One of the biggest advantages of working as a digital nomad or solopreneur is the unprecedented amount of freedom. You can work from almost anywhere that you are able to take a laptop or digital device. The world is truly your workplace. But with this freedom comes greater responsibility for the cybersecurity of your business and the privacy of your customers.
In the post-digital age, with more than 1 billion data breaches in 2018, we’ve seen that the technology-only cybersecurity solution provider has clearly failed.
So then how can remote workers ensure that their business is protected at all times against data breaches and guard the privacy of their customers?
Human Behaviour as the Weakest Link
At the end of the day, it’s not technology that can be blamed; it’s human behaviour. We are the weakest link in this game. The upside to this is that as a brand of one, there are data and privacy strategies that include daily actions and behaviour entirely within your control. These will allow you to reclaim your cyberstrength and boost your cyberpower while ensuring your customers that they can trust you with their data and information.
Here are a few of these behaviours you can easily implement for your business:
Staying Safe and Secure on the Road
For digital nomads and solopreneurs, digital safety and security on the road is of utmost importance.
Here are a few tips for ensuring safety wherever you travel:
Reclaim Your Cyberstrength and Boost Your Cyberpower
As we’ve shown in the tips in this post, you can combine tech solutions with adjustments in human behaviour to safeguard your business and protect your brand. Ultimately, the data and privacy strategies you choose as the head of cybersecurity of your business are your choice and your sole responsibility. Develop the cyber self-awareness you need to become resilient to attacks or data breaches, and you’ll have greater trust from your customers that their data is safe wherever you are in the world and no matter what the circumstance.
In 2018, there were more than 1 billion people who had their data exposed, including ones from some of the best-known consumer brands such as the Marriott Hotel, Twitter and Firebase (a Google-owned development platform used by mobile developers). Over the past few years, we have learned the hard way that the question is not if, but when your business and customers will be attacked.
It makes sense then that one of the best ways to ensure your business continuity is to have a good backup and recovery plan in place. This should include every part of your business – from business processes and assets to human resources and business partners.
Taking Preventative Steps and Mitigating Damage
As far as your digital offering is concerned, it’s your responsibility to ensure safety and do the best you can to prevent privacy and security breaches to your users. Though the future might seem grim with regards to data breaches, there are still steps you can take to prevent damage – that as a small business can be easier to implement and maintain in contrast with larger organisations, like the ones you read about in the news.
Here are a few ways to mitigate the damage from an eventual attack:
Having a Recovery Plan in Place
Beyond your own device security, you’ll need to have a recovery plan prepared ahead of time.
Having a recovery plan should include several details:
Want to start implementing the necessary steps to ensure business continuity? Join the Cyberpower online course now!
An Interview with Dr. Priya E. Abraham
Dr. Priya E. Abraham is a business anthropologist with more than 20 years of experience IT leading several large and complex digital transformation projects. The commonality she found in many enterprises was that they all struggled in executing their digital strategy and the human-centric aspects of the transformation process. She is now using her unique background to advise the next generation of workers: digital nomads and solopreneurs, and has recently released an ebook on the subject.
We had the opportunity to interview her and have her share her views on the future of work and cybersecurity.
It is estimated that by 2030 there will be 1 billion people working remotely around the globe. How does this bode for the cybersecurity landscape in the future? Do you feel that solopreneurs will have to step up their cybersavviness as a result?
The future of work has started already; just a few years ago business forecasts reported about the socio-economic, technological, and cultural changes in the global workforce. Despite the fact that digital nomads are often perceived as a hype and described with largely distorted biases, they have already heavily impacted the employment market.
By next year, many experts estimate half of the working population in the U.S. to be freelancers -- and by 2030, one billion digital nomads globally. Many forward-thinking companies and governments are doing what they can to leverage this workforce; companies are establishing better collaboration with remote workers and digital nomads, and digital leadership nations have established mechanisms to attract and retain this talent by offering e-residency, the possibility to incorporate fully digitally operable companies and by creating communities and services for these solopreneurs.
