Freelance designers are exposed to a range of cybersecurity threats on a daily basis. Here’s a list of the best cybersecurity practices for freelance designers.
Remote work and freelance opportunities have increased significantly in the past few years. According to statistics, more than 13 million freelancers joined the industry between 2017 and 2022 in the US. Currently, the total number of freelancers in the US is over 70 million, and it’s expected to reach 90 million by 2028.
Technological advancements have made it easy for people to work from anywhere while effectively maintaining excellent communication with clients. But this new trend has also provided cybercriminals and hackers with many opportunities to target freelance designers, be it apps, UX, web, or graphics.
That’s why freelancers need to abide by the best cybersecurity practices to maintain their professional reputation.
Whether you’re a freelance designer or working in any other field, you can use the tips listed below to minimize the risk of falling victim to a cyberattack.
Invest in secure data storage
You can either store your data online or offline, and to keep it secure, you should consider investing in secure data storage.
Online (cloud storage)
Most freelancers need to work with sensitive client data. The easiest way to store and manage that data (and anything and everything related to your work) is to use cloud storage, as it allows you to edit, share, and synchronize project files seamlessly.
However, not all cloud storage services are completely safe, and using a vulnerable one means that the data stored in it can be stolen or corrupted. Therefore, you must invest in trusted, fully secure, and reliable cloud storage.
Although popular cloud storage services, such as Google Drive and OneDrive, are generally very secure, you can use specialized solutions which are made with security as the top priority in mind. A few examples of such services include Sync, Tresorit, pCloud, Mega, and IceDrive.
If you also store your work-related data on your personal devices, such as a laptop, desktop, phone, or tablet, make sure that you keep that in an encrypted form.
Most renowned operating systems, including Windows and iOS, have built-in functions to encrypt the data that you store.
You can also invest in hardware-encrypted storage devices to secure your work-related data. It’ll also help you take backups of your important data regularly so it can be recovered in the event of data loss due to unforeseen circumstances.
Use a firewall/antivirus
Many cybercriminals create and implement malware and viruses to commit cybercrimes. Not only do they use them to corrupt data, but they can also use this strategy to steal your sensitive information, such as credentials of your freelance or payment account.
So, it makes sense to use a firewall and antivirus to detect and remove viruses and malware. Whether you’re using Windows, iOS, or Linux, you should enable a firewall and install a well-reputed antivirus solution on the computer that you use for freelancing.
Some of the best antiviruses available that you can use are Norton, McAfee, Bitdefender, and Kaspersky. These ones have integrated firewalls that will work as a second line of defense to protect your device from cyberattacks.
In addition, you should also use an antivirus app on your smartphone if you use it for work. According to statistics, 70% of people use antivirus on their computers, but only 24% of people have some sort of antivirus tool on their smartphones.
However, the same report suggests that viruses affect both computers and phones at similar rates. Therefore, you should use an antivirus app on your smartphone as well. All the antiviruses mentioned above have a smartphone app for both iOS and Android.
Send and receive payments only through trusted payment platforms
As a freelance designer, you’ll need to accept payments from clients located in different places. Make sure that you choose reputable payment platforms with a secure payment gateway for this purpose so that you can accept payments without a hassle.
Don’t make the mistake of moving your conversation and work out of the marketplace, such as Upwork and Fiverr, and don’t accept payment from an unknown platform. Be especially careful when using email or other messaging apps to chat with clients or to submit work. That’s because it’ll increase the risk of becoming a victim of a cyberattack and getting your credentials, design work, and even payment information stolen.
PayPal, Wise, and Payoneer are some well-reputed and trusted platforms that you can use. If you need to use a new platform, consider using the following tips to make sure it’s safe and secure.
- Research the platform: Look for reviews and ask for recommendations from other freelancers or business owners.
- Consider security: Read about the platform’s security measures to find out what protocols they’re using. Make sure that platform uses encryption, fraud protection, and two-factor authentication features.
- Understand fees and terms: Read and understand the fees associated with using a payment platform, as well as any terms and conditions.
It’s also advisable to offer clients multiple payment options, such as a credit card, debit card, online transfer, and bank transfer. This can make it easier for clients to pay you and can also help protect you in case one payment method is compromised.
