Online safety for freelancers

The other day I saw a video on the internet, a little by accident really, on the international convention for hackers. A TV reporter tried to find out how easy it is to hack into a system and retrieve information on him. Well, it’s enough to say that it didn’t take long before they had everything on him, and I mean everything. There wasn’t anything that they couldn’t get. Basically they could make him homeless and penniless within minutes. They could probably put him into prison if they really wanted. This got me thinking and frankly scared me a little.

I know that I and probably a huge majority of people I know don’t have the skill nor the knowledge to protect ourselves 100%, but I guess there are ways to make it a little bit more secure. I don’t think I will ever be a target for hackers as they are usually after money and there are so many people who are more attractive targets than I am. Even though, I started thinking of ways to make myself safer online and I thought I will share it with others in case you wanted to know.

Some of the steps are obvious, others not necessarily.

  1. Keep your passwords less predictable
    If you are asked to use a capital letter, don’t capitalised the first one. The same goes with the symbols, when you are asked to use a symbol you would probably use an exclamation mark! Use a different symbol, add some numbers and capital letters. Also don’t make the actual password too obvious. If somebody can ask you a simple question and your password is the answer to it, you should change it. So anything that is your pet’s name, date of birth and an exclamation mark needs to go. Sorry.

    This may be a bit tricky but try not to use the same or similar passwords for all the sites. I know that we sign up for so many things that it will be difficult or impossible but try to keep different passwords, not connected to each other, for the important websites; emails, banks, phone company, etc.

  2. Once you post it it’s out there – personal details
    It may seem quite obvious but you should not put any personal details out there. It may be difficult for freelancers as we want people to find our contact details really easy so they can contact us with work. Also our clients and agencies have our bank details. I hope I don’t need to mention posting unprofessional comments or pictures online if you use the same name for your personal and professional social media. Keep your profiles separate by using a different, unconnected usernames for private and professional accounts.
  3. Don’t open e-mails if they look suspicious and never open an attachment in an e-mail you’re not sure about
    As translators we usually know when something is a bit fishy as we’ve received so many e-mails from “agencies” and scammers. However, it is also worth remembering that these emails can imitate an email from our friends and family.
  4. Watch out for phishing scams
    Phishing e-mails look like genuine messages from existing companies, whether a shop that you go to, a bank or PayPal. What is more, they also look legitimate and ask you for your personal information. It looks like you are on the genuine website but you are really giving your details on a platter to a hacker. In such e-mail you will usually find a link to click.Do. Not. Click.If you want to check the information in the email, type the actual website into the browser so that you go to the genuine website, Do not copy the link in the email as this may be fake and actually link to the phishing site. Remember that nobody would ever ask you to give them your password.
  5. Keep your private and professional life separate
    We should have separate professional and personal e-mail and social media accounts. If one gets hacked, the other should be safe. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  6. Disable file sharing when you use a public WiFi
    Some of us like working in public places from time to time. Sometimes we may be forced as there may be a power cut, the internet not working or any other reason for you to have to go somewhere else to work. If you don’t disable file sharing option, you may be running the risk of anybody connected to the same network sharing your files.You can change this setting in Control Panel > Network and Internet > Network and Sharing Centre.
  7. Ensure you use a secured website
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    We all have seen the little lock symbol in the browser. It shows you that this website is securely encrypted and you can use it when you login to your bank or enter any other sensitive data. These URLs begin with https:// and not http://.
  8. Use a good anti-virus software
    I don’t think this is something we should save on. I’m not an expert and I haven’t done the comparison, but it seems to me that if you need to pay for something, it gives you a better security than free software. Anyway, you need to have some sort of anti-virus software on your computer.
  9. Don’t click on pop-ups
    Just ignore them, especially when they ask you for some information. Remember they may sometimes look like a system pop-up. It doesn’t mean though that it is genuine. The system shouldn’t really ask you for any sensitive data.

There you go, these are the basic steps you can take in order to protect yourself a little bit better. Since I’ve learnt that a web camera can be turn on remotely by somebody else and they can watch you, I have mine covered if I don’t use it. For 99% nobody would ever do that but somehow I didn’t feel quite comfortable with the knowledge that somebody could do that.

The chances of us being targeted by hackers in a way they would harvest all the possible information and make you homeless are quite small, probably the same as being beaten up on the street, however it is better to be safe than sorry.