As the landscape for solopreneurs and digital nomads grows however, data and privacy breaches will continue to be an ever-growing concern. Last year alone saw more than 1 billion people who had their data compromised, and Q1 of 2019 has already reported 4.5 billion records exposed.
We live in a world of digital privacy asymmetry. Consumers know very little about the companies and data brokers that know so much about them. Clearly, that is their business. Nevertheless, privacy is personal. It concerns every step we take. It is the data that is harvested about us, bought, sold, and turned into profit. One of the latest trends in privacy is consumer’s demand for greater online agency and control of their data.
In response to this demand, policy makers are frantically attempting to catch up on regulations to help consumers protect their digital rights. Despite their good intentions, these regulatory gaps keep getting wider as technology advances ever more rapidly, touching literally every domain of our lives. In 2018, we saw global privacy data laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the Israeli Data Security Regulation. These laws have now made corporate giants such as Google and Facebook responsible for their consumer’s data protection.
As an entrepreneur, you need to routinely make informed decisions about how to present yourself and your brand in cyberspace whilst protecting your and your clients’ privacy. Solopreneurs need to lead this trend, not just for legal reasons but also to be informed and act as a role model. This means you must think critically about your displayed digital behaviour as well as the connected guidelines and cultural principles you use with your networked team. These principles should be solidly built on cybersecurity, which constitute business continuity, privacy and data protection.
Describe the profile or profiles of the typical solopreneur and the use cases for ensuring their client's security and safety.
Consultants, makers, developers, startup entrepreneurs, UX designers, coaches, and authors are all different types of solopreneurs. These workers enjoy an unprecedented amount of freedom and can often work independent of their location. They don’t typically work alone but in a networked team. This is where cybersavviness, whose core ingredients include cybersecurity, privacy and brand, come into play.
Cybercapacity is the combination of privacy and cybersecurity in a business environment.
It is essential that solopreneurs and their teams or networks understand the components of cybercapacity and cybersavviness. To truly develop cyberpower, solopreneurs will need to lead by example in their daily routines and displayed behaviours. For example, instead of saying “I will google that”, start saying “I will duck that” and then use the DuckDuckGo browser instead, which ensures greater privacy in contrast with Google -- who keep a record of your online interactions including your online purchases. So make sure you install your cybersecurity toolbox with DuckDuckGo and go “duck it!’.
But cybersavviness is not only the solopreneurs responsibility. Stepping up the cybersavviness ladder is a reciprocal process: Companies who work with solopreneurs need to have the necessary cybersecurity measures in place to ensure that solopreneurs handle data responsibly. These processes need to be in place as early as in the recruitment and the onboarding of the remote workers.
What do you feel is the best way for these different solopreneurs to ensure their client’s security and safety? Are there different tools and tips depending on the different profiles and different use cases or a few basic concepts?
Here are a few basic concepts any solopreneur can start to quickly implement to strengthen their client’s security and safety:
The interview was conducted at the Women at Work conference in Vienna in June 2019.
How Solopreneurs and Startups can Prevent Data Breaches
Cybersavvy solopreneurs know that they are responsible for any issues related to cybersecurity and data protection concerning their business. Digital nomads, who travel frequently, need to be particularly cautious about preventing data breaches that are a result of a lost or stolen device. Beyond prevention, however, there is the tone that you set for your business as well. As the head of cybersecurity in your business, you play a key role in developing your brand image as one that meets service standards of privacy that users would choose over your competitors.
For makers and startups in general, it is vital to reflect this in their brand, since makers and startups who seek funding need to be able demonstrate that they meet the necessary cybersecurity and privacy standards to investors.
Unfortunately, the topics of cybersecurity and data protection are anything but straightforward and easy to comprehend – the legal details on privacy, especially when it comes to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are written in legal jargon that is difficult to understand. This creates an environment where solopreneurs and makers are constantly concerned about not meeting these regulations and getting into legal trouble.
So how can solopreneurs and makers ensure that both their data and their client’s data are safe and secure?
