After the last couple of years I learned one thing about global pandemics, they involve a lot of hand scrubbing. I probably consumed more hand sanitizer during a month than I had previously done in my entire life. It seems to have worked, did you notice how there were a lot fewer colds going around? Good hygiene makes a difference when it comes to viruses. So where am I going with this? Well, the same concept can be applied to computer viruses, with good cyber hygiene you reduce the chance of your computer getting infected.
What is cyber hygiene?
Cyber hygiene is basically a set of habits that companies and their employees perform regularly in order to keep devices as well as the company’s data safe. The goal is to prevent malicious software from infecting the network and keep the data safe. It’s a concept based on individuals taking responsibility for the health of their computers and other devices.
According to Verizon’s 2022 data breach report, 82% of breaches involved a human element. So a bit of education and personal cyber hygiene can make a big difference. It’s a shared responsibility that can’t be placed entirely on the IT department. At the same time, you can’t expect everyone to become a tech expert so keep it simple.
6 of the best practices for cyber hygiene
1 – Password
Around 60% of all data breaches and attacks involve the credentials of an employee. Use a secure password and make sure to change it regularly. No, the name of your child is not a secure password, and that won’t change if you add the year you or the child was born at the end. On top of that, avoid using the same password for private devices and logins that are used professionally.
To make it easier for the user to stay safe, make two-factor authentication available and mandatory.
2 – Email
It’s been said a million times, never click on a link unless you are 100% sure it can be trusted. If you are unsure, double-check the e-mail address it’s sent from. Secondly, don’t fall for blackmail. E-mails where the sender claims to have sensitive information that will be released unless you do what they want. It’s a scam, they don’t know anything, and if you don’t respond nothing will happen.
Impersonation is another common tactic that has become much more believable with the amount of information that can be found about people online. If someone reaches out from a new email address, check in quickly with them by text or their old mail.
3 – OS and applications
Good cyber hygiene when it comes to operating systems and applications is all about staying updated. New versions often contain fixes to security weaknesses that could be used by hackers to access the device. Make sure to upgrade to the latest versions as soon as possible. When it comes to applications, avoid downloading ones that are not approved or used for work.
Make it easier for the employees by centralizing updates, for example by using an MDM system. Keeping risky apps away could be accomplished simply by limiting permissions and their ability to install new applications.
4 – Networks
Previously this was not much of a concern, using the company’s network is safe. The growing trend of remote work has however changed this. Connecting to public wi-fi is always risky. By using a VPN you can make sure no one can see the information you transmit, like your passwords.
5 – Backups
Make sure that all the data on devices are backed up regularly. If a computer gets infected with ransomware it could lock you out of the device completely. Don’t get stuck in a situation where you have to negotiate with hackers to get your data back.
Provide the employees with a smooth way to back up their devices in the cloud to make cyber hygiene easy.
6 – Security software
Mostly it’s on the IT department to outfit the device with antivirus, firewall, VPN, and whatever else is needed. However, sometimes employees are a little too committed. Work email is often checked at home and accessed from private computers. If those devices don’t have the right protection it poses a risk.
Cyber hygiene summarized
One of the best paths to a safe computer system and protected data is to educate the employees. It’s important to keep in mind that what seems obvious to some won’t be as clear to others. Just going through this list is a good start to better cyber hygiene.