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Web Security Tips for Freelance Writers: How to Keep Your Content Safe

The following is a guest post by freelancer Kim DeLisle for Secure Thoughts.

Being a freelancer myself, I know that it can be both a very positive and negative experience.

The positive is that freelancing can be a very rewarding opportunity that allows you to work remotely from the comfort of your own home. The negative side is that there tends to be a lot of scammers floating around on the net, including on some of the more popular freelance sites.

If you’re not careful, you could end up wasting your time completing a job for someone who either has no intention of paying you at all or is just looking to scam you out of some of your personal information or money. The main thing that you need to learn, whenever you’re using the internet for anything, is how to keep both yourself and your gadgets protected. If your device connects to the internet, it needs to be secured.

Is Your Computer Secure?

Thankfully, most computers are secured these days. They come with virus-protection software installed. And whle we can argue the merits of if it’s good or not, at least you start off in a “secure environment,” because using an unsecured computer is like putting a big red target on your data.

Internet Security Tips for Freelance WritersYou leave yourself open to viruses, hackers and malware, which could ultimately wipe your files clean, crash your computer, and/or even steal your identity. To prevent something such as this from happening, here are a few internet security tips.

Your Software Matters

As I said before, it’s not uncommon for computers to come with anti-virus programs already installed, but if you didn’t want to pay for the program after the free trial is up, the program isn’t doing anything for you. Those who aren’t willing to fork over the money usually end up uninstalling the program entirely or they get used to its several notifications and learn how to ignore them. Sound about right?

On the bright side, you can actually get an anti-virus program for free. A few of my favorites are Avast, AVG, and Panda Free AntiVirus. If you’re also leaving your smartphone unprotected, these companies make mobile security apps as well.

When it comes to anti-virus programs, you’re paying only for additional features. The free versions of these programs still serve the main purpose of an anti-virus and will allow you to scan for potential threats. When it comes to security on your computer, an anti-virus is basically the bare minimum; it can’t protect you from everything, unfortunately.

I have found that a Virtual Private Network does the trick. When combined with an anti-virus program, you don’t really have much left to worry about as far as security goes. We’ll get into what it can’t protect you from later on, but for now, let’s look at what it can do.

VPN: Internet Security Software at Its Best

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short, is a remote server that encrypts your internet traffic. It allows you to surf the web anonymously by hiding your IP address and location. How it actually works is you connect to the VPN that is located in a specific location (VPN services have many locations to choose from) and then it routes your requests through the server, which will make it appear to others as if you are located where the VPN is.

Because the VPN’s IP address shows up instead of your own, it makes it nearly impossible for someone to track you down and figure out where you are or acquire your actual IP address. Hackers don’t really want to spend too much of their time attempting to hack into someone’s secured computer without a large incentive. They’re likely to move on to the next guy, whose connection isn’t encrypted. So with a VPN, you’re pretty much good to go as far as keeping your data safe. An added bonus is that you’ll also be able to unblock websites that may be blocked because of regional restrictions.

Like anti-virus programs, you can find a VPN for free, though it won’t come with as much bandwidth, speed, or locations to choose from compared to a paid one. Even the best free VPNs are lacking when it comes to customer service as well, so if you like the flexibility of having 24-hour customer service available, a free VPN probably isn’t for you.

Luckily, a paid VPN can be downloaded for somewhere between $5 and $13 per month, depending on which one you choose and whether or not you prefer to be billed monthly or yearly.

VPN: You Should Know What It Can’t Do…

Even with the best software installed, you’re definitely not immune to all of the scams or trolls that are lurking around the internet. Your software can’t always protect you from a mistake on your part. Everyone makes mistakes, so don’t feel bad if you do, but internet security mistakes can be avoided most of the time if you just know how to prevent them and what to watch out for.

Avoid These Web Surfing Mistakes to Keep Your Data Safe

One of the most common freelance scams I’ve come across is where you will be sent a job offer that includes an email address. When you send an email to the address, you receive a response saying that you will need to log on to a messenger service like Yahoo or AIM for your interview. When you do so, they will explain the job to you, ask you a few questions, and then drop the whole “we provide a stipend for supplies, but you will have to front the cost and then we will reimburse you” trick.

If a potential employer ever asks you to front the cost of anything, they’re most likely trying to scam you. It’s best to stay away if they ask for you to pay for something.

On that note, just as you wouldn’t share your banking information with a stranger in person, never share it with online strangers either, even if they are disguising themselves as legitimate employers.

Additional Online Security Tips

Now that you know that you should never share your banking information with potential employers, here are a few more things you should keep to yourself. It’s a good idea to avoid sharing your home address, social security number and passwords, as well as any additional details that could lead to your identity being stolen.

Another thing that can help you keep your info secure is to change your passwords on a regular basis (maybe once every month or so). This can be a pain – but think about the alternative, especially as many of us use the same password for multiple (if not all) of our online accounts.

When creating new passwords, use uppercase letters as well as lowercase, numbers and a symbol or two. By creating a strong password, it’s less likely that your accounts will be compromised. A few extra things you can do to protect your data is to password protect files that contain personal info and keep at least two copies of a backup of all of your files.

Freelancing: Your Responsibility — and Potential Liability — to/from Clients

When you’re a freelancer, you have an added responsibility of protecting the data that clients send you. Keep that in mind when you’re saving any files that might have personal information in them. If their data becomes compromised, you might lose their business, as well as build a bad reputation for yourself as a freelancer – not to mention run the risk of being sued.

Conclusion

Keeping your devices secure is something you should do not only for your clients, but also for yourself. Those whose gadgets are unprotected can easily fall prey to hackers, which could even lead to identity theft.

Abiding by the web security tips outlined here, you can ensure that you’ve done everything possible to keep your – and your clients’ data safe – and alleviate any worry.

About the Author: Get more internet security tips from Secure Thoughts on their Facebook page.

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    Comments

    1. A VPN is a great safety tool and is also really useful if you are traveling and need to access anything which relies on your location or current IP address.

      I totally agree about the passwords, LastPass keeps me sane!

    2. Hi Kim,

      Great Tips! I think using a VPN too is a very good way to remain secure online. Also some some people use very weak passwords. It’s important to use different passwords for each service you use — and there are some pretty solid password managers, like LastPass.
      Worli recently posted…Best Free Proxy Server ListMy Profile

      • True Worli. It’s b/c these days we have so many services we need them for (passwords). I remember the old days when I only had one — to get into my email account. Nowadays of course, there are so many, you need one just to get out of bed in the morning it seems. 🙂