Introducing: The Cybersavviness Checklist
Today, solopreneurs and makers are facing an increasing number of challenges in ensuring the safety of their business, including a shortage of resources, even though the requirements for safety are almost equal to that of a larger enterprise. As a Data Protection Officer, I have first-hand experience with the complexity of the compliance landscape and specifically the requirements of the GDPR, which concerns any business that processes the personal data of European citizens, irrespective of where they are located. My education as a cyberanthropologist has also made me aware of the behaviour of both makers and users in the cyberspace and how it poses a threat to not only themselves, but their networks and users as well.
While working on the ebook Your Cyberpower: How to Safeguard Your Remote Business I had the opportunity to join the Vienna Makers Group moderated by Sebastien Vercammen. There we came up with the idea of generating a checklist as people, and business owners in particular, love checklists. They greatly assist with time management, can simplify complex tasks, instill discipline and good habits, are an efficient way to complete repetitive tasks, and help reduce anxiety. The ten checkpoints of the checklist we are building cover some essential aspects of cybersecurity and privacy, discussed in more depth in the book.
With my background in anthropology, we applied best practice ethnographic research methods to the making of digital products to develop a checklist to guard clients against these threats. In other words, we took traditional field research methods such as interviews, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and participant observation and translated them to the digital space with a mix of small and big data as in surveys, landing pages, online interviews and analytics.
First, we set up a landing page to gauge interest in addition to sending a survey to our early adopters to understand the needs of makers and solopreneurs as well as their level of expertise of the subject matter. Our initial findings were that our audience is particularly interested in learning more about how they can improve their data protection, cybersecurity and on-the-road safety.
We then drafted a few checkpoints and conducted semi-structured interviews to verify our initial findings from the survey and that the checklist was effective. After conducting a few interviews with early adopters, we found that users want an action plan to follow-up on the key learning, so we are including a three-day action plan (one hands-on action per day) with links to best solutions so that they can immediately start making their business cybersavvy.
This is the full package that we are aiming to deliver to clients:
Taking Those First Steps Towards Compliance and Safety
After seeing many makers and solopreneurs hit a stumbling block with regards to their cybersecurity, my goal was to raise awareness for the potential risks and threats posed to these businesses, including data breaches. I also wanted to provide a simple and easy head start for these business owners to become more cybersavvy and take those first steps towards compliance. As users become increasingly conscious about how their data is handled and investors demand makers and startups demonstrate compliance, becoming cybersavvy will become a winning strategy for these startups and entrepreneurs.
Want to sign up receive a free checklist for your business? Sign up to add your name to our waiting list today!
Get the ebook: Your Cyberpower. How to Safeguard Your Remote Business.
Towards the end of 2018, the Marriott hotel announced it had been hit by a data breach that affected 500 million people and included the passport numbers of several million people. The fear was that criminals could easily use customer’s personal data, which included Social Security numbers, to open fraudulent accounts and access customer’s bank accounts.
Although most data breaches aren’t of the magnitude of the Marriott breach, many smaller breaches do happen with regularly frequency – which is why you as a digital nomad or solopreneur must be prepared. So how can you best protect your business against a data breach, no matter what the size?
Cybersecurity and Privacy: The Two Critical Components of Cybercapacity
First, you and your team must understand the critical components of cybercapacity -- cybersecurity and privacy. Think of cybersecurity as putting up bars across a window to add security (but not necessarily privacy), whereas data protection is more similar to putting up a window to ensure privacy – but not necessarily protection. After you and your team properly examine the different aspects of cybercapacity and what they mean to you, you’ll be able plan a cybersecurity strategy and fit it in with business continuity and compliance measures.
Now, armed with your new cybersecurity strategy for your business, picture the following scenario: You as a digital nomad have just spent a day in a new location. You’ve taken a well-deserved day off, relaxing in a fantastic beach place. In the evening you come back from a networking event to discover with horror that you can’t find your laptop – it was either lost or stolen, and as such, you’re looking at the strong possibility of a data breach of your users as well.
Are you prepared for what to do in the event your laptop is lost or stolen? Better yet, do you know how to set up your business to defend against data breaches and other cybercrimes before they even occur?
