Cybersecurity is a hot topic for all freelancers in the modern business arena and should be considered a priority by all freelancers.
Whether you're just starting a secondary career as a moonlighter or it has been your main source of income for several years, there has never been a better time to evaluate your approach to staying protected online.
Here are just some of the key reasons you cannot afford to overlook cybersecurity for a second longer.
Cyberattacks increased across the board between 2017 and 2018. While ransomware grew 21% (1), malware, botnets, and web-based attacks all saw a spike of over 10%. Over a five-year period, the overall growth of cyberattacks stands at 67%. If that stat doesn’t encourage you to take control of the situation with immediate results, nothing will.
Criminal activities can impact freelancers in many forms, including but not limited to:
Cyberattacks pose varying degrees of danger, but freelancers should want to avoid them all. Considering how prevalent they are, paying extra attention to this part of the venture is essential.
Anyone that fails to do so will only have themselves to blame if they fall victim to an attack, not least because the number of viruses and attacks will only continue to climb over the coming years.
If the growing numbers of cyberattacks isn’t enough to warn freelancers about the need for solid cybersecurity, the changing approaches by cybercriminals certainly will.
As a freelancer, you may assume that your minor business activities are free from danger as a result of the rewards being too small to the fraudster. Sadly, this is a major misconception.
While the rewards may be smaller, the success rates are far higher for cybercriminals as they know freelancers and small businesses do not employ the same level of security as the global giants.
In fact, 43% of all cyberattacks (2) target small operations. Individuals working on a freelance basis are at huge risk too.
There is no solution that will stop cybercriminals from targeting freelancers and small businesses. Worse still, the continued success that they have ensures that many will continue to adopt this approach throughout the foreseeable future.
The best thing you can do, then, is take control of the situation by protecting yourself. Dismissing the threats could spell disaster.
First and foremost, you should want to incorporate strong protection online for the sake of your own interests. After all, it's likely that you rely on digital communications for a range of business assignments every single day.
However, you must also respect the legal obligation that you have in relation to confidential information, particularly that of clients.
The GDPR rulings came into effect back in May 2018 (3), affecting all freelancers that interact with EU citizens – even if they aren't within the European Union themselves.
Likewise, data protection laws across the United States, Australia, and other parts of the world need to be adhered. Failure to do so could leave you liable to face legal action because of allowing hackers to gain access to the data, especially if you did not comply with the latest standards.
While the legal obligations may feel like the most tedious reason for investing in better cybersecurity features, the reality of the situation is that getting these elements under control could save you from a nightmare while also reducing the damage should cybercriminals still find a way through the defensive barriers.
The fear of a cyberattack is bad. The reality of the situation is arguably even worse. Cybercriminals profit in excess of $1.5trillion (4) as a result of global cyberattacks but the losses for business and freelancers like you are even greater.
There are many contributing factors to consider when toting up the true costs of a cyberattack to your freelancing career, such as:
Furthermore, you may be forced into paying a ransom to recover systems or facilities. Most cybercriminals ask for this via crypto payments and other non-traceable elements, meaning you'll never see that money again. Depending on the type of attack, it may be necessary to replace hardware too.
As a freelancer, losing several thousands of dollars to the cybercriminal is simply beyond the remit of what you can afford.
It's the oldest phrase in the business manual, but time really is money. In addition to the direct impacts mentioned above, the simple knowledge that you haven't protected your personal business endeavours will come back to haunt you both consciously and subconsciously.
Every day hampered by the fear of a data breach is another day where you cannot unlock maximised efficiency.
Inadequate cybersecurity will distract you from the main business activities in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:
Even with this additional concern, it can take several weeks for you to identify a problem and a further 50 days (5) to report the data breach.
These damning stats feed into the financial and practical impacts caused by cyberattacks. When combined with the non-tangible damages that the distractions bring, you must not ignore cybersecurity any longer.
