The number of remote workers is on the rise. 36% of the U.S. workforce is currently freelancing and it is expected that, by 2027, freelancers will make up the majority of the workforce.
It’s easy to see why. The benefits afforded to remote workers and freelancers are abundant. Modern technology means that you can maintain a positive work-life balance. You can travel, raise a family, live off-grid or essentially do whatever you want to do with your time, thanks to your flexible job.
Yet, working remotely has its downsides, too. One important issue remote workers are confronted with is what to do about cybersecurity.
When you work in-house for a company, there are measures in place to protect you while browsing. There may even be a team of IT or cybersecurity pros responsible for protecting staff and digital assets. But as a remote worker, you alone are responsible for your cybersecurity.
On the one hand, there’s the risk of fraud or identity theft as a result of leaked or stolen data. You may also put your clients or employer at risk if you fail to secure your data and networks.
This issue will only become more prevalent in a society where remote work is the norm. Remote workers must familiarize themselves with cybersecurity best practices sooner rather than later.
STEP 1: Educate Yourself
Firstly, you need to know what kind of cybersecurity risks are out there. If you know how to spot suspicious emails, links or files etc. you’re less likely to be the subject of, say, a malware attack or phishing scam.
There are tons of resources available online that you can use to learn about present-day cyber risks. Coursera, Cyber Degrees and Future Learn, to name just a few of the many providers, have excellent online cybersecurity programs.
STEP 2: Separate Work and Play
Where possible, you should separate your devices for work and personal use. This way, if your personal laptop gets hacked, there’s no risk to the sensitive information you store for work purposes (because it’s on another computer).
Not everybody has access to multiple devices, however. If this is the case then you should at the very least use different accounts for work and personal activities. For example, you may wish to create multiple Windows user accounts and multiple Gmail accounts.
STEP 3: Use Cybersecurity Tools
There are many ways to monitor cybersecurity and encrypt your data. A VPN is probably the best solution for remote workers, in particular.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) changes your IP address to hide your identity and location. Furthermore, it encrypts your data so that nobody can intercept your passwords or view your browsing activity. Thus, it makes sense to use such an application because as a remote worker you may rent a desk or co-work in a public place.
A VPN may seem like a tool only reserved for the tech-savvy. But they are becoming increasingly popular among those who want to protect their privacy online for personal reasons, or unlock content on streaming sites, such as Hulu.
Tor is a free privacy tool you can use in combination with a VPN. Tor redirects your traffic through volunteer operated servers (nodes) and adds several layers of encryption to your traffic. However, Tor has a couple of negative points. The browser is sometimes slow. Plus, it doesn’t hide your IP address when torrenting or downloading items.
STEP 4: Steer Clear of Public Wi-Fi
Head into a coffee shop and you’re bound to see at least a couple of freelancers tapping away on their laptops. They are likely using the coffee shop’s wi-fi – 63% of remote workers access work files and emails on public wi-fi networks.
This isn’t safe unless you use a decent security tool, as mentioned previously. Anyone can access a public wi-fi network with the password from the barista. This means malicious individuals could intercept your connection. They can access your devices surreptitiously via the network, steal sensitive data and even take over your accounts.
Aside from using a security tool, you could use your mobile data to access anything work-related. Or get yourself a dongle to access the Internet privately.
Follow these simple steps to minimize cybersecurity risks to you and your employers. Especially if you access data in public places.