"What I most appreciated about 'Your Cyberpower: How to Safeguard Your Remote Business'
was its clarity, simplicity, and pragmatism. I have known for some time now that I need to do
more to safeguard my business. With this ebook I get a sense of where to start and
how to carry on, step by step.”
Phoebe, solopreneur, currently based in Vienna, Austria
Sign up to receive our ebook “Your Cyberpower: How to Safeguard Your Remote Business” and you’ll learn:
We’ve already delivered the ebook via email to those early adopters who completed our questionnaire. The public version of the ebook will be available to everyone in April.
Want to be alerted as to when the ebook is available? Sign up here to get on our waiting list today.
Many thanks to those who have completed the survey and who have signed up to receive the Cyberconnecting ebook How to safeguard your remote business. Based on your feedback requests there will be an additional resource, with information below.
The ebook How to safeguard your remote business is a hands-on guide to cybersavviness tailored to nomad or solopreneur needs. It:
From the 100 survey responses we have received so far, we have learnt the following:
Cybersecurity and privacy matters
A significant group of you feels up-to-date with protecting your devices and digital services (44%); some of you have implemented a few measures but are struggling to understand the ever-changing threat landscape (28%); and the other 28% feel overwhelmed and would find a starter kit helpful.
The majority of you (48%) is uncertain what privacy and compliance entails and would find hands-on advice helpful. 33% of you have started implementing some measures, but found the whole thing confusing. Only 19% seems to be fully compliant.
People also inquired into the possibility of working with checklists in order to ensure that they are on track with data protection and cybersecurity. Based on this feedback we are developing a set of checklists for your convenience. We are also working on including personalised action reports, which will provide you with hands-on guidance to keep your business safe and to help you build a trusting relationship with your clients.
With a view to your feedback the first checklist focuses on working remotely, covering the most essential data protection and cyber security points when you are on the road - easy and simple.
In addition, we are sourcing solutions and services in order to help you keep safe when working remotely and to meet clients’ expectations with regard to data protection and cybersecurity.
All the learning from the checklist we will incorporate in the ebook, now due out by April 2019.
We really appreciate having you on board. If you want to be alerted as to when the ebook is available, sign up here: Get on the waiting list
As you may have already experienced, nomads and solopreneurs wear many hats. As opposed to an employed worker, responsible for just one task or function, the exciting part of your work is that you are in charge of a number of roles, which allow you to shape the business with your own individual style. These might include tasks such as: developing your offering and running the operations, hiring expert help, feeding the marketing channels, setting up the necessary IT infrastructure, securing the finance, and finally, safeguarding your business.
Safeguarding your business – security and privacy – is one of the most challenging aspects for many nomads and solopreneurs. And to be perfectly blunt, for many of you the prospect of dealing with cybersecurity is so boring it presents you with a direct path to Yawnville.
Your Role as the Head of Cybersecurity in Your Business
As you start to learn more about how to safeguard your business, you keep hearing about web attacks and data breaches. Although you’re aware that these attacks might very well affect your business eventually, you’re also sure that you can be successful in safeguarding your business. The problem is you’re not exactly sure where to start. You’re aware that you have to adhere to certain cybersecurity and privacy standards; however, you don’t know what exactly applies to your specific circumstances and what you have to do. The ever-changing threat landscape and the complexity of privacy regulations are simply overwhelming.
Ultimately, you are liable for making your business compliant with the most recent industry standards. To succeed in your role of head of cybersecurity, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions to gauge how fluent you are in compliance.
Understandably, for many of you this gives you a free trip to Yawnville.
Nevertheless, it is essential for you to be able to answer these questions not only to safeguard your business form cyberattacks and prevent paying fines for failing to meet compliance, but also in order to build a trusting relationship with your users and clients.
The Solution for Nomads and Solopreneur
At this point, you may be asking yourself how you can go about becoming successful in your role as head of cybersecurity in your business. To answer any concerns you have, I’ve written an ebook that will soon be published covering the most important topics on cybersecurity, privacy, and indemnity.
