Freelancers communicate with a lot of clients on a daily basis. As a result, they need to trust people they don’t personally know.
Whether it is preparing technical documentation or editing proposals, they need to open various files to work on throughout the day. This reality becomes an easy exploit for cybercriminals as freelancers frequently open files from unknown sources. Therefore, they’re easy targets for hackers who send malicious files in an attempt to infect their systems. Today’s article guides self-employed professionals to secure themselves in cyberspace.
Completing day-to-day tasks might require dealing with Microsoft documents. Criminals posing as genuine clients can send you innocent-looking Microsoft Office documents and include malware within. They do it by leveraging macro malware. What helps is disabling macros in Microsoft Office programs so that malefactors cannot infect your system with malicious code.
Often, potential clients ask you to install software from an unofficial link or file. Do not fall for such requests and clearly communicate that you will download the official version of the software. Criminals lure freelancers to install malicious apps on their systems, which allow remote access to the hackers. Once they gain entry, they steal their victims’ personal information or damage their computers.
Even when you download files from official sites, you should be careful. It may happen that a blackhat hacker has performed a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack and modified the original file. Use antivirus web engines such as VirusTotal to see if an executable file (.exe or .msi) is secure or infected with viruses.
Never send a photo of your credit or debit card to anybody. Furthermore, keep the CVC/CVV code confidential as these are unnecessary to complete the payment process. Although you can share your bank details, only do so using end-to-end encrypted channels like WhatsApp, Telegram secret chats, etc.
To protect your devices from malware, install reliable antivirus solutions such as Norton or Bitdefender. When connecting to the internet, use encrypted proxy services to mask your IP. These proxies can help keep phishing, spam, malware, and other cyber threats at bay.
To ensure security online, adopting concrete OpSec practices is quintessential. It’s crucial to avoid the “Secure Enough” mindset. Even big companies invest in security to prevent cyber attacks. So, take OpSec measures seriously. Here are some micro tips to include in your everyday workflow:
- Update Software
Periodically update your software to upgrade security features and fix known bugs. Consistently staying on top of security updates will prevent you from getting exploited by zero-day vulnerabilities.
- Check Links
Before clicking a link, ensure its spelling is correct. Most browsers allow you to see the link by hovering the cursor over it.
- Maintain Strong Passwords
Use unique and robust passwords for every site so cracking them becomes challenging for hackers. Store them in an encrypted password management tool like KeePass and never reuse them.
- Look for HTTPS
Don’t enter unsecured HTTP sites; only access the ones with SSL, i.e., HTTPS websites.
- Back Your Files Up
In the worst-case scenario, you may lose your data. Back up your essential documents regularly on the cloud or a local storage device.
- Implement 2FA
Enable two-factor authentication to add another layer of security to your existing accounts. This feature prevents unauthorized access to your computer if your password gets compromised.
Phishing is a form of social engineering where hackers find loopholes in human sentiments to exploit them. It can happen via emails, SMSes, or phone calls. Don’t comply if somebody asks you to send your credentials over the internet. You don’t want hackers to access your accounts to rob your hard-earned money and damage your reputation on platforms such as Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer.
Being a freelancer may be empowering, but it requires you to be fully responsible in every aspect. As a self-employed individual, you need to constantly update your knowledge of cybersecurity and embrace the latest OpSec practices to protect your systems from various cyber threats. If you are a writer, review these specific cybersecurity tips to secure your website and PC.