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5 Cyber Security Risks Every Freelancer Must Avoid While Working With Foreign Clients

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5 Cyber Security Risks Every Freelancer Must Avoid While Working With Foreign Clients

This article outlines five of the top cybersecurity risks that development freelancers should be wary of with foreign clientele.

· Security Zone ·
Free Resource

Losing any kind of confidential data is a high-risk security concern for all businesses. Especially people who run online businesses, or most commonly freelancers, often find themselves in situations where they are required to share private information, such as medical records and credit card information with their respective foreign clients. This private information, if compromised, can have catastrophic consequences on businesses and freelance careers, both from legal and publicity point of views.

This is why safeguarding their online presence and business from external entities is one among the top priorities for every freelancer. Protecting their confidential data from foreign clients is one of the first cybersecurity strategies they adopt for ensuring data protection in the long run.

Fortunately, today we have several mitigation strategies and client data protection tips in place. When fully utilized, these can help in safeguarding confidential information from all potential security threats.

5 Cyber Security Risks Freelancers Face and Ways to Avoid Them

1) Social Engineering

Given the modern nature of attacks and attackers, the most common way of falling prey to malware/virus attacks is through social engineering. Social engineering is a relatively new technique that attackers use to lure freelancers and businesses into giving away their confidential information. This can be carried out in the form of emails, fake downloads, website cookie exploitation, and most common yet vulnerable, phishing links.

In 2016, a one-time internet and mailing giant, Yahoo. reported multiple security breaches. Altogether, more than a billion user accounts were compromised over a span of 3 years (2014-2016).

How to Avoid It

It is to be noted that social engineering only works when someone from the inside is tricked into revealing confidential information. While antivirus and antimalware software can be useful to a limited extent, the most crucial method to deal with social engineering risk is through effective training. Freelancers working with foreign clients must be aware of the potential threats and they must educate themselves about the many ways in which their private information and work can be at risk. They must be able to differentiate outside attacks and must know the means to react to suspicious mail requests or fake invitations. The most effective way to avoid social engineering attacks is to be aware of the potential weak points and being able to identify malicious sources.

2) Viruses, Trojan, Spyware, and Other Malware

Malware are dangerous software that can malign your computer and corrupt its contents permanently. Similarly, viruses are malicious programs or pieces of code that can potentially alter the way your system operates. These codes can insert themselves into other active programs and hence, modify applications, encrypt files, and cause all kinds of breach and malfunction.

Over the last few years, there have been multiple attacks planned on IoT devices, given to the nature of widely connected networks. With multiple devices connected over different cloud networks, there is an increased risk of intrusive spyware and virus attacks.

How to Avoid

Freelancers on the internet can stay ahead of such risks by enabling effective firewalls and by deploying good antivirus/antimalware protection programs. Both firewalls and antivirus programs will scan your system for unauthorized programs, usually tracking them down using their typical features. These threats might have entered via third-party client links or emails. In fact, a good antivirus software can timely detect suspicious websites/links and provide warnings regarding giving away any sensitive information.

3) Accessing Unauthorized and Sensitive Data

Freelancers are often working with different clients simultaneously. While working on multiple projects, managing and protecting your confidential client data becomes even more challenging, and at the same time very important. Imagine a tired employee’s mistake resulting in confidential data being compromised. One of the easiest ways to avoid this is by monitoring the access rights for different people based on requirements. When there are fewer unauthorized websites/links that a person can access, they are indirectly safeguarding their sensitive data on the internet.

In 2018, New York-based video messaging company Dubsmash acknowledged theft of user information, which was later put on for sale on the internet. The company chose not to disclose the means of theft, however, they urged users to change their passwords. 

How to Avoid It?

Deploying a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the most practical methods of ensuring that your foreign client data does not fall into the wrong hands. VPNs are carefully designed to protect your data while delivering it over a public or shared network. It converts data into data packets, which gets encrypted and transferred along with a header consisting of its own routing information. For instance, Switcherry is a fast-growing and innovative VPN that does not store any record of your visited website nor save log files. It also doesn’t saturate you on daily or monthly traffic as they have tons of secured servers that constantly update to avail fast and reliable connection. Similar to other VPNs like NordVPN, and Express VPN, It also masks the user’s IP address, hence protects the users from all kinds of cybersecurity threats. But here is a tweak, unlike other VPNs, Switcherry allows you to have a complete ads-free experience as it comes with pre-installed ad-blockers and doesn’t let you download a separate App to block hefty ads. 

4) Ransomware

A ransomware attack is another common problem faced by freelancers while working on projects with both native as well as foreign clients. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts and blocks your sensitive data once it gains access into the device. This stolen data is then held hostage and meanwhile, demand for a hefty ransom is made. In some of the worst cases of such attacks, the attackers have threatened to make the sensitive data public unless their demands are fulfilled. Ransomware attacks not only pose a threat to private data, but rather it also causes loss of reputation, money, and most importantly, future business from potential clients. In the past, many sectors were seen falling prey to ransomware attacks.

In 2017, we witnessed one of the most gruesome ransomware attacks, commonly known as WannaCry.

How to Avoid It

While ransomware attacks can be largely avoided through the use of antivirus software and firewalls, one of the most effective yet commonly ignored methods is backing up of all sensitive data. When compromised, a freelancer would still have access to all the information he needs and this would in turn give him a position of authority over the attackers. Most importantly, having a well-researched Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) is another method to avoid ransomware attacks.

5) Unpatched/Out of Data Software

With the pace at which technology is advancing, freelancers and online businesses often find themselves updating their software and hardware components from time to time. This is because old software and unpatched systems are more vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks, primarily given to their sophisticated nature.

To date, it is believed that the WannaCry ransomware attack broke out as a result of unpatched software, infecting systems and businesses across more than 150 countries worldwide. A few months before the attack took place, software giant Microsoft rolled out a new patch to undo a known weakness in their computers. People who fell prey to the WannaCry attack were those who did not install this security patch in their Windows systems, which in turn made their networks and computers vulnerable.

How to Avoid It

Having understood what patches are and how they protect computers and sensitive information, one of the most common ways to avoid this risk is by updating all software, hardware components, and programs, as and when required. With cybersecurity attacks becoming more sophisticated than ever, freelancers and online businesses must adopt defensive strategies and tools to ensure that their systems and sensitive information are protected at all times.

Topics:
cyber security, freelance, security, security risks, web development

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