Cyber crime is something we need to worry about. So we need to learn some cyber security tips, because we need to learn to protect ourselves!
You might remember that I related what happened to me in A True Story of a Computer Scam and How to Avoid It Happening to You. However, this is only ONE instance of the type of crime that is out there.
Today my guest (who you have met before when she offered some tax tips to freelancers) has many tips for us about how to protect ourselves from cyber crime and how to increase our cyber security.
Be sure to read the whole article. Her tips are amazing!
Cyber Crime and Data Theft
For self-employed individual freelancers and small business owners, remaining financially secure and finding success is a balancing act. It can be hard enough for new entrepreneurs and freelancers to balance the books without unexpected expenses cropping up. Cyber crime and data theft are lurking dangers that could have indirect and direct financial costs on your organization.
According to a fraud and cyber crime infographic, Is Your Business Ready for the Next Man Made Disaster, created by Boston University, 45% of US businesses experienced some type of fraud over a two year period. Of the businesses that reported fraud, 44% reported cyber crime and 19% reported intellectual property theft had occurred in the last two years.
Boston University Online ~ source
Due to the number of cyber-attacks that United States businesses experience every year, it’s vital that all freelancers and business owners set up cyber security measures to prevent data theft.
Cyber Crime Comes in Many Different Forms
What exactly will criminals be targeting? What should you be concerned with protecting?
The following are a list of potential areas that might be targeted by cyber criminals:
- Credit card, social security, addresses, phone numbers, and medical information of clients or customers
- Schematics for products or the products themselves (if they are digital).
- Theft of sensitive information about the company.
- Hijacking of a computer network or website.
Cyber Crime Fallout
Why does cyber crime matter to small businesses and freelancers? The aftermath of a successful data breach can have far reaching legal, financial, and brand management consequences.
There are many potential legal fall-outs of a data breach:
- Lawsuits from consumers or customers (class action lawsuit)
- Lawsuits from financial institutions for exposing customer information.
- Lawsuits from shareholders for breach of duty.
- Lawsuits from employees.
- Lawsuits from the federal government, state government, or federal trade commission for not meeting security standards (HIPPA Standards and cyber crime reporting rules).
Smaller companies and independent freelancers, due to their the smaller pool of data, employees, and clients have a lower chance of facing litigation, but it should still be something that companies guard against. Even when you don’t face potential litigation, the cost of a breach can be too high for many smaller businesses and freelancers.
The financial fallout can include:
- Hours spent assessing the extent of the damage.
- Expense of hiring an IT guys to help you diagnose and fix the breach.
- Time and money spent reporting the breach to customers and regulators.
- Time wasted due to vital data loss and unwanted encryption of systems.
- Time wasted and work halted due to inability to access your network or website due to hackers locking you out.
- Extortion demands to regain access to your site, network, or information.
In the aftermath of a data breach, customers and clients affected by the breach might lose some faith in your ability to ensure the safety of their own private information. In order to manage the brand fall-out, self-employed individuals should pro-actively tighten security, help clients where you can, and make it clear that the gaps in your security are now filled.
Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Prevention
The best defense to prevent cyber crime is to proactively enact a variety of protections and safe guards to promote a safe and secure workplace. You can start decreasing the chances of a cyber crime and increasing your cyber security by:
- Ensuring you and all employees utilize complicated and unique passwords that are changed regularly.
- Never sharing passwords with other employees, clients, or friends.
- Not leaving computers with sensitive information on and unattended.
- Not carrying sensitive information on a laptop that might be stolen.
- Periodically deleting files with sensitive information from computers if they aren’t necessary.
- Not accessing the businesses network on an unsecure device.
- Encrypting folders with sensitive information on devices.
- Encrypting emails that contain sensitive information.
- Purchasing encrypted USB drives and external hard drives to store information.
- Ensuring employees are familiar and stick to security protocols.
- Ensuring that any vendors utilized that have access to your accounts have stringent security measures.
- Scrubbing all information from old computers and devices before selling, trashing, or sending them in for recycling.
- Conduct yearly analysis of the current state of the business’s cyber security.
Cyber security is important for all self-employed individuals. Failure to maintain a safe line of defense could have far reaching financial, legal, and brand consequences. It’s vital for the financial stability of your company that you create robust security protocols.
After all, you don’t want to get sued, do you?
Connect with Samantha Stauf on Twitter (@SamStauf).