Working as a freelancer these days is more common than it has ever been. There was a time when freelancers were mostly self-employed professionals who blurred the lines between entrepreneurship and solo practitioners; in 2018, however, the landscape of American employment has been transformed by what has come to be known as the “gig economy.”

A 2017 longitudinal survey conducted by Intuit, the company behind the popular Quickbooks accounting software, revealed that more than a third of American workers are now employed as freelancers. Economist believe that this statistic will exceed 40 percent by the year 202, and it is prudent to assume that hackers are paying close attention to this trend.

Millions of freelancers rely on computer networking to ply their trades and earn a living; for most of them, connecting to Wi-Fi, wireless broadband, public hotspots, or even Bluetooth networks is something that they do so frequently that it becomes second nature. Hackers know that millions of American freelancers connect to Wifi home networks on a daily basis; it is for this reason that they should think about implementing the following information security practices:

Locking Down Home Routers

Even freelancers who rent an office or a shared workspace will eventually connect to Wi-Fi networks at home, and this is where hackers have been increasingly active in recent years. All self-employed individuals who connect to the internet from home should make sure that their routers are not the weakest link on their networks; to this effect, wireless signal encryption is a must. The authentication protocol should at least be WPA2, which became standard around 2007. Guest networks should not be enabled on the router used for business; a separate one can be set up for other household members. For added security, the router firmware should be updated.

Letting Professionals Install a Secure Network

Many attorneys and accountants who work with sensitive client data will not take chances when connecting to home networks; they prefer to let professionals take care of this issue. Local computer shops that also cater to business clients can set up secure networks in residential addresses. Depending on the level of security desired, an intrusion prevention system can be implemented along with a hardware firewall, and this service may not be as expensive as expected.

Using Virtual Private Networks

Connecting to online freelance platforms and remote systems through a VPN can provide considerable peace of mind. Should WPA2 be defeated through the carelessness of a third-party user or because a smart home automation device was left unsecured, hackers will not be able to snoop on VPN connections since the data traffic will be encrypted. Furthermore, VPNs installed in laptops or mobile devices can provide security when connecting to public networks such as at airports, train terminals or Starbucks.

Confirming the Security of Cloud Networks

Quite a few freelancers use public cloud platforms such as Dropbox and Microsoft Office 365 because they trust that these tech giants will do everything to keep their data safe. While this may be the case, it is better to take added precautions such as two-factor authentication and secure backups. Using 2FA is a must these days, and one of the best methods is to set up devices such as Yubi USB keys or a fingerprint reader. The idea is to always log into cloud networks with a 2FA challenge. As for secure backups, they may come at an extra cost, but it is certainly worth paying a few dollars per month for a subscription to Office 365, Dropbox or Google Business Suite.

In the end, freelancers have to acknowledge that the current cyber threat climate does not exclude them. If anything, cybercrime groups are aware that more home offices are being set up on a daily basis, and this expands the number of targets they can attack. Falling victim to a ransomware attack or network intrusion is something that no freelancer ever wants to face.