Are You Worried About Online Security Enough? Here’s Some DIY Tools to Help

Being a freelancer in the online world can be a lot of fun. It can also be a whole lot of sitting and typing, which isn’t as intriguing as when you say “I’m a writer.” But there is no better way to get your ideas out to new audiences, speak with them in the comments, and make new online connections with people.

An issue that does come up is that sometimes those connections are not the good kind. There are countless ways that online security breaches happen every day. As a freelancer you’re even more vulnerable than most with all of your online activity. This article is going to show you a few foolproof ways to stop 99% of all online hacks, cyber security threats, and scams. You got a good start in this article, now let’s get the rest of your online security covered!

Online security tools for a safe freelancer

1: HTTPS Everywhere for a secure connection

HTTPS Everywhere is one of the simplest tools for online security around, and is available on the three most popular browsers. All it does is make sure that websites are doing the right thing for your privacy by forcing it to load the encrypted version of their website.

HTTPS Everywhere is a browser based extension that forces the HTTPS, or SSL encrypted, version to load when one is available. With its complete index of all HTTPS websites, you’ll never be sent to the less secure HTTP website again.

This can be especially important to note when you’re using any sort of app for tracking your earnings and expenses. This is prime material for a hackers to want to steal. You’re leaving yourself wide open without a basic secure connection.

2: Ghostery shows you what’s going on behind the scenes

Ghostery’s consumer based web browser extension lets you choose who is tracking your online activity. If you’re not aware of this already, many websites and companies put cookies on your computer to track the websites you visit. Ghostery gives you the opportunity to choose who tracks you. If you prefer that no one does, you can do that.

Just how much tracking is going on right now in the name of Big Data? To give you an example, I visit CNN pretty much every day. Going on there now I’m being shown 14 different trackers on CNN’s homepage alone that are being stopped by Ghostery. Buzzfeed, another site I visit often, has trackers that are a little more modest at 11. Some of the worst websites I’ve visited have gone well over 20 and approached 30.

How will Ghostery help you be a safer freelancer? Ghostery has a pop-up menu that shows you all of the opt-out features for each website you visit. This prevents you from having to dig around. You have direct access to the tools that will prevent companies, and hackers, from tracking your online activity. This can be of vital importance if you’re doing research on a subject that you’d rather not have others scooping you on.

3: Use a web proxy or VPN provider on all public WiFi

A web proxy tool is used to hide IP addresses. Web proxies work by you connecting to the remote server and taking on its IP address. Your IP is the online identification tool used by websites. This string of numbers can tell them who you are, and where you are, as well as information it needs to display their webpage like your browser, and OS information.

For high profile freelance bloggers, writers, and journalists that are doing investigations, they may not want anyone to know who they are when they visit a website. They may never want anyone to ever be able follow their sources. This is when a web proxy can be helpful. Those with high security needs use a VPN service. This hides the IP address, while also giving top-notch encryption on all web activity.

I don’t know what your ‘freelance writer cliche level’ is, but mine isn’t above working from a local coffee shop or pub some days. Having a VPN on is my first step after connecting as man in the middle hacks are a frequent issue, not to mention the fact that many WiFi networks don’t bother using WAP2 over WEP encryption levels.

When you learn more about the your VPN choices, you’ll find that no two VPNs are quite the same. Finding the right fit for your privacy needs, your server country needs, as well as many other factors, can really help you out.

4: Adblock Plus stops hidden malware

The oldest trick in the hacker book is hiding malware in ads. Again, everyone just assumes it’s safe and allows it to load in their browser. Every hacker worth his can of Red Bull is looking for vulnerable points where users are not paying attention. Those ads you’ve worked hard to tune out? Bingo.

Adblock Plus is a free web extension that works on all browsers. It protects you from harmful ads by blocking, well, all of them. If that’s not your style, as this is a controversial tool, you have the option of showing ads on your favourite websites by creating a safelist. Adblock also work with a number of websites on creating acceptable ad standards that minimize invasiveness (you’re a working freelancer, after all), and minimize risk.

As a freelancer who is now being distracted less while research, this could also be a productivity app. All of those pop up ads that appear while you’re doing research? Gone. And no more stopping to close them all the time. I know that ad blockers are controversial, but I was pushed too far by endless pop up ads.

5: FlashBlock protects against the risk of unchecked Java

Planting malware inside of your Flash content is one of the second oldest hacker tricks that is still in use today. Hackers love this because browsers automatically load Flash movies, and the Java behind them, and play it. The recent Superfish problem showed everyone how pervasive this can be.

Flashblock is a browser based extension for Firefox that will stop this Flash from automatically downloading on every website. You’re shown a placeholder that will allow the video to play if you choose. Not only will it make you safer, but it will also help websites load quicker.

If you don’t have Firefox, use ScriptSafe on Chrome, JavaScript Blocker on Safari, and NoScript on Mozilla-based browsers as alternatives.

If there are other online tools, or techniques, you use to protect yourself as a freelancer? I’d love to discuss them with you in the comments below.

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