5 Security Tips For A Safe Freelance Design Career
Have you considered exploring freelance graphic design work? As a budding creative professional, you may be eager to build your portfolio and connect with clients online. However, diving into the freelance world exposes you to risks requiring vigilance.
Though the flexibility and freedom of freelancing are enticing, you'll be navigating unfamiliar waters filled with potential scams, data breaches, and cybersecurity threats. Your devices, identity, and work could all be vulnerable if you don't take the proper precautions.
Don't let fear stop you from pursuing your passion. With some basic online security measures in place, you can start your freelance graphic design career safely. Follow these five essential security tips to protect yourself to focus on doing your best creative work.
5 Essential Online Security Tips
1 – Keep your eye out for employment scams
Unemployment remains painfully high in 2023, with millions of Americans out of work despite a modest economic recovery. This has created fertile ground for employment scams that prey on the desperate and vulnerable. According to the Better Business Bureau, victims lose around $2 billion yearly to job and employment scams.
While these scams come in many forms, there are some common red flags to watch out for:
- The opportunity seems too good to be true. Scammers frequently impersonate well-known companies and offer remarkably high salaries or incredible benefits to lure in targets. If it seems unrealistic, it probably is.
- They ask for money upfront. Scammers will often require payment for training programs, certifications, equipment, or background checks before hiring you. This is a huge red flag, as you will likely never see that money again. Legitimate employers do not charge applicants.
- They push for quick decisions. Scammers try to rush you into accepting the job and handing over money before you have time to vet the opportunity thoroughly. High-pressure tactics are a clear sign of a scam.
- It's an unsolicited offer. If you receive a job offer out of the blue that you didn't apply for, proceed with extreme caution. Scammers use these bogus offers to harvest personal information from applicants.
Employment scams are rising as the economic recovery continues to sputter in 2023. Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true, refuse to send money to prospective employers, and thoroughly research any unsolicited opportunities. With vigilance, you can avoid becoming another victim.
2 – Always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Online security is more important than ever in today's world of remote work and digital nomadism. Whether you're working from home, a coffee shop, or a beachfront cabana, there are risks when your office extends beyond the traditional workplace. One of the most significant vulnerabilities comes from using public WiFi networks which can easily expose your data to hackers.
When you connect to an open WiFi network with a name like “Free Airport WiFi” or “Hotel Lobby”, there is often no encryption on the connection. This allows hackers to quickly perform “man-in-the-middle” attacks where they infiltrate the network and collect information passing through. Any unsecured data like emails, documents, or login credentials can be intercepted and stolen right out from under you.
The best way to secure your remote work is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all network traffic and routes it through a private server, preventing prying eyes from accessing your data. Whether video conferencing over Zoom, accessing company files, or browsing online, a VPN will keep you safe.
A bonus of using a VPN is bypassing geographic restrictions and accessing content worldwide. For example, connecting to a VPN Canada server will allow you to view shows or websites exclusively available in that country. The same goes for VPN servers in the UK, Japan, or anywhere else around the globe.
So, use a trusted VPN service no matter where your remote office happens. It provides essential protection and flexibility for today's distributed workforce. The technology keeps your data secure and lets you work and browse the web privately from anywhere.
3 – Beware when screen-sharing
What began as idle trolling amid COVID-19 lockdowns has become a menace to remote design teams. “Zoom-bombing” is when an uninvited individual crashes your business's Zoom meeting to watch or disrupt your calls.
Sometimes, the intruder has taken advantage of Zoom's screen-sharing capabilities to broadcast pornography. While most Zoom bombers are internet trolls, a corporate spy could as easily infiltrate your calls to steal sensitive data.
For these reasons, freelancers and businesses must keep their meeting details private. Understanding how people can Zoom-bomb your next meeting can also help to ensure solid safeguards for your next work meeting.
4 – Back up to the cloud
The dream of working remotely from an exotic destination is exciting but comes with some risks. While the flexibility and freedom of working anywhere are huge perks, you must be vigilant about protecting your belongings and sensitive data. Unfortunately, petty theft targeting tourists and remote workers is common in many destinations. Losing a laptop, phone, or external hard drive could mean losing valuable work files and client information. This kind of data breach can be highly costly to a remote business.
If you choose to work remotely, it's essential to have robust cybersecurity practices in place. Physical backups using external hard drives or flash drives are incredibly risky if stolen or lost. Encrypted cloud-based backup services are the only secure way to back up sensitive business and client data. Cloud backups store your files securely on remote servers rather than locally on your devices. This means your data remains protected even if your devices are lost, damaged or stolen.
Cloud backup services like Carbonite, Backblaze, Acronis and IDrive offer features like automatic daily backups, multi-factor authentication, private encryption keys, remote wipe capabilities and unlimited storage. Their data centres have enterprise-grade security protections in place. Your backups are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, so you can quickly restore files if needed.
Don't let concerns about data security derail your remote work dreams. You can work confidently by leveraging cloud backup services, knowing your important files are safe. Focus on finding that perfect work-life balance in an inspiring destination, and let cloud backups do the heavy lifting of keeping your business data secure. The peace of mind is well worth the reasonable monthly subscription cost.
5 – Practice cyber hygiene
Good “cyber hygiene” is essential for anyone online, whether for work or personal reasons. This may seem obvious to some, but it's important enough to bear repeating.
Cyber hygiene refers to the steps every internet user should take to keep their devices, accounts and data safe and secure. As cyber threats become more sophisticated, strong cyber hygiene is no longer optional – it's necessary.
Some essential cyber hygiene practices that everyone should follow include:
- Using robust cybersecurity programs. Install antivirus software, firewalls, anti-spyware and other protective programs. Keep them updated regularly. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when accessing public WiFi networks.
- Creating strong, unique passwords. Don't use obvious or easy-to-guess passwords. Use a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Consider using a password manager to generate and store secure passwords.
- Keeping software updated. Always install the latest security patches and updates for your operating systems, browsers, apps and other software. These often contain vital security fixes.
- Enabling multi-factor authentication. Go beyond passwords by adding another step to log into accounts, such as entering a code from an authentication app or phone. This adds an extra layer of protection.
- Being wary of links/attachments. Don't click links or download attachments from unverified or suspicious sources. This could expose you to phishing scams or malware.
- Using caution on public WiFi. Don't access sensitive info or accounts on public networks. Use a VPN or your phone's cellular data instead.
- Backing up data regularly. Copy essential data and files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. This safeguards you against loss.
Staying secure online does require more vigilance these days. But following cyber hygiene best practices can give you peace of mind that you're doing everything possible to avoid cyber threats. Taking these steps means you can use the internet with confidence.
The world is undoubtedly moving towards more flexible and location-independent work arrangements. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work, and many companies are embracing hybrid or fully remote policies even as offices reopen. This shift presents an exciting opportunity for freelance designers and other remote workers – you can now travel the world without compromising your ability to meet deadlines and maintain a consistent income.
As a digital nomad, you can explore new places while working from your laptop. You can collaborate with clients and teammates from anywhere with a reliable internet connection, project management tools, and secure online systems. While travel opens up new experiences, keeping cybersecurity in mind is vital. Follow best practices like using a VPN, enabling two-factor authentication, and being cautious of public WiFi networks. Additionally, have a plan for handling work if your devices are lost or stolen.
The remote work revolution empowers location-independent lifestyles for freelancers. With proper precautions, you can stay safe and productive online. So work can now be an adventure – take advantage of this new world while protecting your business and data. The possibilities are open for freelance designers and other remote professionals in 2023 and beyond.