Keeping Data Secure When Working With Freelancers

With the fast-growing gig economy and websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer, agencies can now offer a wide range of marketing and creative services with just a handful of full-time employees.

While this new age of distributed workforces enables startups to be competitive while empowering remote workers and freelancers, it does expose businesses and their clients to potential data security risks.

These data security risks involve basic password management for most companies, but for others, there's the risk of exposing customer data and possibly contradicting data privacy laws.

Here are 10 things to consider to keep data secure when you’re a business with a lot of remote workers and freelancers.

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Evaluate Risk & Assign Data Security Protocols

Businesses working with remote workers and freelancers must evaluate levels of risk and the associated protocols. 

For example, it might be ok for teams to log in to social media accounts remotely, but accessing client databases or financial information must only be accessed by vetted full-time employees working on a secure company network.

Once you set up these data protection protocols, you can determine which projects, tasks, and clients are for internal teams and which you can outsource to remote workers and freelancers.

It's important to note that these levels of security are guidelines and not a one-size-fits-all approach. While secure password sharing might be enough for some clients, high-risk multi-national organizations might require that only vetted, full-time employees on a secure company network access its accounts and systems.

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Limiting Access

Part of evaluating your data security risks is determining who needs access to tools and apps. 

For example, if you use software to manage social media, is it necessary to give freelancers access to social media channels? Does a copywriter need access to your CMS, or can they submit articles via Microsoft Word or Google Docs? Should you give marketers access to analytics software or generate the reports they need and share via Excel or Sheets?

Even if your password management is watertight, companies must prioritize limiting access to tools and applications over convenience.

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Creating Access Levels

Another consideration within an organization is creating access levels for apps, tools, and access to data. Companies must treat every element of the organization on a need-to-know basis to minimize leaks and breaches.

With a tool like TeamPassword, these access levels can be associated with our groups and sharing feature, so there is no confusion over who is allowed access to what—especially when it comes to freelancer security policies.

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Educating Team Members About Data Security

Cybersecurity training is an essential part of mitigating potential data security risks. Depending on your security protocols, training might extend to freelancers.

Due to the ever-changing landscape of technology and cybercrimes, companies must keep employees and freelancers up-to-date with the latest scams and attacks. You might even consider a dedicated Slack channel or cybersecurity wiki to keep teams informed of the latest scams and attacks.

Companies should also educate teams about reacting to a breach or attack, such as shutting down servers, going offline, and communication protocols.

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Common Types of Data Breaches in 2021

The baseline for any data security training is for employees to understand two of the most common types of data breaches in 2021. 

Malware Email or Messaging Attacks

With malware email attacks, cybercriminals send seemingly mundane messages or emails containing malicious links or file downloads. 

Once the link or download is activated, criminals have complete access to a device, emails, messages, and any saved login credentials. The problem with these sorts of attacks is criminals can monitor a device indefinitely without being detected.

Many businesses will regularly test employees by sending "spoofed" emails and messages to see if anyone takes the bait. Employees who fail these tests must be retrained to ensure they're fully aware of malware scams and tactics.

Phishing

Phishing or social-engineering attacks are one of the most common cyber threats to companies and individuals. Cybercriminals will attempt to direct an individual to a site or app they think is legitimate to enter login credentials or personal information.

Using a password manager like TeamPassword eliminates the need for an employee to enter login credentials, reducing the risk of employees falling victim to phishing scams. Companies should also limit access to surfing the net and block access to sites without Secure Sockets Layer (SSL/HTTPS).

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Freelancers and Remote Works on Public Networks

One of the most significant issues companies face is how teams connect to the Internet. The romanticized notion of teams working from coffee shops poses a severe risk for data security. It's impossible to know who's monitoring a public network or if anyone is looking over a team member's shoulder while they work.

Policies around working on public WiFi come down to educating teams about potential risks. A strict VPN policy is an excellent first step. Still, employees should also be aware of their surroundings, people sitting near them, mirrors, CCTV cameras, and never leaving their computers or devices unattended.

Companies might also want to consider allocating portable WiFi devices to remote team members. While these devices are not entirely secure, it is better to be on a mobile network than public WiFi.

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Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM)

Businesses can control the access they give remote teams and freelancers working on their own devices through an effective Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) policy. 

EMM enables IT admins to monitor and manage both company and personal devices to corporate data security and protect sensitive data. These security management systems also allow IT departments to monitor a team member's WiFi network, determine its safety, and react to any suspicious activity. IT admins can remotely lock or wipe the device if a team member's device is lost or stolen.

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Regulations for Freelancer Security

Businesses must also consider the regulatory requirements of countries and states. In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is one of the only national data protection policies protecting against the access and sharing of health-related data.

California has one of the strictest data privacy regulations under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The act goes beyond health-related data to protect every consumer across all industries. 

Businesses contravening the CCPA face hefty fines and may be subject to class-action lawsuits. The act protects consumer's rights, affording them to:

  • Know what data organizations collect about them
  • Opt-out of data sales to third parties
  • Access and download data collected about them
  • Transfer their data to a different service
  • Delete their data

US States implementing similar regulations include:

  • Vermont
  • Alabama
  • South Dakota
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Oregon
  • Virginia
  • New Jersey
  • Rhode Island

With heightened awareness around data breaches and cybercrime, we will likely see similar laws passed at the federal level soon.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Europe's GDPR is the strictest privacy law globally and will likely become the global standard for other nations to model data protection regulations.

GDPR doesn't just protect EU consumers but anyone trading with EU merchants or even travelers passing through the region. The laws also extend to the hiring of remote workers and freelancers.

Leaking an email database or negligent password management could see fines of as much as €10 million or 2 percent of a company's annual revenue.

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Robust Password Management

If you need to give freelancers access to shared tools or apps, then a password manager is essential. In fact, password managers must be used whenever you share login credentials for apps, tools, and accounts, even for internal staff members.

TeamPassword allows companies to share passwords with coworkers safely. By installing a browser extension, team members never see passwords, mitigating the risk of password theft or unauthorized sharing and access.

5 reasons to use TeamPassword when working with remote teams and freelancers:

  • Secure Password Generator - With a secure password generator, you never have to worry about team members creating weak passwords or sharing credentials across tools or applications. TeamPassword's secure password generator allows you to create passwords up to 32 characters long with uppercase, lowercase, symbols, and numbers.
  • Groups & Sharing - Instead of sharing a username and password, you can add team members and freelancers to a TeamPassword group with access to a specific tool or app. Teams never see login credentials, and you can remove a team member with a single click.
  • 2-Step Verification (2FA) - 2FA is essential for remote teams and freelancers. With 2FA, you reduce password breaches like credential stuffing, phishing, and brute force attacks, to name a few. 2FA is also effective against prying eyes in public spaces like coffee shops. 
  • Activity and Logging - Effective password management also requires that companies manage activity logs to react immediately to unauthorized access and sharing. Activity logs also help when investigating breaches.
  • Email Notifications - TeamPassword alerts managers via email to any action or activity—a vital feature for monitoring data protection and access to sensitive tools and applications.

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