Your Ultimate Guide to Strong Cyber Hygiene

Your Ultimate Guide to Strong Cyber Hygiene

Cyber hygiene, in many ways, is very similar to personal hygiene. To maintain good health and physical well-being, medical experts often recommend best hygiene practices. In the same manner, cyber security professionals often recommend cyber hygiene best practices for keeping data safe and secure, protecting against cyber attacks, and empowering individuals against cyber threats.

Understanding Cyber Hygiene

The experts define cyber hygiene essentially as a set of practices, procedures or steps which every computer and internet user must follow to boost device security as well as online security. The key components of cyber hygiene include systematic and regular monitoring of computers, laptops, mobile phones, software, tools, and applications along with databases. In addition, effective management of user access and special protection measures for sensitive personal data and company information is important. 

Importance of Cyber Hygiene

Cyber hygiene has gained prominence due to the exponential increase in the number of cyber attacks happening every year all around the globe. Small, medium and large organizations along with individuals and governments are now being targeted online.

Lack of cyber hygiene problems can lead to security breaches in different forms such as hacking, phishing, malware, and virus attacks. Additionally, business organizations can lose a significant amount of money if sensitive files and data are not backed up properly. Outdated software can make devices and systems exposed to attacks. Plus, the lack of regular updates will make your business more vulnerable to advanced cyber threats.

Cyber hygiene practices can act as the first line of defence and make it difficult for cyber criminals to breach systems. Moreover, it increases the cost and allows security professionals the time to detect security compromises, thus preventing threats from impacting core business operations and helping instead with business continuity. 

Overall, cyber hygiene best practices, if followed by everyone in an organization can help to make the security posture robust, identify possible security risks and ultimately defend against data breaches and eventual financial loss. 

Cyber Hygiene: Best Practices for Individuals/Users

If you are running an organization, it is essential that each and every employee follow the best cyber hygiene best practices to counter the ever-evolving cyber threats. Some of the best practices are discussed below.

  • Backups – Backups should become part and parcel of every employee’s work schedule. Backing up important and sensitive files securely online or offline can help even in the event of a cyber attack. 
  • Training – Training and awareness programs regarding the potential ways in which cyber criminals run malware attacks and phishing scams and target individuals to gain access to the network are necessary. 
  • Encryption – Encryption of files and devices is one of the best practices to protect personal and organizational data.
  • Firewalls – Use firewalls and configure them in the proper manner to protect systems from threat actors.
  • Password Use – Password management is one of the key best practices which can prevent cyber attacks in most cases. Multifactor authentication is one of the ways to secure accounts. Additionally, password management software can also be used. 
  • Updates – Regular software update as and when available is important for personal devices as well as company devices. 

Cyber Hygiene: Best Practices for Businesses

The main goal of business organizations is to strengthen cyber security measures. This can be done by implementing and following cyber hygiene best practices at all levels and at all times. 

  • Authentication and Access Policies – Authentication and access processes are the best cyber hygiene practices that can help business organizations against cyber attacks. It helps in assessing if the user trying to access is authentic or not. There are several types of authentication that can be enabled. It includes a username and password-based user credential authentication process. The two-factor authentication involving a password as well as a one-time code sent to the user’s phone or email is also popular. The biometric authentication process using fingerprint scan or facial recognition is fast becoming established in organizations everywhere.Access policies include laying down rules that permit only a certain number of users in an organization to access sensitive files and data. Review of access controls at frequent intervals ensures that no unwanted individual has access privileges which can lead to security and data breaches.
  • Backup Plan – Backup is a good cyber hygiene practice for businesses as well. With an extensive amount of data generated every day, critical files must be copied or duplicated and stored in a safe, secure and encrypted backup. It can be carried out using online methods such as the cloud or offline mechanisms like the disk. In addition, encryption is a must that enables the protection of sensitive data. 
  • Endpoint Security – Networks, in recent years, have become very complex and thus protecting them is a daunting task for professionals. Over and above, the new work-from-home culture in the business world has opened up avenues for cyber threat actors to breach networks. Thus, organizations need to protect internal networks, every user at all endpoints logging into the company network from anywhere. Some of the measures businesses can take include keeping track of partner networks, performing network segmentation and zero trust network access for securing the distributed network. Network segmentation keeps cyber threat actors who gain access to a certain limit, thus minimizing damage. With the zero trust approach, none of the user or device is given access and all of them need authentication. 
  • Incident Response – It is a best practice to assume that a cyber attack is inevitable. Therefore, organizations should develop an efficient incident response plan combined with disaster recovery and business continuity strategies. It will reduce the time for the organization to restore critical business operations and get going again. Some steps to follow include developing an incident response plan and documenting it. The second step is the testing of the plan and the final step would be to partner with a security professional or team of experts to help you in case an attack occurs. 
  • Employee Training – Employees should know to be careful while clicking any links and opening any email attachments and remain alert about the latest tactics used by cybercriminals. Companies should develop new and fresh strategies to train and engage employees and inform them about the latest and potential cyber threats on a regular basis. 
  •  Security Log Management & Monitoring – Recognizing suspicious activity in the network is the ultimate thing security professionals can do to keep systems and individual users from being targeted online. This is possible with security log management processes which are highly accurate, have strong integrity, better analysis of the log data, identification of problems etc.  Security monitoring is necessary to find possible threats and vulnerabilities which can be exploited by attackers to gain access. This can be done by scanning the network regularly using vulnerability scanners. 
  • Email Security – Emails are commonly used by every employee in an organization. And therefore it is the primary means through which threat actors infect systems and breach data. Thus, cyber hygiene best practices for email using technology and tools should be followed by employees to protect email accounts. 
  • Cybersecurity tools – Antivirus and antimalware software in every system can help to defend against cyber attacks by scanning and finding any malicious programs or software. In addition, experts recommend using a single platform to oversee security and automate tasks for timely checks. One of the most important aspects related to cyber hygiene is that it should be instilled as an everyday thing among individuals as well as within the organization. The habits, steps, and procedures should become routine as it will help against cyber attacks and resultant losses. If your company do not have a team inside to develop and implement the best cyber hygiene practices, hiring a professional team can help you achieve the objective. The experts can help you develop comprehensive and integrated cyber hygiene practices to put in place a robust security posture.