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Freelance Virtual Conference: 5 key cyber security takeaways

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Freelance Australia recently held the 2021 virtual Freelance Essentials Conference to help freelancers and small businesses learn the ins and outs of running a freelancing enterprise.

Female freelancer working on laptop

Freelance Australia's free, day-long event included sessions on tax, super, legal information, insurance and cyber security, the latter of which was led by Matthew O’Brien, Telstra’s Cyber Security Executive, and Darren Pauli, a Cyber Security Analyst at Telstra. We’ve gathered five key take-aways from the session to help freelancers and small businesses understand the world of cyber threats so they can better protect themselves online.

Online scams are getting more complicated

Cyber crime is on the rise. Australia and New Zealand’s national identity and cyber support service ID Care has seen a 40% increase in volume of individuals and organisations impacted by cyber security issues and identity misuse during COVID-19.* “Cyber criminals try to take advantage of uncertainty in people’s situations,” Matthew says. And the scams are becoming more sophisticated, so it’s more important than ever to stay vigilant and think twice before you click. Be on the lookout for suspicious emails, fake sites and fake advertising on legitimate sites that lead to compromised environments. Matthew also noted a rise in parcel delivery scams, where criminals send a fraudulent missed delivery text message or email with a malicious link.

“Cyber criminals try to take advantage of uncertainty in people’s situations.”

Matthew O’Brien, Cyber Security Executive, Telstra

Small businesses aren’t immune

It’s not just large organisations at risk; cyber crime can happen to anyone. “Cyber criminals will just as happily go after mums and dads through a bulk extortion activity and try to solicit $1,000 from a million potential victims,” Matthew says. Small businesses, including sole traders, could be particularly vulnerable as they may lack the kind of cyber security infrastructure needed to protect themselves. “Also, if you’re part of a third-party supply chain, you could be used as a weak link into bigger organisations,” says Matthew. That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant of cyber threats and to come up with a proactive approach to cyber security that helps reduce your risk.

How and where you connect is important

To protect your valuable data and information, you need to think about the environments where you’re doing business and if the networks, devices and apps you use are protected. Be particularly mindful of how you ensure network security when you connect to your digital environments. “Secure Wi-Fi and internet is your first line of defence,” says Matthew. If you work from home, consider what other devices are connected to your network that could be compromised, like smart appliances or gaming devices. And if you connect on the go, be aware that accessing public, unsecured networks (like those in airports, cafés and hotels) could leave your business information open to being intercepted or hacked.

Some simple steps can help improve your online security

Darren says there are some practical steps freelancers and small businesses can take today to reduce their cyber risk. These include (but aren’t limited to) controls like multi-factor authentication, using a password manager to eliminate password reuse, using passphrases instead of passwords, calling to confirm payment details and backing up your critical data, as well as isolating and securing very sensitive data.

There are resources to help

If you want help to manage your online security and protect your business and customers, there are plenty of avenues to explore. The Australian Cyber Security Centre website provides a lot of information and tools for small businesses to help you manage your online security, including a test to identify a scam email. The Telstra Business Intelligence report on Managing Risks Online provides comprehensive insights on your business valuables that need protecting and expert advice on how to stay secure online. Finally, Telstra Business Cyber Security Services can help you with 24/7 online security support, regular cyber security check-ups and added protection across your internet, email and compatible endpoint devices.

For more insights and take-aways, you can watch the full video of the cyber security session from the 2021 Freelance Essentials Conference.

Need help protecting your business online?

Telstra Business Cyber Security Services offers 24/7 support and more.

Find out moreNeed help protecting your business online?

*Telstra Business Intelligence report on Managing Risks Online.

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