Cyber Hygiene Introduction
For both individual users and cybersecurity professionals, cyber hygiene is a concept that may not be entirely familiar, and yet, is something that everyone employs in some form or another. Put simply, cyber hygiene is the practice of maintaining good habits and behaviors when using technology, with the aim of protecting personal and sensitive information.
Over the past 20 years, the online space has become an integral part of our lives, from social media to banking, through email and remote work, to online retail and entertainment. However, with so much of our personal data used to access these products and services, cyber hygiene becomes a necessary part of the way we interact with them.
In this guide, we'll explore the key components of good cyber hygiene, how it can benefit you or your organization, and examine some of the problems associated with the concept as well as the tools and behaviors you need to adopt to keep your digital life secure.
Cyber Hygiene Definition
The concept of cyber hygiene has become increasingly important in recent years due to the growing threat of cybercrimes such as hacking, phishing, identity theft, and malware attacks. These threats can cause significant harm to both individuals and organizations, including financial losses, reputational damage, and legal consequences.
While the concept covers a broad range of practices, tools, and behaviors, cyber hygiene is defined by current best practices and protective measures, including using strong and unique passwords, regularly updating software and applications, enabling antivirus and firewall protection, avoiding unsafe online behaviors such as clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown files, using secure internet connections, and protecting sensitive information on social media and email.
Ultimately, the goal of cyber hygiene is to create a safe and secure digital environment for individuals and organizations, reducing the risk of cyberattacks and protecting against cyber threats. However, good cyber hygiene also includes a number of other benefits that can help increase productivity and reduce stress associated with managing an entire life online!
Benefits of Cyber Hygiene
Common sense suggests that good cyber hygiene will help you maintain secure systems that are less likely to be affected by cyberthreats, however, there are also other advantages to maintaining and improving cybersecurity hygiene that may not be so obvious. Below, we cover the most common benefits of good cyber hygiene.
- Protection against cyber threats – Cyber hygiene practices can help protect against various cyber threats, such as malware, phishing attacks, and hacking attempts. By regularly updating software and applications, using strong passwords, and avoiding suspicious links and attachments, individuals and organizations can reduce the risk of cyberattacks.
- Mitigation of damage from cyberattacks – Even with good cyber hygiene, cyberattacks can still occur. However, by having backups of important data, implementing two-factor authentication, and regularly monitoring for suspicious activity, individuals and organizations can mitigate the damage caused by a cyberattack.
- Compliance with regulations – Many industries and organizations are subject to various regulations and standards related to cybersecurity. By implementing good cyber hygiene practices, individuals and organizations can demonstrate compliance with these regulations and avoid potential penalties.
- Cost savings – Cyberattacks can be costly, both in terms of financial expenses and damage to reputation. By investing in good cyber hygiene practices, individuals and organizations can save money by avoiding the cost of remediation, loss of revenue, and reputational damage.
- Increased productivity – Cyberattacks can disrupt business operations, resulting in lost productivity. By implementing good cyber hygiene practices, individuals and organizations can prevent or mitigate the impact of cyberattacks and minimize the risk of downtime or disruptions.
- Simplified password management – Password managers can organize and manage all of your passwords in one place, making it easier to keep track of them and update them regularly. This can help you maintain good cyber hygiene by reducing the risk of using weak or compromised passwords.
Cyber Hygiene Best Practices
When establishing and maintaining effective cyber hygiene practices, building a routine that you and your organization can stick to is important, helping everyone involved to follow best practice. This can include measures such as:
- