How to Tackle Data Privacy and Security Issues When Hiring Freelancers
Hiring freelancers is a very cost-effective way to scale a business, especially for startups and small businesses.
Not only does the booming gig economy allow companies to hire professionals at competitive rates, freelancers also cost significantly less to maintain than an in-house team. You don’t have to invest in a long-term office space, training, and benefits.
However, hiring freelancers to power your business does come with risks.
Since freelancers are most likely to work remotely, you can leave your organization vulnerable to a number of online threats. This includes digital eavesdropping, malware-infected devices, and unencrypted file sharing.
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In this post, we will discuss the top cybersecurity tips that will help you address the risks associated with remote work.
Using Virtual Private NetworksHiring freelancers won’t be so problematic if they don’t have the tendency to work through public WiFi networks.
Remember, hacking an open WiFi hotspot is child’s play for an experienced cybercriminal. The Key Reinstallation Attack or KRACK, for example, lets hackers to intercept communications through the network, decrypt information, and possibly inject malicious data into TCP streams.
Of course, you always have the option to prohibit freelancers from working out of public WiFi networks. Unfortunately, this could greatly limit the pool of freelancers you can choose from since a lot of them prefer working in coffee shops, hotels, and public libraries.
An effective solution is to use a VPN or Virtual Private Network that can mask a device’s IP address — keeping your freelancers protected against digital eavesdroppers.
Although VPNs are now widely used as a means of bypassing region-restricted content, they are originally designed to enable businesses to establish secure online connections with devices. They still fit this purpose well, particularly enterprise-grade VPN software.
Leveraging Two-Factor AuthenticationWhen working with freelancers, especially on web development projects, you are sometimes required to give them administrator access to your CMS or web hosting account.
It doesn’t matter if you use a VPN or not. If they get careless, their login credentials could fall into the wrong hands.
Their email address alone could pave the way for a brute force attack, which involves a tool that generates countless password guesses in an attempt to gain unauthorized access to any system. You also can’t rule out the possibility of device theft, which could grant hackers access to all your freelancer’s passwords and sensitive data.
A reliable way of combating unauthorized access is to go with services that offer two-factor authentication. This includes web hosting service providers, content management systems, and project management tools.
There are also third-party applications that enable two-factor authentication with various web services. Authy, for instance, can allow your freelancers to secure their accounts on Gmail, Facebook, and a number of online collaboration tools.
Website platforms like WordPress also support software add-ons or “plugins” that let you integrate two-factor authentication into your backend. A good number of these tools can also be used for free without any significant restrictions on their functionality.
Using Smarter Password SharingAnother way to securely collaborate with freelancers online is to utilize smarter password sharing.
Keep in mind that a stolen password, particularly for an email account, can lead to a domino effect that can grant hackers full control over your digital ecosystem. While freelancers probably will never gain possession of an account with maximum access privileges, hackers can still capitalize them for ransomware attacks.
That’s why you can’t just casually share passwords and other sensitive details — regardless if you trust the person on the receiving end.
Instead of sharing information over by email or chat, you can implement the use of password managers like LastPass and Dashlane. These can let your freelancers use your login credentials without actually revealing the passwords to them.
Password sharing tools also encourage freelancers to act more responsibly when it comes to login credentials.
You may be surprised how many people, including professionals, have hilariously unsafe password habits.
Studies have shown that some of the most popular passwords include basic strings of text like “qwerty,” “12345,” “password,” and “123456.” Moreover, up to 73 percent of all online accounts share reused passwords by the same user.
Bringing password hygiene to the attention of a freelancer upon hiring is a step in the right direction. But with a password sharing tool, you don’t have to leave the security and integrity of your systems in their hands.
Dashlane, for example, offers to generate strong passwords whenever they reach an account creation page. These passwords include a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters as well as numbers — something that even the account owners themselves will struggle inputting manually.
Using Encrypted Messaging ToolsEffective communication is a primary concern when working with freelancers.
These are tools are armed with security features that can protect you against cybercriminals.
For example, apart from the powerful end-to-end encryption in place, Telegram also allows you to send messages with self-destruct timers that irreversibly purges all the information sent. It also has built-in two-factor authentication that utilizes one-time passcodes sent via SMS.
With an encrypted messaging tool in hand, you can send files and share sensitive information with confidence. These tools also offer free plans that allow you to take advantage of their robust security features without spending a dime.
Getting More than Cybersecurity TipsWhile a remote workforce could be a small organization’s most valuable asset, they could also be their biggest cybersecurity risk.
The cybersecurity tips above should be more than adequate to keep your business safe from hackers even with dozens of freelancers at your disposal. Just remember, when it comes to cybersecurity, you can never be too prepared.
Always seek more opportunities to bolster your online security. If you have other suggestions or would like to ask questions, feel free to leave a comment below.