What to do if you’re a freelancer who’s been hacked

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If you’re a freelancer or sole trader who uses your email or social media for work, a cyber attack can be devastating – especially without the might of a company’s IT team to help you. Here’s what to do if you find yourself compromised

A computer is hacked every 39 seconds, according to a Clark School study by the University of Maryland. Email accounts compromised, PCs infected with malware and personal details stolen, hacking is a very real threat for the small business owner. We look at the six steps to recovery when you find your systems compromised.

Change your password

It sounds obvious, but when your emails have been hacked, change your password immediately. (In 2019, 80% of data breaches leveraged compromised passwords.) Ole Martin Refvik, Head of Security at Admincontrol suggests using sentences when creating a password. “People are good at remembering situations or sentences that present a message we can relate to. Instead of passwords we should create ‘pass phrases’, because, the longer a password is, the harder it is to guess, or for hackers to crack using computers.” Alternatively, consider using a password manager such as LastPass or KeePass, which allows you to generate, store and manage your passwords securely.

Install two-factor authorisation

In addition to creating strong passwords for your accounts, another safety measure is to enable two-factor authentication where available. This requires the user to provide an extra form of identification beyond the standard login ID and password. It could be a PIN code sent to your phone, a key fob, or fingerprint. “Two-factor authentication puts one more layer of defense between an attacker and your personal data, ensuring that you are not viewed as an easy target,” explains Brian Anderson, Head of Digital Sales at cybersecurity agency Kaspersky, in an article on Techlicious.

Update your security software

Since the start of the pandemic, the FBI has reported a 300% increase in cybercrimes. Its top tip for computer users? Update your antivirus security software. This will check for the most up to date viruses and malware detectors and eliminate them. Malware is malicious software that can infect your computer, phone or other devices with viruses, spyware or unwanted ads when you download apps or programmes.

Deauthorise apps

Research conducted by the International Computer Science Institute found more than 1,300 Android apps were gathering data from devices even after user permission was denied. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox have a function that enables third party apps to be used via their login. It’s a quick and simple way to sign up for something without registering again. When you’ve been hacked it’s important to deauthorise these third-party apps as they can obtain information from your accounts. Hackers may have used it to authorise another device, which means a change of password will not help. Go to the site permissions page, for example Google, and remove access.

Check your account settings

Hackers are getting increasingly clever. Instead of simply changing a password, they might be forwarding information to different accounts. “The methods that criminals use to hack into your phone and steal your data are constantly evolving, so the ways that we protect our smartphones need to evolve too,” says Stephen Hart, CEO of Cardswitcher in an interview with cnet. “Think of software updates like vaccinations for your smartphone.” Check all account details to see if something has changed and keep your software up to date.

Work from a secure coworking space

Last year, the FBI issued a warning about the risks of using public Wi-Fi networks to access work-related or sensitive information. If you have concerns about cyber security working from a public place or your own home, consider using a shared office or flexspace. All Regus properties have strict security in place and provide enhanced cyber security for those working from its centres, while network systems are tested rigorously and continuously to prevent hacking.

Find out how Regus office solutions can offer a safe, cybersecure space for your growing business