Businesses know the value of physical security when it comes to protecting their assets, but digital security can often be overlooked. However, a huge percentage of data losses are caused by careless insiders who may not realise they’re taking a risk with their actions. From weak passwords to clicking on malicious links and losing devices, insider threats are more common than many employers appreciate.
Contractors are particularly at risk of these threats, as they’re constantly receiving information from clients, much of which is sensitive and confidential in nature. Without proper cybersecurity systems in place, the ramifications could be devastating for both the client and the contractor.
Common threats contractors face
Contractors face several risk factors when it comes to cybersecurity threats, including but not limited to the following:
- Unreliable software
The first is unreliable software and antivirus programmes that aren’t capable of blocking all threats. It’s also the case that certain security products can cause compatibility issues that can leave devices vulnerable.
BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, policies can also cause issues as private devices that have been infected are then integrated with corporate networks and vice versa. Malware targeted towards mobile devices has increased in recent years considerably, as has Smishing and it’s a threat that particularly affects contractors who work in-house with clients.
- Access to source code
With unfettered access to source code repositories, hackers may scan code for vulnerabilities which could put contractors at risk since they’ll be dealing with development pipelines and network infrastructure more regularly.
- Social engineering
Contractors also need to be cautious of social engineering attacks, which is increasingly becoming the go-to way for hackers to lure freelancers and businesses into handing over confidential information, whether through site cookie exploitation, emails or fake downloads.
Contractors are often working with multiple clients at one time, and this can cause issues when it comes to managing confidential client data. A simple mistake could lead to sensitive data becoming compromised or made visible to unauthorised people.
Preventing cybercrime in business
As we’ve explored, cybercrime is prevalent within online businesses and particularly affects those who deal with websites every day such as developers and digital freelancers. But there are ways to reduce the risk of data theft and cyberattacks from occurring, protecting both contractors and clients in the process.
- Using qualified professionals
Businesses need to do their research and use professional, experienced and, above all, reliable developers that understand the nuances and intricacies of their specialist programming language.
To fully protect data and digital systems, security needs to be baked into the system or application design, so you need to have a knowledgeable developer to do that – someone who knows the language and its capabilities fully. For example, Jira developers can customise permissions, bolster security safeguards and encrypt data in transit. Likewise, python developers can make the most of simplified debugging, automate tasks and take advantage of multiple libraries to prevent cybersecurity threats.
- Secure version control repositories
It’s also recommended that the version control repository is secured, using a ‘zero trust’ approach with the principle of least privilege to limit access to source code and systems. Strict user permissions limit how many people can view and amend code and data, which limits how many people can pose a security risk.
Contractors can minimise the risk of becoming victim to social engineering attacks by making sure they’re fully trained and educated on what to look out for. Freelancers dealing with clients need to be aware of the potential threats they face and educate themselves on how private information and data could be at risk. They need to be able to differentiate between outside attacks and regular communications, and know how to react to suspicious requests or emails.
- Two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication is another way that contractors can prevent cybersecurity threats from putting their work and reputation at risk. Combating unauthorised access is much easier with two-factor authentication, keeping content management systems, project management tools and web hosting providers secure. There are numerous third party applications that help contractors to secure accounts and collaborate safely.
- Smarter password sharing
Smart password sharing is an essential element of a successful cybersecurity plan. A stolen password can have a devastating domino effect and can lead to hackers gaining full control of the digital ecosystem. What’s more, hackers then have the opportunity to capitalise on this access with ransomware attacks. Contractors need to have access to a client’s data and systems in order to do their work effectively, but smarter password sharing can help (and should be standard practice across the board).
Instead of sending passwords over email or chat, where they can be accessed if they land in the wrong hands, use password managers such as LastPass which will enable contractors to have access to the relevant credentials without needing the exact passwords. This reduces the burden on contractors in protecting login details, and also provides security and peace of mind for business owners.
Staying ahead of cybercriminals
With the continued rise of remote working, freelancers and contractors, cybercriminals are shifting the focus towards self-employed workers and that poses new challenges for those working in this way, as well as businesses employing contractors. However, with careful planning, the use of appropriate software and thorough research into qualified professionals and businesses who understand the value of digital security, contractors are able to reduce the risk of an attack.