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What Is Cyber Hygiene And Why Should You Care In 2021

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Last Updated on June 7, 2021 by Admin

When you hear about hygiene, one thing that quickly comes to mind is your health. In the cybersecurity field, you also find that term. Exactly what is cyber hygiene and why should you take it seriously? In the article, you learn about areas you need to incorporate in your cyber hygiene policy.

Definition of cyber hygiene

Cyber hygiene refers to best steps and practices that a user or an organization takes to ensure there is online safety and system health.

This should not be done as a once-off exercise, but a routine check that requires consistency to make sure that established standards are adhered to all the time.

In addition, cyber hygiene is super-important in organizations where the risk of encountering vulnerabilities is magnified due to availability of more devices and increased human factor.

One of the most common threats to online security is a malware attack and it is important to keep the cyber hygiene policy updated with new trends in cyberattacks.

A clear checklist of how you should optimize your online security is mandatory for any individual or organization that is serious about cyber hygiene.

Organizations usually rely on the IT department or a cybersecurity expert to handle aspects of cyber hygiene but this is what causes problems.

Any individual who has access to a computer or mobile device needs to be well-acquainted with cyber hygiene protocols.

This makes it easier and faster to resolve any incidences of a cyberattack because everyone understands their role.

With increased use of computers and integration of systems, a cyberattack in one part of the network can quickly spread to compromise many devices in the network.

This can lead to huge financial losses, like what happened in the Wannacry ransomware attack.

what is cyber hygiene

Benefits of cyber hygiene

When cyber hygiene is implemented successfully, it’s easier for an organization to fend off threats and malware.

Well-maintained systems

Routine maintenance of devices ensures that they operate optimally.

Any devices that are obsolete need to be replaced with newer, more efficient hardware.

Software also needs regular updates as this addresses any vulnerabilities that arise in prior versions.

If you don’t update software or applications, you open doors to malware attacks like what happened with the Fancy Product Designer plugin.

Stored files can fragment and result in data loss, but with routine maintenance you can protect your data.

Better security

Common threats that to watch out for include:

  • Hackers
  • Malware
  • Identity theft

An organization without robust cyber hygiene is prone to these attacks.

Attackers capitalize on hardware or software vulnerabilities, so to counter that you need robust cyber hygiene practices.

If effective cyber hygiene is in place, the organization is better prepared to fight off any threats.

Cyber hygiene policy

To come up with a cyber hygiene policy, 3 areas that need to be covered and these are:

  1. Documentation
  2. Analysis
  3. Formulation of policy

1. Documentation

First step is to get an idea of the number of devices an organization has and also a list of all the software that is installed.

All hardware should be documented thoroughly, that is, computers, peripheral devices and any mobile devices.

Software includes any program that is installed on computers, including any computer that accesses the organization’s network remotely.

Applications may be web-based apps like Google Drive, or apps on mobile devices.

2. Analysis

Next step is to go through the list and identify any hardware, software or application that has vulnerabilities.

Equipment that is no-longer functional needs to be replaced or repaired.

Any software that is not up-to-date needs to be updated and you need to uninstall any programs that you don’t use.

Passwords should be strong and changed often. Consider using a password manager to automatically generate strong passwords per rising need.

Avoid duplication of software or applications to minimize exposure to cyberattacks.

3. Formulation of policy

After the initial analysis and sorting out of obvious issues, you need to create a cyber hygiene policy that you use routinely to ensure cyber hygiene is maintained.

In other words, this is a set of dos and don’ts that should be adopted by all members of the organization.

An interval has to be set for routine check of each and every aspect of the policy.

A typical cyber hygiene policy includes the following:

A. Hardware updates

Obsolete hardware should be replaced.

If there is need to upgrade hardware, it’s easier if a sound cyber hygiene policy is followed.

B. Software updates

Scheduling regular updates of software and applications cannot be emphasized.

Keep all software installed on computers up-to-date. You can set the updates to automatic so that you get a new update as soon as it is released.

Updates address any vulnerabilities that are picked up by developers and it ensures optimum perfrmance.

Consistency is what keeps you on top of the situation.

C. Password changes

Use strong passwords that are hard to crack and they need to be changed frequently. To make life easier, you can use a password manager like NordPass.

D. Restrict installs

In an organization, don’t allow anyone to install software but leave this to the IT team or those who are authorized to do so. This reduces the risk of installation of malware.

E. Limit Admins

Admin privileges on computers should be restricted to the IT team. For ordinary users, any major actions that may compromise the system should require authorization first.

F. Back up of data

Data should be backed using the 3:2:1 method where 3 external backups are made, on 2 different media with 1 of the backup at another location.

You can save on storage space by using the cloud-based storage services and it’s best to opt for a service that encrypts your files.

Format any hard drives with information you no-longer need but is confidential.

Simply deleting the data does not remove it completely and attackers can still access it.

G. Protect your router

Find out more on how you can secure your router in this detailed article I wrote earlier.

Make sure the router has WPA2 or WPA3 encryption for added security.

Use of a strong, secure password has been highlighted earlier.

H. Multifactor authentication

It’s more secure to use authentication apps as opposed to SMS-based authentication.

Hackers can bypass SMS-based authentication by utilizing tactics like SIM card jacking.

J. Security defense

It is important to add multiple layers of security to maximize the security of your system.

A good antivirus is needed to act as the first line of defense and you have to keep it up-to-date.

This scans the computer to detect and remove common malware although it should not be used alone.

A network firewall is also essential to block unauthorized access to websites, mail servers and other resources.

At individual level, you must not work with confidential information online without using a VPN. Confidential data includes:

  • Social Security Numbers.
  • Credit Card Numbers.
  • Health Records.
  • Financial Records.
  • Student Records

A VPN hides your online activity from hackers and that gives you a peace of mind.

Top VPN services that I recommend are:

NordVPN – Best for security (Editor’s Choice)

  • Adblock
  • Antimalware
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 68% off a 2-year plan

Surfshark – Low cost VPN

  • All standard features at a fraction of a cost
  • 83% off a 2-year plan
  • Strictly no logs policy
  • No DNS leaks

CyberGhost VPN – User friendly VPN

  • Widespread coverage
  • Strong anonymity while browsing
  • 83% off a 3-year plan
  • 45-day money-back guarantee

Conclusion

Cyber hygiene is something you need to take seriously and it requires adherence to set scheduled checks.

It is a continuous exercise that has to be followed religiously for the benefits to show.

Do you have a cyber hygiene policy? Leave comments below and help spread these good internet practices to keep online attackers at bay.

Tech writer and VPN expert. DIY enthusiast and loves anything to do with space science.

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