The growth of freelancing comes with a cybersecurity threat, an IT security expert has warned.

According to Naomi Hodges, cybersecurity advisor at Surfshark – a virtual private network service provider – businesses and freelancers could be leaving themselves open to cybersecurity risks by not protecting their data and devices properly.

Outsourcing control

“Internally, companies develop strict security procedures for their employees and invest in expensive security systems. However, when it comes to outsourcing, companies lose control of any data they share with the outsiders,” Hodges said to Consultancy UK. “Generally, it is the same as leaving the backdoors unlocked in a fort.”

The number of freelancers in the workforce continues to rise and many businesses now choose to outsource functions. While this working arrangement offers significant benefits for both parties – particularly in terms of flexibility around costs and working hours – it isn’t without risk.

Traditional businesses are losing control over their employees’ workplace security status, while the safety of sensitive corporate data is being laid into freelancer’s hands.

More required than confidentiality agreements

Hodges said that when outsourcing business functions, most companies rely on confidentiality agreements. However, the increasing occurrences of data breaches demonstrate that potential financial and reputational losses are, in most cases, much higher than any agreement can cover.

In many cases, the freelancer isn’t doing anything malicious to jeopardise client security. But working on unprotected devices in public areas can heighten their risk of data breaches, leaks of confidential information, and more.

Simply security steps

“Almost anyone with some basic technical knowledge can crack the connection of public wifi after watching a step-by-step tutorial on YouTube,” Hodges said. “The hackers can see anything that is being sent to or coming from the computer using the network. If a freelancer does not encrypt its traffic, all their documents and files are put on public display.”

Experts recommend that freelancers properly protect their devices. They are advised take advantage of solutions which encrypt data traffic.

“It does not matter if a freelancer is a business consultant, an engineer, or a photographer. They all work with information which can be classified as sensitive to their clients,” Hodges explained. “Usually, it’s not too difficult to indicate their clients simply by looking at their portfolios. They all count on luck that nobody is interested in his or her files. But that is why data breaches happen.”

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