The sudden move to working from home for many workers back in March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities that have led to a huge rise in cyber attacks. Cyber security experts Barracuda Networks reported on their survey which revealed that a massive 46% of organisations across the UK, USA, France and Germany have suffered at least one cyber security scare since lockdown measures began. The Guardian, meanwhile, reported that criminals have specifically targeted home workers. Before the UK’s lockdown began, this group accounted for 12% of all malicious email traffic but within six weeks, this had risen to 60%.
The Guardian’s report highlights opportunistic hackers taking advantage of the chaos that ensued when businesses were given minimal notice that they would need to move to working from home. Attacks have included fake requests to reset VPN accounts, Zoom requests with fake sign-in pages, and colleague chat requests on seemingly corporate messaging systems. They also report on a “large malicious email campaign” in May that told employees they could choose to be furloughed if they signed up to a specific website, capitalising on the worries surrounding ongoing work and income that were spiking.
The Barracuda survey goes on to show that 51% of respondents said that their workforce was not properly versed in the risks associated with home working. Taking into account the suddenness of the switch to work from home models, it’s easy to see the security challenges presented, particularly surrounding the use of personal devices and home Wi-Fi networks. These factors combined with an untrained workforce is clearly a huge cyber security risk.
As home working continues to be the norm now and into the long-term future, the security issues will continue as businesses hastily try to patch them up.
How does this relate to freelancers?
The reports mentioned both focus on the risks to permanent employees but, in reality, they apply to all remote workers, which includes freelancers. Some freelancers will have been working from home anyway, but many will have been working on-site with clients and, like much of the UK workforce, will be looking at remote working as the norm for the foreseeable future.
And while remote-working freelancers have always been susceptible to cyber criminals to an extent (many will have made up that pre-lockdown 12% of malicious email traffic mentioned in The Guardian) the rise in attacks during lockdown will have presented more opportunities for freelancers to be targeted and fall victim. Never mind the fact that – for those who have continued to work with clients during lockdown – freelancers may have had to deal with things such as spoofing attacks on client software and comms in just the same way permanent employees will have done.
What can freelancers do about cyber security?
There are two main things freelancers can do to protect their business (and client data) from cyber criminals.
The first is to follow best practice when it comes to cyber security. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has many great resources, including advice for the self-employed and sole traders, which features a guide for small businesses. It includes advice on:
- Backing up your data
- Protecting your business from malware
- Keeping your portable devices safe
- Using passwords to protect data
- Avoiding phishing attacks
It also includes a handy guide on practical actions you can take. Although it’s geared a bit more towards small businesses with employees, much of it is still relevant to a freelance business.
Cyber liability insurance from Dinghy will protect you should you find yourself a victim of a cyber attack by helping to compensate for any business downtime, and cover any costs should you need to pay compensation or defend yourself to regulators. In short, it’s a safety net that’s designed to give you peace of mind and, should the worst happen, help you get back on your feet again.
And like all Dinghy freelancer insurance it’s fair and flexible, allowing you to switch it on or off, or turn it up or down as required. Plus, it charges by the second, so you only pay for the cover you use. So, if work is slow coming in as lockdown eases, you can remain covered while not having to pay out more than you need. Call us on 020 3974 2705 – a landing page with more details is coming soon!