July 28, 2020

How cyber-crime can affect the self-employed (and how you can protect yourself)

Written by Martin Baxter

Cyber-criminals are increasingly targeting freelancers, seeing them as a “weak link” in terms of security. If you’re accessing client systems, software, data, or other operational tech through your own device then you pose what is perceived to be an easy target. Why waste time hacking into a secure system when they could get to it from your laptop which you regularly use with your local Costa’s Wi-Fi connection? 

For argument’s sake, let’s say this were to happen to you. You are either used as a conduit to get to a bigger target or are the direct victim of cyber-crime and find yourself the victim of a ransomware attack or client data is stolen from your device. In either case, you would be held liable and could find yourself in breach of cyber-security regulations. You would also find you could suffer other catastrophic professional consequences. 

How could a cyber-attack affect a freelancer? 

The exact specifics of a cyber-attack would be unique to you and the data you were in possession of, but there are some outcomes that would be universal to all freelancers who fell victim. 

Financial 

There could be severe financial consequences for you as a freelancer. If you were successfully held liable for the breach, you could have to pay penalties to the regulator, as well as your defence costs. You could even have to pay a ransom or extortion money in order to simply regain access to your systems or client records, making it practically impossible to trade, resulting in a loss of earnings on top of everything else. 

Reputational 

Although a cyber-attack on a freelancer would not make headlines in the same way that a cyber-attack on a big multinational conglomerate would, but it could still cause you massive reputational damage – especially as freelancers rely so heavily on word-of-mouth to drum up business. Falling victim to a cyber-attack is not something you can hush up. You’re obliged to notify anyone whose data may have been compromised, meaning you have to notify any clients whose data was on your machine. This will damage your reputation in their eyes, as well as the eyes of anyone they choose to tell. 

Loss of time 

Cyber-crime is time-consuming to sort out. As a freelancer, you’re only earning when you’re working. So, time spent on the aftermath of a cyber-attack is all time you’re not earning and, as we’ve already mentioned, could be time when you’re actively losing money. Again, this is a big hit for anyone who is self-employed. 

How can freelancers protect themselves against cyber-crime? 

As well as the practical things such as installing and maintaining antiviral and antimalware software on your machine, complying with GDPR, and following cyber security best practice, one of the best things you can do is make sure you have cyber liability insurance as part of your freelance insurance package from Dinghy. 

Our comprehensive cyber liability cover includes: 

  • Access to a 24/7 cyber-incident helpline to guide you through an attack by cyber-criminals by determining the cause of the breach, assisting in the recovery of lost data, helping to restore your systems, and providing advice. 
  • £25,000 of cover for cyber extortion and ransom costs, covering you for the ransom amount and fees for any consultants required to oversee negotiations and transfer funds in order to allow you access to your data again. 
  • £25,000 of cover for regulatory defence and penalties, including notifying clients, pre-investigation IT forensics costs, legal fees, and any fines from regulatory bodies, helping to ensure the financial implications of an attack are not catastrophic. 
  • £100,000 of cover for system and data rectification costs to get you back up and running again – assistance for this will be provided by our cyber-incident helpline, who will also suggest preventative measures for moving forward, as well as advise you on your legal and regulatory obligations. 
  • £20,000 of cover for business interruption costs to protect you from loss of income while you sort everything out. 

As you can see, cyber liability insurance lifts some of the burden from your shoulders so, should the worst happen, you have a team of experts helping you to get through it as well as cover for the inevitable costs. This is vital for freelancers who generally don’t have unlimited resources and don’t have a team of people they can rely on to assist. Hopefully a little education and application of best practice means you will never fall victim to cyber-crime, but should it happen – and cyber-criminals are constantly finding new ways to attack – cyber liability insurance will give you peace of mind. 

To find out more about our cyber liability cover, you can call our friendly team on 020 3974 2705 – a landing page with more details is coming soon! 

About Martin Baxter

Read more blog posts by Martin Baxter


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