The content is specifically tailored for the needs of nomads and solopreneurs, with guidelines on necessary actions for owners of a landing page, a website, email lists for marketing activities, or anyone who runs a platform or uses a content management system. The ebook simply helps you free time to focus on what you do best.
There is still time to include your personal feedback in the ebook. Simply take the survey below (10 questions, max. 6 min., open until November 19) and your responses will be considered for the final content of the book. By completing the survey, you can sign up for the free version of the ebook, which will be available by the end of the year.
Keep in mind that the solopreneurs who are not just compliant, but have truly embedded cybersecurity and privacy in their daily business culture, are the ones who win the business.
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If you are like a lot of digital nomads and globally oriented solopreneurs out there, you may be surprised to learn how many hours you are successful in concentrating on focused tasks at work. An analysis of 225 million hours of work time, from students to software developers and larger organisations who works with information (i.e. writer, developer, designer or manager) has an actual productivity of 12.5 hours a week. That’s almost 28 hours of non-productive time! Unfortunately, there exists a huge gap between the number of hours workers believe that they are productive versus the actual hours that they are productive. And even though these statistics refer to all types of workers, it should be noted that nomads and solopreneurs don’t spend nearly as much time in meetings as their employee counterparts, but do spend a significant amount of time on administrative and organisational tasks.
What are the challenges both digital nomads and solopreneurs face when trying to maximise their work productivity, and more importantly, what are some best practices they can employ to make the most out of their workday? This post will offer a few suggestions.
Overcoming the Optimism Bias
Most people are overly optimistic when deciding how many tasks they can complete in a day. They neglect to take into consideration the amount of planning, communication and distractions that are part and parcel of any task. Psychologists have actually coined this thinking the Planning Fallacy, which affects every type of planning from vacations to real estate projects. Programmers in particular have a similar law, Hofstadter’s law, which states that people have great difficultly accurately measuring the amount of time it takes to finish complex tasks.
There are a few ways to overcome this optimism bias. First, digital nomads and solopreneurs must take tasks and break them down into smaller tasks, estimating how much time each smaller task will take. For example, if your goal for the week is to finish writing an ebook about digital personalisation in ecommerce for a client that will be 5,000 words, you should consider first how long research and the completion of an outline will take. To make your work even more productive, have a plan in place for when there is a distraction or a setback. For instance, if the research for your ebook takes twice as long as you thought, you’ll need to eliminate a meeting discussing the project. Researchers have found that having a plan in place for completing projects ahead of time discourages procrastination and inspires them to get started as soon as possible.
Eliminate Distractions and Put a System in Place
Beyond being too optimistic, many workers don’t maximise their work hours. Emails, phone calls, text messages, and chats with co-workers are only a few of the many distractions digital nomads and solopreneurs will face on any given day. It can take a lot of concentration and willpower to fully eliminate these distractions and focus on the task at hand.
In response to this dilemma many workers face, the Pomodoro Technique was developed as a time management method, which has workers, focus for a full, uninterrupted 25 minutes on any given task. Any thoughts of future or additional tasks should be written down quickly on a piece of paper, allowing the worker to continue on the task at hand. After the Pomodoro session is completed, the worker takes a break; after 4 sessions a longer break is encouraged. The exercise can increase the time spent focused on tasks, allowing you to complete more during a Pomodoro and a more accurate estimate of how long future tasks will take.
Here are a few additional tips for maximising productivity:
Measuring Productivity to Achieve and Surpass Your Goal
If you want to increase your work productivity, start tracking how you organise your week digitally or on paper. Do this for 3-4 weeks; the result will be a real eye-opener. From the time that you have tracked, decide what tasks you would need to accomplish in order to be productive in those 12.5 hours of actual productive work hours. Make sure you are realistic about what you can achieve in that timeframe, scheduling time for tasks such as networking, travel time, administrative duties, and of course taking care of your overall well-being.
Once you review your goals, start tracking again and do you best to achieve those goals. And when you do, be sure to celebrate your success!
Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part series about the opportunities and challenges solopreneurs and digital nomads have in the Future of Work.
As a solopreneur or nomad you want to develop a workplace culture that is conducive to cybersecurity and privacy – in short, you are responsible for establishing your solopreneur cybercapacity.
