More and more workers are punching their time cards at home, a trend that puts a focus on the security of home internet as a work network.
A recent study counted and categorized the segment of American workers, called freelancers, who’ve found a replacement or complement to the traditional 9-to-5. The study, by Intuit president Brad Smith and Emergent Biosolutions, showed 34% of American workers have taken freelance jobs. Forecasters predict that number will grow by nearly 10% in the next three years.
These freelancers are the backbone of the new gig economy, a labor landscape that includes short-term contracts in place of full-time employment. This shifting workforce brings with it a fresh set of challenges – not the least of which is securing a home network and workspace.
Prefer something more tangible? Download the step-by-step checklist for securing your home office here.
Whether you’re in it to make ends meet or socking away funds for an adventure, securing your home network is an essential piece to life as a freelancer. We’ll show you how – and give you additional tips for successfully working from home and remotely.
1. Protect your home Wi-Fi network
A hacker hitting your Twitter account from your home network is one thing. A cybercriminal accessing sensitive client data because your home network isn’t secure? That’s a whole new set of problems. With a few simple steps, you can lock down security on your home Wi-Fi.
2. Use a Virtual Private Network
WPA2 protection encrypts your data so it’s difficult to intercept and decipher over the internet. But, this is the minimal measure of protecting your data and internet signal. On the other hand, a VPN protects the connection between networks. Your device behaves as if it’s on the same local network, eliminating the threat of intercepted data.
Patrick Barry is CIO of the cyber security firm Rebyc Security, based in Charlotte, N.C. He suggests using a VPN to account for security vulnerabilities in today’s consumer-grade wireless devices.
A VPN creates a safe channel for data transport by requiring authentication through passwords and unique ID methods for access. This is extremely helpful since the internet is an unsecured network.
Businesses use them to connect employees from remote locations without moving data on public networks, where it can be intercepted.
3. Know how to protect and store your files
Before the internet, critical files went into a locked filing cabinet. Virtual storage has opened up space in your home office, but can subject those files to virtual threats. And, cybercriminals are no longer exclusively targeting corporate computer networks.
Identity Theft Resource Center research revealed that in 2016, hackers keyed on smaller targets, opting for:
- Cloud architecture
- Mobile devices
- Wireless medical devices
While a filing cabinet has perhaps two keys to grant access, your network files have multiple portals and vulnerabilities. Hackers could intercept data in the cloud, through stolen or compromised mobile devices, and even through wireless medical devices.
Identify your most sensitive data, including how long you’ll have access to it, how long you’ll need to store it, or if you’ll collaborate with others on it.
Whole-Disk Encryption is a process by which data is converted into code for transfer or storage on a USB drive or other portable device. It can be accessed only with a passphrase.
What’s the difference between cloud storage or cloud backup?
They’re both talked about as being in the cloud. Yet, they’re quite different. When we think of cloud computing, we imagine something out there, up there, out of sight. (Actually, data stored in the cloud is on the ground, in a data storage facility with lots of computers lined up.)
Cloud backup and cloud storage are different concepts and functions. The difference:
4. Protect your equipment
Depending on your craft, you could have equipment such as computers, scanners, mobile devices and sandwich presses. (Mobile sandwich delivery sounds like a great freelance gig to us.)
Here are ways to protect those assets:
Against damage and destruction
- Insurance is vital, whether costs for tools of the trade come out of your pocket or on the company’s dime. Usually, that responsibility falls to the freelancer, whom the contractor assumes comes with equipment they need to get the job done.
Consult your homeowners insurance company about a Personal Articles Policy. Computer equipment is usually covered, and coverage can cover cost of replacement, whether it’s lost or damaged at home or on the road, and usually without a deductible.
Against power surge
- Plugging in any work equipment without a power surge protector is asking for trouble. Be sure you buy a surge protector and not just a power strip. They look alike, but only one will safeguard against an electrical current that could damage or destroy electronics.
Make sure you get enough ports to support your equipment. Some protectors have as many as 12. Check for the Underwriters’ Laboratories seal (UL), and that it’s an actual ‘transient voltage surge suppressor.’
5. Stay on task and remain vigilant
Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemy. Just because you’re in the comfort of your own home, don’t let your guard down. From malicious links and other malware threats to mistakes when you toggle between your personal and work Twitter accounts, a little accountability goes a long way.
Work vs. personal time
When you’re on the clock, be on the clock. Try to isolate times you check personal email and social media to when you’re not in work mode.
Use secure passwords
We know better than to use PASSWORD on Facebook, What about for work? Try a random password generator for work-related material and access.
Beware of evil links
Corporate antivirus game is usually strong, but why take a chance? Don’t click on suspicious links while you’re working, especially if you have work programs open.
Going the extra mile(s)
Douglas Harris works remotely for a technology company in Louisville, Kentucky. Protocol for file and network protection for him is extensive. His network and file protection is described below, and this is becoming the norm for telecommuters and freelancers granted access to a company’s digital assets.
ANTIVIRUS | Kaspersky for audio/video software.
FIREWALLS | On the router, broadband modem and AV software.
LAPTOP | Secured by password, sensitive files password-protected, WPA2-PSK encryption on wireless connections.
PUBLIC BROADBAND | Forbidden, encrypted or not. Use a wireless card for email and internet on the road.
6. Get paid. Seriously.
Do you have a payroll department with a dedicated collections arm? Great. You’re set. If not, read on. It’s tough when you have to do the work – and also manage a system for payment.
Play it safe for your ledger by following these three steps:
Be sure to use a secure password for your PayPal or other e-commerce portals, and access your account only when you’re on a secured network.
Streamlining the payment process
Personal development coach Christina Moubarak runs a successful business at home and remotely. She suggests these steps to make getting paid easier as a freelancer.
DOWN PAYMENT | Ask for half now, a quarter when you’re halfway done, and full payment with the deliverable. “If they are not local, they have to pay half up front,” says Moubarak. She waives that stipulation for referrals and local clients.
INVOICE | Send them out promptly. Decide which methods of payment you’ll accept, and be sure they can accommodate. Send it directly to accounting. The longer it bounces around the office, the longer it takes for payday to arrive.
Go forth and be free(lancing)
There you go. Follow these six easy steps for a safer freelance life, from your electrical current to your home Wi-Fi network. Freelancing has its uncertainties, but a growing percentage of Americans are making more of a living doing it.
Safe online and home internet practices can help you channel energy to your work and growing your business.
[Don’t forget your step-by-step checklist for securing a home office. Download it here]