Are your freelance business assets properly protected in the event of a loss, or theft? In this article, we explore some of the risks and suggest ideas to reduce your exposure, and minimise the impact if the worst does happen.
Secure your laptop
It is estimated that a staggering 1 in 10 laptops are stolen or lost and, in the UK alone, more than 34,000 laptops are stolen every year.
If your laptop contains sensitive client information, there are a number of simple steps that you can take to minimise the impact of theft:
- Passwords – Password protect your laptop. Remember to use a strong password. (Think creating a strong password is hard? Web genius Randall Munroe asserts that simply stringing together 4 random words e.g. correcthosebatterystaple will produce a password that is easy to remember and virtually unbreakable).
- Encryption – Encrypt your data. Some editions of Windows such as Windows 7 Ultimate and Windows 7 Business Edition, for example, come as standard with BitLocker, a tool that allows you to encrypt your hard drive. Alternatively, you can opt for TrueCrypt which is a freeware open source tool that allows you to encrypt both your hard drive and external drives.
- Attach a padlock – Strap down your hardware. Most laptops have a Kensington lock attachment, so consider investing in a strong padlock if you are going to leave your laptop unattended for any length of time.
- Tracking – Use secret tracking software. In the event that your laptop is stolen, freeware software such as Prey Project can use geo-location technology to help you to find, lock and recover your device as soon as it connects to the Internet.
Secure your data
Although cloud storage is still in its infancy, and there have been some highly publicised data leaks over the last year, secure online data storage is still the best protection against the physical loss of a laptop or mobile device.
Not only does it provide a useful backup of your data in the event of a theft, for example, but it also allows you to ‘unlink’ a lost laptop and attempt a remote wipe of the data.
Protect yourself against RFID skimming
As RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology finds it way into more and more credit cards, debits cards, and identity documents, the incidence of ‘contactless identity theft’, is becoming increasingly common.
Security experts have demonstrated that tech-savvy criminals armed with little more than a laptop and a portable scanner have the ability to read credit card details and other personal information simply by lightly brushing past your pocket or bag in a crowded environment.
If you want to reduce this risk for your business credit cards and debit cards, then consider buying an RFID blocking document holder or wallet for added peace of mind.
If the worst does happen, then insurance can provide the last line of defence. There are several different types of insurance worth considering as a contractor.
- Professional indemnity insurance – Do you handle sensitive client information? If so, then check that your professional indemnity policy covers you against loss of client documents and data.
- Contents insurance – Do you work at home? If so, your home contents insurance policy may not provide adequate cover for your business assets so consider whether you would benefit from an ‘all risks’ home contents policy to cover business equipment, business contents insurance, or individual ‘gadget insurance’.
- Travel insurance – Do you travel on business? If so, consider the impact of a lost bag or stolen laptop or mobile phone on your trip. Business travel insurance can provide concierge services such as emergency couriers and replacement equipment, all of which can help to ensure that the business value of the trip is not lost if the worst happens.
Register your business assets
If you have ever been burgled, you will know just how difficult it can be to remember what you bought when and for how much; all of which can make the insurance claims process both time consuming and frustrating. So why not register your assets with the UK National Property Register at immobilise.com?
Officially endorsed by the Home Office, immobilise.com links with the National Mobile Property Register and allows officers to search for property by serial numbers to identify the registered owners and whether an item is stolen.
In the event that your freelance business property is stolen, you will have instant access to all of your asset details, and the police will be able to return searches against any stolen property retrieved in the UK which gives you a far better chance of seeing your goods returned.
This article was written by Peter Roy, a freelance project manager and productivity consultant.