Owning your own business is tough partly because you are responsible for everything that happens. There’s no higher authority to whom you can pass your concerns. The buck stops with you. And this includes one of the most critical aspects of doing business online—keeping your data secure.

Hacking attacks and security breaches don’t just happen to big companies like Equifax. Your documents and identity are at risk too. So, here are three ways to protect yourself, your contracting business, and your customers when doing business online.

1. Establish security practices and policies to protect sensitive information.

Digital thieves are out there hunting for vulnerable, insecure data to steal and exploit, and they love to prey on those who least expect such attacks—small business owners, freelancers, and contractors. That is why you must have established security procedures to protect sensitive information—yours and your customers’. A security policy is a set of rules you live by in order to lessen the risk that information entrusted to you falls into the wrong hands. Here are a few examples:

  • Use one cell phone for business and another phone for personal matters.
  • Shred financial documents and other papers containing personally identifiable information once you have dealt with it. Don’t keep it lying around.
  • Delete any personal information that customers send to you once you have used it for its necessary purpose.
  • Never receive credit card numbers over the phone or via email. Always use a secure terminal (such as a reputable payment processor, e.g., PayPal) to process payments.
  • Change the passwords to your online accounts every three or six months.
  • Never open suspicious emails. Never open spam emails. And, if you do, never click on links or open attachments.
  • If you receive a potentially legitimate email, but are not familiar with the sender, call or text the sender and verify that they are the ones who sent the message.

These are just a few tips. You should do more research to find out how to implement a security policy.

2. Take advantage of identity and document verification services.

Identity and document verification services allow you to know for sure that you are dealing with legitimate individuals on the other end of the internet. It is too easy for people to pretend to be someone they are not online, and it would take too much of your time to adequately research the people you contract with. On top of that, you may not have the resources to do so. That’s why trusted services that employ advanced technology (including facial recognition, biometric markers, machine learning, and verification experts) are available to help reduce fraud, keep your business safe, and provide a secure customer experience.

3. Control physical access to your business data.

Never let someone you don’t trust into your business location—whether it’s your home, your garage, an away-from-home office, or your truck. This rule also applies to computers, phones, and tablets that store vital business information—especially information about your customers. Never leave these devices in areas where others may see them without your supervision. Physical security is often just as important as digital security. Knowing where your hardware is and who has access to it is very important.

The security threats you face as a contractor are widespread. But, if you are vigilant about your data, you will dramatically lower the risk that your information will fall into the wrong hands.

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