But what is solopreneur cybercapacity and why is it important to your business? As a nomad or remote worker, how will you ensure that you and your client’s data is secure as you work on platforms and tools managed in the cloud? And what are some behaviours that you can start to put into practice to improve your cybercapacity while at the same time strengthening your brand and digital identity?
We’ll delve into the answers to these questions in this post.
Secure your Brand with a Data and Privacy Strategy
In cybersecurity the human is the weakest link. Being aware of this fact, you’ll need to do everything you can to demonstrate digital competence as a nomad, which includes fostering inclusive customer relationships as well as reducing any outside risk.
That’s why it’s imperative that you develop strategies for managing personal online information and keeping it secure from online risks such as identity thieves. You’ll also want to develop enough cyber self-awareness to become resilient to attacks or data breaches. Remember that at the end of the day, your nomadic digital identity is dependent on you, your interactions, and your brand. This includes how your data and privacy strategies function with regards to customers as well as your day-to-day behaviour.
Bear in mind that an enterprise’s ultimate cybercapacity entails the following components:
A Solopreneur's First Steps to Essential Cybercapacity
Obviously, you’re not a big enterprise, so you don’t have the challenge of setting free the mindset of an entire organisation. But as a brand of one, you are responsible for every single interaction between you and your clients, so you should be extra cautious about your online behaviour in your remote as you travel through airports and hotels throughout the world. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part series about the opportunities and challenges digital nomads have in the Future of Work.
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Note: This is Part 1 of a 3-part series about the opportunities and challenges solopreneurs and digital nomads have in the Future of Work.
For solopreneurs and digital nomads, identity is not tied to a particular country, language, company or set of experiences. If your business is mobile and you are traveling across the globe, what, then, is your digital identity based on? How is it different from brand identity that traditional businesses use? Most importantly, how can you leverage your digital identity in the future of work?
Evolving from a Personality-based to Identity-based Approach
Many organisations use personality assessments to recognise, hire and motivate their workforce. Developed in the latter half of the 20th century, this personality-based approach is believed to be closely linked to an individual’s expected professional performance. Personalities are based on psychological and cognitive factors and regarded as permanent.
But what if, as we believe, identity not only describes who we are, but is constantly in motion. As a construct, it is made up of both non-changeable aspects as well as elements that develop as time goes on. Developed at the beginning of the digital era, an identity-based approach stems from the idea that people shape an organisation, and an individual’s identity is developed through social interaction and interpersonal relationships among other members of the organisation.
Key differences in the concepts of personality tools and identity creation:
A Digital Brand of One
As a solopreneur or digital nomad, you are ultimately responsible for defining your identity and brand.
Unconstrained by management or the personality-based assessments of the human resources department, you control your digital nomadic identity. How then, can you shape and influence it to work in your favour?
Your digital identity is dependent on a number of factors:
As an individual with a multi-faceted identity, you might have both an identity as a painter as well as a very solid foundation and high appreciation of mathematics. While you would choose to emphasise your creative side at an art gallery, you’d emphasise your mathematical identity in conversations with anyone at an exhibit about meteorology and geophysics. That might very well affect your future clients and portfolio in the near future.
A significant advantage of this identity-based approach is its ability to recognise the individual’s entire self. As the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this type of self-actualisation would stimulate higher motivation in any worker and lead to greater productivity.
Focusing on Identity for the Future of Work
Let’s first consider a few future forecasts about the freelance community:
Most importantly, with a strong, clear digital solopreneur identity, you’ll be better prepared to tap into the ever-increasing market opportunities available in the newly transformed world of work, in addition to winning new clients and retaining them. From this introduction of the identity creation concept we will be giving deeper explanations in the upcoming articles, for you to
Meanwhile, our next blog post will focus on the amount of cybercapacity essential for solopreneurs and digital nomads to work remotely.
Note: This is Part 1 of a 3-part series about the opportunities and challenges digital nomads have in the Future of Work.
Digital transformation strategist | Privacy advisor | Cyber anthropologist | Author