Being a freelance blogger, and someone who likes to get the odd guest post in, is a lot of fun. You get to expose your ideas to new audiences, interact with them, and make new connections in the online world.
The problem is that sometimes those connections are not the type that you want. There are a nearly unlimited number of ways that security breaches can happen while you’re doing your freelance work. Fortunately, there are a few foolproof ways that will protect you 99% of the time, and leave it too difficult to bother with you for that last 1%.
This article is going to give you the tools and knowledge to keep yourself safe all across that big World Wide Web.
Online security tools to keep your freelance blogging safer
1: Ghostery shows you what’s going on behind the scenes
Ghostery is a browser extension that allows you to choose who can track you online. You may not be aware of this, but many websites and companies put cookies on your computer to track your activity. Ghostery gives you the opportunity to choose who tracks you. If you prefer that no one does, you have that ability.
How extensive is this tracking? To give an example, I visit CNN pretty often. Right now I’m being shown 14 different trackers on this website alone being stopped by Ghostery. Buzzfeed is a little more modest at 11. Some of the worst websites I’ve seen have gone over 20.
How will this help you stay safer online? Ghostery has a pop-up menu that shows you the opt-out features for each website. It keeps you from having to dig around and gets you direct access to the tools that will prevent people, and hackers, from tracking you online.
2: HTTPS Everywhere gives you a secure connection
HTTPS Everywhere is one of the simplest online protection tools that you’ll come across. The whole thing comes down to the difference between HTTP and HTTPS. That extra ‘S’ stands for SSL, which is a layer of cryptographic protection. HTTPS Everywhere sends you to the version of a website that has HTTPS instead of the version without.
It works by keeping an index of all HTTPS websites and functions as an extension on your browser. There’s no lag-time: just enable it in your browser and get that extra layer of protection on every website you can. You’ll see it in your address bar.
For variety’s sake, you can also try if KB SSL Enforcer. This is a Chrome-only extension if HTTPS Everywhere doesn’t meet your needs. Or if you’re a Chrome snob.
3: Use a web proxy or VPN service on public WiFi
A web proxy is designed just to mask your IP address. Your ISP is the piece of online identification which tells websites who you are as far as location, browser, and OS. Having your every movement online tracked can be information that hackers want, especially for higher-profile writers and journalists doing investigations.
For added protection, a VPN service will mask your IP address while also encrypting everything you do online. It’s like having HTTPS Everywhere on, but it works even when websites don’t have SSL encryption. This means that when you’re at the local coffee shop writing a man in the middle attack, where a hacker puts themselves between your computer and the WiFi signal, it doesn’t give the hacker useful data. You can learn more about how a VPN protects you over on my internet security blog.
4: FlashBlock protects against Java risks
Planting malware in Flash content is an old hacker trick that is still going strong today. They love it because browsers automatically load them and play it. Flashblock is a web browser extension for Firefox that is designed to stop this from happening on every single website you visit. The recent Superfish issue showed everyone how pervasive this can be.
A placeholder is created where the media would be. Everything requires your approval before it plays. Not only is it keeping you safer, but it’s also reducing your bandwidth and helping pages load faster.
5: Adblock Plus stops ads and malware
Hiding malware in ads is another old trick, like the FlashBlock above, as people just tune it out and assume it’s safe. Hackers are always looking to exploit you when you’re not thinking. They’ve been buying ad space for years now and implanting malware in them to take advantage of this.
Adblock Plus is a free tool that works for every browser (even, get this, Internet Explorer) by blocking ads. You have the option of allowing ads to show on websites that you trust, but there’s no real way to tell with hackers buying ads on legitimate websites.
Not only will those annoying pop-up ads be stopped from distracting you over and over again, keeping you more productive, but it keeps you safe by blocking those ads that have malware planted in them.
If you have any other tools which you use, I’d like to hear about them in the comments below!