Cyber Security Tips for Upwork Users
Malware isn’t new, but that doesn’t make it any less of a problem for anyone. It’s the weapon of choice for cyber criminals, and it can be frustrating and expensive for its victims. Here’s a look at the stats:
- According to Symantec and Verizon, nearly one million new threats are released every day—a number that always trends upward.
- In the U.S. alone, the FBI reported that ransomware—a particular type of malware that locks down a computer until a fee has been paid—cost victims $209 million in the first three months of 2016 alone. The total for 2015 was $24 million.
Spotting a threat can be tricky at the best of times; cyber criminals are always finding new ways to target organizations and individuals like you. It’s even more complicated when the success of your business requires you to interact regularly, even daily, with people you may not have an existing relationship with.
Here are some ways to help keep your computer, and your Upwork account, more secure.
Tips on How to Help Keep Your Information Safe
As explained in “Trends in Cyber Security Threats & How to Prevent Them,” malware is “malicious software [that] can monitor activity, access personal data, and create ‘backdoors’ into networks that can be accessed by unauthorized users.”
There are essentially two best practices when it comes to cutting your risk of a malware infection: Keep your software up-to-date and avoid online interactions that seem suspicious.
Here’s a look at more specific tips that can help you protect yourself and your business.
First, download reputable antivirus software and put it to good use. There are many different programs—at different price points—available to help keep your IT setup secure. AV-TEST has evaluated some of the most popular programs. Use your antivirus software to scan your email as well as external drives you’ve received or used with other computers.
In many cases, a good antivirus can also help you get rid of malware if you’ve already been infected.
Your next line of defense: Keep your browser and operating system up-to-date. “In nearly 90% of cases, hackers relied on computer bugs that have been around since 2002,” CNN reported in a story about malware. Keep your operating system (i.e. Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android) up to date, and install new security patches as soon as they become available. Waiting to update can leave your system vulnerable, since developers close gaps and shore up weaknesses with each new release.
This is particularly true for Mac users, who may have a false sense of security that their Apple devices are effectively walled off: The Bit9 and Carbon Black Research Team reported that “five times more OS X malware appears in 2015 than during the previous five years combined.”
Question anything unexpected. Email, pop-up ads, prompts by websites to install software, even inconspicuous USB drives that arrive in your mailbox—there are many ways you can inadvertently introduce a virus to your computer. Here are a couple of ways you can stay cautious before you click:
- While some sites require software, like Adobe Flash, to display properly, verify it before downloading it to your computer. Or look for other options; Google Chrome, for example, has a built-in Flash player.
- If a pop-up ad prompts you to call the FBI or Windows Security, or another reputable organization, ignore the alert or confirm appropriate contact numbers by verifying through their website.
Beware of phishing emails. Sometimes emails aren’t necessarily unexpected, but they might still seem off. Here are some tips to help you spot an email scam:
- Look at the email address: does the sender look legitimate? Are there odd typos in the email address or alias?
- Does the content of the email make sense?
If you still feel unsure about an email you’ve received from someone you know, contact that individual — although not by replying to the suspicious email! — to confirm.
Protect yourself with a solid backup process. Malware can sneak through the defenses of even the smartest and most careful Internet user. If you regularly back your computer up using an external device, you can help ensure you have a “clean copy” to help recover your information if the worst happens.
Don’t share your contact information until your working relationship is protected by a contract. Using the Upwork platform during the interview and negotiation process is one way to help keep your information secure. Upwork Messages organizes project details, communication (voice/video/screenshare), and shared files within one shared room. This means you can discuss a project without sharing your personal information, and if you decide not to work together you can block the other person from accessing the room in future. It also helps us learn about issues, get more complete details, and remove users who abuse the system.
Get the right help with network and IT security. Protecting your systems takes an ongoing effort—one that can take a very specific set of skills. Who do you need to have on your team, and where should you start your network security efforts?
Wondering whether you’ve already been infected? Here are a few symptoms to help you detect malware and how to secure a compromised Upwork account >>
But Why Would Someone Target Me?
Why would a criminal target you instead of a bigger company with hundreds of employees and much juicier data to steal?
Because it’s easier.
Bigger companies with what we might think of as better information—such as large user databases and credit card information—also tend to have a better IT security chain. In fact, small businesses are a big attraction; according to Internet security company Symantec, 43 percent of businesses attacked in 2015 had between one and 250 employees.
You may not have a goldmine of information on your hard drive, but that doesn’t mean your data doesn’t have value.
Keeping your systems current, being proactive with your cyber security, and staying alert for suspicious activity online can go a long way to help you and your information stay secure. Learn more best practices to safeguard yourself and your business against these and other threats >>
To help keep Upwork secure:
- Report suspected site vulnerabilities to Upwork as soon as possible. Publicly disclosing a vulnerability can put the entire community at risk, so we urge those reporting vulnerabilities to keep matters private until we can resolve the issue.
- Flag the offending message in Upwork Messages, or
- Flag the job post, client profile, or freelancer profile (get more information about reporting suspicious user activity).