As already mentioned, the news of a cybersecurity breach will harm your reputation. And if you doubt this statement, think about the influence security problems have had for global giants like Facebook in recent years. Then factor in your relative lack of presence in the first place, and it's not hard to understand how clients may react to the news.
It is possible for Internet of Things devices to be attacked within just five minutes (6) of establishing a connection. However, the impacts can potentially last a lifetime.
Take 10 minutes to research freelancers and small companies that had to close their ventures as a direct consequence of cyberattacks and you'll soon understand why leaving yourself in a vulnerable position simply isn't an option.
As a freelancer, clients (and employers) are the lifeblood of the entire operation. If they cannot trust you – even as a result of your negligence rather than malicious intent – it's very unlikely that they will choose your services. The level of competition on the marketplace is greater than ever and if you give people a reason to opt for competitors, they will.
Recovering from the initial fallout of a cyberattack is very tough for a freelancer. Even if you do, though, you'll be weighed down by the consequences of the online threats for years to come.
Bad reviews, negative press coverage, and other unwanted attention come with the territory and it will harm your online presence due to SEO and other features.
Furthermore, if you fall victim to a data breach or cyberattack of any kind, people within your niche industry will talk. This bad reputation could hold you back for years as the damaged relationships will extend beyond your active clients to reach prospective clients and employers too.
Over 1 in 9 (7) attacks brings direct repercussions that last longer than two years, and the long tail costs will inevitably slow your progress as a freelancer too.
Many individuals and small companies invest vast amounts of time and money into their post-attack clean-ups. Frankly, preventing the damage in the first place is a far better solution for the immediate and long-term situation.
As a freelancer, you often must take a self-centred approach to your endeavours. When dealing with the realm of cybersecurity, though, it's important to remember that cyberattacks can impact everyone that you interact within a very big way.
Whether it's a data breach, downtime, or another situation doesn't matter. The fact that it'll impact everyone should further highlight the need to get this element under control.
Some of the people that could be affected by your inadequate approach to cybersecurity include:
When you tally up the damaged caused in relation to each of these people, it's clear to see how important cybersecurity should be considered. Cyberattacks occur every 39 seconds (8) and leaving yourself at risk puts all those other people at danger.
Similarly, if you do not invest in the right cybersecurity features, the damage caused by the mishaps of the people you interact with could spread to your systems too, which is another huge incentive to take control right away.
By now, it should be clear that cybersecurity is a focal feature of your freelancing career. Nevertheless, it's important to remember that it is used to protect your finances rather than build them.
To win more contracts and achieve great success in the fiercely competitive arena, it's essential that you master all other aspects covering your actual services as well as the marketing efforts. The online protection facilities will put you on the right track.
It is shown that two-thirds (9) of small businesses have suffered cyberattacks, and freelancers fall victim to a similar rate of online criminal activities. Putting the right systems in place significantly reduces the risks involved, and can have an indirectly positive impact on:
Consequently, then, good cybersecurity transcends the basic notion of protecting the business from a financial perspective. It will provide stunning results on a practical and functional level too.
There are many reasons for adopting increased cybersecurity as a freelancer. Crucially, though, you should also appreciate the fact that there is no excuse for ignoring it any longer.
While cybersecurity threats are greater than ever, it's also easier than ever to establish strong protection.
Dismissing simple ideas can put you at huge risk, as is underlined by the fact 40% of users (10) following poor password practices fall victim to password hacking. As well as avoiding the basic errors, freelancers should utilise anti-virus software, data encryption, two-factor authentications, and similar procedures.
The best software runs automatically, ensuring that you are always protected, while upgrading the operating system when prompted is a huge step in the right direction too.
There are many ways to protect yourself and the clients you work for. Once those winning practices are in place, you'll be suitably protected against all threats for years to come without the need for major maintenance.
Frankly, the days of ignoring cybersecurity need to be a thing of the past if you want to make it as a freelancer. For the sake of your finances, appeal to clients, and peace of mind, now is the time to make a change.
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