Basic Security Tips Every Freelancer Should Follow
One of the more convoluted yet rewarding opportunities of as a freelancer is the freedom in your own schedule. This is especially true when working online, since most digital products may be created at any point from any computer. This means freelance writers, designers, and developers are constantly working towards a better means of communication.
At times this can lead to 3rd party solutions or even creating your own software out of desperation. But ultimately the largest goal should be security in your own accounts, and with your clients. In this article I want to discuss a few ideas on security which are geared towards freelancers. Although the Internet has become a much safer place over the years, there are still a lot of pitfalls to worry about.
Changing your Account Passwords
This can be a real challenge for some people who basically cannot stand major changes. I too often have a difficult time remembering to update my passwords every so often. But this is the greatest defense against nosy snooping eyes looking to gain access into your e-mail or social networks.
I think some of the bigger websites stand out as a larger target, such as Google or Apple. Both of these tech companies provide many services which all tie into a single account. Having any big-name account compromised means that a hacker/cracker may gain access to a number of vital services under your name.
There are some other lesser-important websites which you may still consider updating the passwords 2-3 times a year. I feel that creating new passwords is such an annoying task, and the memorization makes it that much worse. I recommend purchasing a few pads of sticky notes and use these to write down new passwords. Keep them around your desk for 1-2 weeks until you can memorize the new passcodes.
Handling Money in Private
The idea of mobile security doesn’t always stand out to me, and it feels like a lie in many ways. When out on your mobile smartphone or tablet it is common to access Internet via 3G/4G or through somebody else’s open wi-fi connection. This may provide enough to browse Facebook or Twitter, but I would advise against placing invoices or payments on your device.
These mobile hotspots are the perfect target for people looking to pick up on user passwords. And having somebody gain access to your online banking account is possibly much worse than somebody getting into your Facebook or Google. As a general rule of thumb I say avoid dealing with payments online whenever away from the house or office. Your home network will be that much more secure and trusted, so it is worth the wait.
Regular Data Backups
I cannot stress how important it is to manage copies of your data. This may include documents for invoices, spreadsheets, written articles, digital contacts, along with other important documentation. But your backups may also contain copies of your most important projects for past & current clients.
Think of putting together copies from your favorite websites, graphics, backend development, or even blog posts. There are so many various types of data any freelancer may be working with on a monthly basis. But the larger point is that hard drives do fail over time. These events are often slow yet insidious unless you are monitoring your HDDs regularly using SMART testing.
But even if you are checking the health of your drives, this doesn’t stop one from failing. There is no prevention from drives burning out aside from moving your data off and replacing them quickly. By making data backups a regular part of your routine, this becomes second nature in the event any of your hard drives actually fails. This would hopefully result in no permanent data loss and could be cleaned up fairly quickly.
In the past we have written about productivity tips for freelancers with some very positive reception. Many of these tips still apply today, and can also affect your general security. Getting work done on time means you will not be rushing through the workload. This also means you will have a clearer mind to be focusing on whatever tasks are at hand.
It is important for any freelancer to manage various projects at once without difficulty. I don’t recommend biting off more than you can chew, as this ultimately leads to unnecessary stress. But it is possible to be working with more than 2 people at a time. This will require a great deal of motivation along with a to-do list full of tasks you can actually follow. But in a lot of ways this can build a secure work environment through the communication alone.
You want to trust the clients you’re working with and communication is key. This level-headed communication may be meeting in person, chatting on the phone, or connecting through IM chat. These methods are all perfectly viable if you are cautious and aware of who is paying attention. Privacy is not always considered to be so important, but this is quite the understatement.
Updating Important Software
I would argue that none of your work can be fully secured unless you know there are no vulnerabilities in your work station. Now this doesn’t mean you need to be using the latest release of Windows or OSX. In fact I would argue against this since new releases are often riddled with bugs. However you should confirm that your current operating system is fully patched and running the latest release version, whatever that may be.
It is all too easy for some backdoor trojan or keylogger to sneak into your system without knowing. I would argue this can be the same case for your smartphone as well. Both Android and iOS are fairly newer operating systems having only been on the market 4-6 years at most. But smartphones are also locked away from downloading software other than the app marketplaces, so you do have less to worry about.
And even aside from cleaning up your computer system it’s also important to keep your websites up-to-date. Think of all the various CMS engines from WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, SMF, phpBB, and many others. It’s true that after finishing work for clients you are not responsible for keeping their websites clean. But when running your own websites it is crucial to ensure they are secure from any possible malware infections, or hackers looking to gain access into the administration panel.
This may not seem like it is as big a deal compared to other accounts being compromised. But you have to think about all the damage which could be done after gaining access to your website database(s). These may include your own personal e-mail addresses, usernames, contact information, and possibly md5 hashed passwords as well. These website updates do not take a long time, nor are they strenuous to deal with. Just be sure to log into your admin panel once every 2-4 weeks and pull down any new versions from out of date modules, plugins, or system core files. This should ensure your website is secured and protected from malicious threats.
There will always be people looking to exploit your accounts or gain access to your data online. This risk is very real, yet the hazard is generally lessened as more developers are able to publish new patches and security fixes. But this doesn’t mean we can all be lax about data entry and account information online.
I do hope these tips and ideas can stay with you throughout future project works. Security is often my #1 priority above all else, both with myself and with my clients. A true sense of security is often overlooked and undervalued in comparison to other traits. But following just a few of these tips should get you on the path to a much more stable work environment. If you have any comments or suggestions on the article feel free to share with us in the post discussion area.