks count on deception and social engineering to access your computer. Even the best antivirus and firewall defences can’t prevent you from manually downloading a worm through a deceptive link. Being skeptical of every email and social media request you receive will go a long way toward protecting your data.
- Keep a Clean Machine
Some basic protections in the form of antivirus software can stop most typical cyberattacks. There are some services that protect multiple devices through a single subscription – don’t forget about your smartphone!
- Create Better Passwords
It might seem like a simple step, but many people practice poor password management. Having a weak password can provide an easy opening for your entire system to be compromised. Use passwords that are long, consider using a password management service to create and store unique and complex passwords for each of the online accounts you own.
- Avoid Rogue Wi-Fi Hotspots
If you’re a freelancer, you may often be working in public places such as coffee shops or shared workspaces. Would-be hackers are known to use these public spaces as hunting grounds for easy targets through the use of false Wi-Fi networks. Turning off your Wi-Fi connection and verifying the wireless networks you connect to manually will help avoid these false networks, but as a general rule, it’s best not to send sensitive information over public Wi-Fi networks at all.
- Set Up a Firewall
Firewalls act as secondary barriers against malicious software, but the firewalls that come preloaded on PCs may not be enough to fully protect your data. Downloading a third-party firewall app can add an additional layer of security on top of your computer’s default software. Some of the best firewalls update in real-time as new threats are detected, ensuring you’re on top of the latest malware.
- Employ a VPN
Virtual private networks, or VPNs, provide a higher level of security on wireless networks. If your work utilizes sensitive information, a VPN creates an encrypted haven for any data sent from your computer. Since a VPN masks your computer’s IP address, it makes it difficult for a would-be thief to trace information back to your computer, masking and protecting your identity over the public web.
- Update Your Software
The endless stream of updates from programs and operating systems might seem tedious, but these updates could protect you from losing your data. As new threats and weaknesses are identified, app and software developers release patches that fix these security flaws. Turn on automatic updates to ensure your program’s security features are always up to date.
- Back-Up Your Data
In the event of a catastrophic loss of data, having a backup can mean the difference between months of lost productivity and a minor inconvenience. A ransomware attack holds your data hostage until you meet the hacker’s demands, and these types of attacks can often result in a total loss of data. Even a simple hard drive failure can hinder your workflow if you’re not prepared for it.
A physical and digital backup of your most important files ensures that even in the worst-case scenario, your and your client’s assets are protected. Back up your computer daily and upload any new files into a physical hard drive each night before you go to bed. You’ll sleep a little easier knowing your data is safe and sound.
Cybersecurity is a constantly evolving landscape. New threats and new vulnerabilities pop up on an almost daily basis. Utilizing best practices and researching new potential threats regularly can help keep your defenses strong against attacks. This World Password Day, take a moment to review your defenses. You can use the site Have I been pwned? to check whether your details may have been compromised, or the password strength checker like How Secure Is My Password to measure the resistance of a password against brute-force attacks or guessing.
Passwords will continue to be there for you when you need them the most. So, make sure you keep them healthy, strong, and uncrackable!Learn More