Cyber Security Best Practices for Side Hustlers

12 Cyber Security Best Practices for Side Hustlers

You probably don’t spend too much time thinking about cyber security. But you need to.

According to The Manifest, “New data breaches surged by 424% last year, fueled by hackers targeting more small businesses.”

Your small business is attractive to hackers.

Moreover, those who are side hustling in addition to working from home during the pandemic should also be concerned about cyber security.

Unfortunately, some people don’t take cyber security seriously in their side hustles. 

At most larger companies, cyber security is likely managed by an IT department.

A report cited by ZD Net claims, “Without the watchful eyes of IT and information security teams, workers are taking more risks online and with data than they would at the office.”

Specifically, the researchers found, “52% of employees believe they can get away with riskier behaviour when working from home, such as sharing confidential files via email instead of more trusted mechanisms.”

If you use a mobile device or personal computer for your side hustle, you are responsible for your own personal information, as well as the personal information you collect from customers.

That means you act as your own IT company and are responsible for your own cyber security. 

Essentially, if you don’t follow the cyber security best practices, then you put your side hustle at risk.

1. Create a Strong Password

Create a Strong Password

The number one rule when it comes to cyber security is to create a strong password. 

Yes, it is irritating to have to change your password regularly, but this is one of the best ways to protect yourself online. 

Forbes explains, “Simple passwords are incredibly easy for hackers to crack, and furthermore, if an insecure password is used across several platforms, it allows hackers to gain unauthorized access to multiple accounts in a very short period of time.”

Ideally, you want your password to be a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. 

And it should not have important dates or names – no birthdays or anniversaries allowed.

Or, sign up for LastPass, which is an online password manager. 

In addition to safely remembering all your passwords across your devices, it also generates strong passwords and monitors for data breaches. 

2. Avoid Public Wi-Fi

public wifi security

One of the perks of a side hustle is being able to work whenever and wherever you want.

But this also comes with a cyber security risk.

It is tempting to use the free public Wi-Fi at Starbucks while you hustle, but this is a big no-no. 

Without a firewall, other people in the coffee shop (or wherever you use public Wi-Fi) can access your network. 

Instead, consider investing in personal hotspot access that allows you to get on your private Wi-Fi network.

Many cell phone carriers offer this option at an additional fee. 

Trust us – this is a business tool you need.

3. Prevent Physical Access to Your Devices

never leaving your phone or computer unattended

One of the basic cyber security best practices is using common sense.

For example, do everything you can to prevent physical access to your devices. This starts with never leaving your phone or computer unattended.

Along those same lines, you also want to block sight lines when using your device in public. 

Ci Security explains, “If someone is behind you, they can see everything you are typing. Furthermore, someone with the right observational skills (like a cybercriminal) could easily watch what you are doing and identify confidential information.”

4. Require Multifactor Authentication

two-factor authentication

A multi-factor or two-factor authentication is an extra security measure that requires users to input additional proof of ID in addition to their password.

For example, sites like Facebook, MailChimp, and Etsy, offer two-factor authentication. 

On these sites, after inputting the password, the user will be sent a one-time verification code (via text message) to confirm their identity.

A hacker cannot access their personal information without having both their password and their cell phone. 

5. Utilize a VPN

VPN - Virtual Private Network

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. 

Earlier, we stressed the importance of not using public Wi-Fi. 

A VPN is another way to go online securely.

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, “A VPN is a service that encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic and routes it through an intermediary server in a location of the user’s choosing.

“Anyone who happens to intercept internet traffic between the smartphone or laptop and the VPN server won’t be able to decipher its contents, including Wi-Fi hackers.”

ExpressVPN and NordVPN are 2 we recommend. 

6. Don’t Fall for Phishing Emails


One of the top causes of breaches for companies is due to phishing attacks. 

The Manifest claims, “Cyber attacks on small businesses are most commonly viruses (44%) and phishing attacks (30%) that arrive via email.”

If you open a phishing email, it enables cyber criminals to “phish” for personal information and gain access to your computer (or mobile device).

Even worse, cyber criminals are specifically using coronavirus as a means for their phishing emails. 

Norton explains, “Here’s how it works. The email messages may appear to come from company officials and might ask you to open a link to a new company policy related to the coronavirus. If you click on the attachment or imbedded link, you’re likely to download malware onto your device.”

If you suspect you have received a phishing email, don’t click on any links or attachments.

7. Install Safeguards.

antivirus program

Protect your devices by installing safeguards.

  • Use an antivirus program to protect your computer from viruses.
  • Use a firewall to hide the computers on your network.
  • Use a password to protect your home or personal Wi-Fi network.

Most often, these installations take little time but offer great protection.

A device without an antivirus program, firewall, or password-free Wi-Fi network is asking for trouble. 

8. Perform Regular Software Updates.

software updates

Make sure you perform regular software updates on your apps and devices.

This is important for improving the quality of your devices, but it also provides you with the latest and most effective cyber security protection.

Look to see if your devices offer automatic upgrades so you don’t even have to think about it.

9. Use a USB Data Blocker.

USB Data BlockerDid you know cyber criminals use public USB ports to steal your information?

Unfortunately, if you are driving around for your side hustle, you likely need to plug into a USB port and charge your phone from time to time.

There’s a way to protect yourself from being taken advantage of when using these public USB ports.

CI Security suggests, “If you need to charge your phone and the only option is an unknown USB port, a wise measure is to protect it with a USB data blocker to prevent data exchange and guard against malware.”

The USB data blocker works to connect you to power without exposing your data in a public environment. 

I carry a battery charger and USB data blocker whenever I travel. In fact, I take it with me everytime I leave the house.

The Anker PowerCore 26800 works with iPhones, iPads, Androids, and other smart devices. 

Get yourself one here. 

10. Store Only the Data You Need…and Back It Up

protect your own data and your customers’ data

You must protect your own data and your customers’ data.

At the same time, it is convenient to store some data.

That’s why it is important to focus on storing only the data you need to conduct your business.

The Manifest found, “Nearly two-thirds (61%) of businesses collect customers’ contact information, and more than half (52%) collect their names. Meanwhile, around one-third collect their location information (39%) and payment details (31%).”

And, 66% of small businesses are concerned about the cyber security risk associated with collecting this type of data.

Should you choose to collect sensitive data, such as payment details, you must protect this data.

Additionally, it is critical that you regularly back up this data. 

11. Employ Cyber Security Best Practices for Credit Card Payments 

cyber security best practices for credit card payments

If you accept credit cards, you must employ cyber security best practices for credit card payments.

The FCC recommends, “Work with banks or processors to ensure the most trusted and validated tools and anti-fraud services are being used.”

If you are a smaller business, you may have started using a payment processing solution like Square.

Even if you are not using Square, you have probably used a Square reader (the device that allows customers to insert their credit card into the reader that connects to a mobile device).

One reason for Square’s popularity with side hustlers is that it allows them to accept payments “quickly, easily, and securely.”

For example, it keeps customers’ data secure and allows cyber security features, such as two-factor authentication. 

Additionally, small businesses should use other mobile fraud detection tools, such as requiring customers to input a CVV code with purchases or verifying the billing address.

12. Practice Mobile Device Cyber Security

Mobile Device Cyber Security

While you don’t want to think about your mobile device being lost or stolen, it happens.

If you use your mobile device to conduct business, this is a real risk.

That’s why it is important to practice mobile device cyber security.

This means password-protecting your device, encrypting sensitive data, and using security apps. 

Bonus Tip 

Check out the FCC’s Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0 to create a customized small business cyber security model. 

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