No matter where you are, or what you’re working on, when it comes to the data and information that you transfer, share, or access online, nothing is more important than keeping it secure. As the 2017 Equifax data breach brought to light, even information individuals think is secure, is vulnerable to attack, and in this case resulted in 143 million individuals having their social security numbers and driver’s licenses numbers compromised.

With the number of cyber attacks increasing at unprecedented rates, concerned professionals are taking the necessary precautions to research and defend themselves against identity theft resulting from a data breach or vulnerable online information. To help kick off Data Privacy Day, we’ll be discussing the importance of cybersecurity, while sharing some helpful tips and internet best practices that everyone can use to stay safe online and ensure their data is private.

Working safer online in 5 easy steps

1. Don’t share work equipment or passwords: Although it seems rudimentary, denying unauthorized users access to your equipment and login credentials ensures there will be no accidental installation of malware software or viruses, or purposeful breach of security that could lead to the compromisation of secure data. Learn how freelancers and business owners can help keep their sensitive data protected in this article.

2. Keep all devices updated: One of the easiest things a computer user can do to maintain a secure device is to keep their machine up to date. Immediately installing manufacturer recommended software, patches, and security updates will ensure that the device’s software and applications are running properly and not critically vulnerable to attack. To guarantee machine security and avoid the pesky reminders, consider using automatic update settings to schedule the installation after work hours.

“You don’t want important information exposed or at risk because you didn’t take the time to run a security or system update,” says Paige Hanson, LifeLock chief of identity education. “Where possible, make updates automatic, so you don’t even have to think about them.”

3. Request remote access to a secure network or VPN: Gaining popularity, many companies are hosting Virtual Private Networks that allow authorized individuals remote access to their secure internal network. Logging in allows access to private applications, documents, and data safely stored within. When paired with a firewall and data encryption software, this becomes an extremely secure way for companies to transfer and share data while defending it against cyber interception or hacking. However, there are a number of additional security skills both freelancers and business owners can improve upon to protect their IT infrastructure.

4. Secure your passwords: Saving passwords within your browser may seem convenient at the time, but it’s also convenient for someone looking to access those accounts without your permission. Secure password managers safely store autofill information and passwords behind a two-step authentication and verification process. When you’re ready to use the stored information, you simply submit the password sent to your device, and you’re in.

5. Always log out: Whether it’s an online account or a mobile application, always log out when you’re done to ensure there’s no unauthorized activity or access. Paired with the secure password manager, this strategy will minimize the chance of unauthorized access.

When clients and freelancers collaborate on projects, it’s important to keep these basic tips in mind every day. Then you can focus on great work to drive growth and success for all parties involved.

Why freelancers and business owners should care about data privacy

You can’t protect yourself against the latest cyber security threats if you don’t know what they are. We’re all human and make mistakes, and unfortunately that poses the biggest threat to our data. Being aware of social engineering tactics, phishing scams, malware, and encryption best practices can help companies and freelancers alike head off potential vulnerabilities and exploits. Hackers are getting more and more savvy—to outsmart them, you have to be, too. Read our article Trends in Cyber Security Threats and How to Prevent Them for an overview.

How freelancers can improve their own security

Remote workers have the flexibility to work from wherever, but this means they need to take special care with the networks and WiFi connections they use. Avoid accessing unsecured networks or making yourself vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle (MIM) attack by using a VPN whenever you’re away from your own password-protected network. Also, freelancers should have a plan in place to securely backup files, too, so any system malfunctions or downtime on the client’s side don’t affect or disrupt your work.

How business owners can encourage a security-conscious remote workforce

The key to working securely with a remote workforce is being proactive with a security strategy before work even begins. While remote workers can easily work on mission-critical projects, they don’t always have the same access to security tools and policies that employees at enterprise organizations do. Bearing this in mind—that they’ll likely be on their own computers, WiFi networks, email and file sharing accounts—it’s helpful to approach more sensitive projects with a few security-boosting tactics.

Try to categorize projects by security level, only delegating out high-risk projects to trusted partners or those with higher clearance. Setting up permissions ensures certain team members only have access to the resources they need, and that access can be reevaluated or revoked at any time. Utilize confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for sensitive projects to address intellectual property concerns. And don’t forget to frequently backup files and systems—this way, if something is compromised or accidentally deleted, you have the ability to retrieve or roll back at any time.

With the increasing rates of cybercrime and an overwhelming number of hacks targeting online information, nothing is more important than keeping your personal and remote data private and secure. Prioritizing security both at work and in the home ensures your data is less vulnerable and allows you to focus on your work at hand. So, this Data Privacy Day, start small by locking devices, updating software, and prioritizing the security of your private information.