One of the hidden dangers to being a freelancer is SECURITY. Personal internet security matters even more as a freelancer because of the types of connections we tend to use. Recently I’ve had to realign my security protocols to match the type of environment I work in. Initially my work was completed predominately from my own home office…which I have secured to the 1000th degree. I’ve been doing a good bit of traveling and realized I needed to make sure I had all of my security in check – not just in house stuff. Oh you didn’t know I have mad security skills? Well I do after working in IT for so long. Security has always been something I hold near and dear to my heart. At one of my previous day jobs I was in charge of catching hackers and internal staff who were stealing money. I’ve always had a nose for security breaches and I don’t ever let my guard down. I remember the first day working in an IT department, somehow the entire network ( over 10,000 pc’s ) got infected with a trojan. It was fun and I totally got a rush from trying to attack that bugger. I recently realized that once I became a freelancer, I let my guard down, and that was so not cool.
Flexibility is one of the reasons most of us decide to become a freelancer. As freelancers, we tend to work from remote places such as our home, our family members homes, the library or a cafe. We sometimes have our primary internet connection go down plus our back up ( this has happened to me a few times this winter). We have to find a connection fast and most likely this connection is not secure. Why should you worry? Because you are passing along your private information as well as your clients. Confidential information is no joke. You need to make sure you are following some type of security protocol at all times when using your computer/laptop/smart phone/iPad.
First, make sure your home wireless is secure. Do not leave the connection open. You need to be sure to have a few security precautions in place such as a very strong wireless key ( please don’t use your family’s last name or even worse, the word password! ). You should also setup your wireless router to only allow certain MAC addresses to connect to it. If you need help with any of this, I’d be willing to help you out for free. Just contact me!
Second, if you are working remotely from open Wi-Fi connections like the ones at Starbucks, McDonalds or the library, you need to do a few things. Look into making sure your firewall is turned on and the big thing is to use a VPN ( Virtual Private Network ) software to connect these open networks. I’ve always used OpenVPN but I’ve recently read about some changes to their structure so I want to check them out again as well as a few others. There are several free and open source VPN services out there and I’ve decided to review a few to see which I recommend these days. Stay tuned for a blog post on this within the next few weeks.
Another thing to look out for when connecting to open networks is be sure you are truly connecting to the Wi-Fi of the place you are at. There are people who setup their laptops as Wi-Fi hotspots in public areas with the hopes that you will be naive enough to connect to them. For example, if you are Starbucks, they will name their network Starbucks Free Connect. So when you go to connect you will see Starbucks Cafe free Wi-Fi and Starbucks Free Connect. What is the difference? One is a harmless although insecure connection to the internet and the other is a potential hacker trying to steal your information. How will you know? Here is a great article on PC World.com called Does Your Wi-Fi Hotspot have an evil twin?
Another amazing tip is to not share your passwords via email. This is huge. Recently I was conversing with a client through email and flat out asked her for a password. It wasn’t until she questioned it that I realized I had let my guard down. In my past life as a security office, I would have NEVER done that. If you must email usernames/password through email it’s best to encrypt the email ( more on this on another post ) or do it in code. I can’t go into examples on how to do that because well, it’s not secure! lol. Just be sure and think before sending any personal info across the internet. I am currently testing out LastPass as a viable option for sharing login information.
These tips can help you keep your guard up when working remotely. I hope to give you a few recommendations on Free VPN software to use within the next week or so. Don’t let your guard down and always keep the gate up. If you can secure it with a few guard dogs and some encryption, even better.
About Dani Mage
Dani Mage (Founder and CEO) is a writer and the imaginative brains behind Mage Creates. After working in the IT industry for over 8 years in a technical capacity she wanted to venture out on her own and see what kind of trouble she could get into. She was seeking the perfect balance of being practical and creative. Fueled by this desire, she left her cubicle behind and set up Mage Creates with the goal of providing services of both a technical and creative nature for all who needed them. Offering Creative Admin Consulting along with Design & Technology services – Mage Creates solutions for solopreneurs and creative small businesses.