Use protection when using public networks
Due to advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, hackers don’t really need to perform all the dirty work by themselves. Instead, they develop AI-powered bots that scour the internet to find vulnerable devices to break into.
Using a public network makes your device vulnerable and works as an open invitation for these bots. So, avoid using public networks whenever possible and set your device so that it doesn’t automatically connect to any public internet connection it finds.
But if you really need to use public hotspots, ensure your protection before connecting to them. The first thing that you should do is enable the firewall and double-check to see if your antivirus is running.
It’s also important to install a VPN tool, such as Surfshark, on your device. It’ll route your device’s IP address through a server located in some distant area to hide your physical location. It’ll make it harder for cybercriminals to reach back to your device.
In addition, a VPN will also encrypt your online data transmission to make it nearly impossible for hackers to steal sensitive information.
Keep your software updated
Keeping your software updated is an important step in protecting your personal and financial information online. Software updates include security patches that help protect your device from the most recent malware, viruses, and other types of cyber threats.
Here are a few tips for keeping your software updated:
- Keep everything up to date: Make sure to update all of your software, including your operating system, browser, antivirus, and any other programs you use regularly.
- Enable automatic updates: Many software programs have the option to enable automatic updates, which can help ensure that your software is always up to date.
- Check for updates regularly: If you don’t have automatic updates enabled, then check for updates regularly. You can usually do this through the software’s preferences or settings menu.
- Install updates quickly: Install updates as soon as they become available. This can help protect you from any potential security vulnerabilities.
Use strong passwords and manage them properly
Passwords work as the first line of defense to protect your freelance and payment accounts. Therefore, it’s vital to create strong passwords that can’t be broken.
Here are a few tips for creating and managing strong passwords:
- Create complex passwords: Complex passwords include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters, such as !, @, #, or $.
- Use long passwords: Longer passwords are stronger and more secure as compared to shorter ones. Therefore, you should aim for at least 12 characters if possible.
- Avoid using personal information: Don’t use personal information, such as your name, address, or birthdate, in your password.
- Use unique passwords for each account: Use a different password for each of your accounts to help prevent unauthorized access if one password is compromised.
- Use a password manager: A password manager, such as LastPass and Dashlane, can help you generate and store strong, unique passwords for all of your accounts and manage them in a single place.
- Enable two-factor authentication: Two-Factor Authentication, aka 2FA, requires an additional step, such as a code sent to your phone or an email, to log in to your accounts. This can help prevent unauthorized access, even if someone has obtained your password.
Manage access rights
Access rights management ensures that each person has access to only those resources that they need to perform their job effectively. It’ll come in handy if you’re working with a team of freelance designers.
Let’s suppose you have three different projects, A, B, and C, to work on, and you have stored data related to them in your cloud storage. Then, you create three different teams, X, Y, and Z, one for each project.
If team X is working on project A, they won’t need access to data of projects Y and Z. In such a scenario, you’ll need to manage access rights so that each team can view and use only the data they need.
If you work alone, then managing access rights will mean that you don’t share sensitive information of your clients and the credentials of your accounts with anyone. Only you need access to this information, and no one else should know anything about it.
Keep up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity threats/scams
It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity threats and scams to help protect yourself and your clients and stay ahead of potential threats.
Subscribe to newsletters
There are many newsletters and industry publications, such as Gartner and Security.org, that cover cybersecurity and provide updates on the latest threats and scams. Subscribing to these can help you stay informed and aware of what to look out for.
Follow cybersecurity experts
Many cybersecurity experts and organizations share updates and information about threats and scams on social media platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Following these accounts can also help you stay informed.
Participate in cybersecurity events and training
Attending industry events and conferences can provide an opportunity to learn about the latest threats and scams from experts and network with other professionals in the field. Plus, it’s also a good idea to participate in cybersecurity training programs.
It’ll help you stay up-to-date with the latest threats and scams and improve your knowledge and skills in the field.
Prioritizing cybersecurity is critically important to protect your work-related data as a freelance designer. While technological advancements have made it easy for us to work from home as freelancers, it has also opened many new doors for cybercriminals to commit crimes.
Keep yourself informed about online security and stay up to date with the latest security best practices to ensure that you are taking all necessary precautions to protect yourself and your clients.