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Freelancers warned to watch out for cybercrime as gig economy grows

A prominent IT security firm has issued a warning to UK contractors and freelancers to watch out for cybercrime at a time when the size of the gig economy is rapidly increasing and more and more people are becoming self-employed.

According to recent figures from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), the growth of freelancers in the UK has now surpassed the growth of overall employment – a trend also recently seen in the Netherlands and in France.

Businesses far and wide are increasingly seeing the benefits of outsourcing tasks and responsibilities to specialist freelance workers, but cyber security group Surfshark has warned that the growth of the gig economy could wind up directly linked to an increase in cybercrime if contractors and businesses alike do not enhance their cyber security.

“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,” said Naomi Hodges, Cybersecurity Adviser at the firm.

She warned that while businesses who outsource work tend to rely solely on confidentiality agreements, contractors themselves have a tendency to work remotely – in cafes, co-working spaces and other public environments – and might not always be protecting themselves from hackers.

“Almost anyone with some basic technical knowledge can crack the connection of public Wi-Fi after watching a step-by-step tutorial on YouTube,” she warned, urging contractors that not taking the appropriate steps to curb cybercrime was akin to “leaving the backdoors unlocked in a fort.”

“If a freelancer does not encrypt it’s traffic, all their documents and files are put on public display,” Ms Hodges warned.

“The hackers can see anything that is being sent to or coming from the computer using the network.”
Ms Hodges suggested that both businesses who provide work to freelancers and contractors themselves had a huge responsibility to protect themselves and their data.

“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,” she said.

“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,” she warned.

Contractors who are concerned about cyber security are being advised to encrypt their web traffic and use a reliable VPN service in a bid to ensure digital privacy when using Wi-Fi on the move.


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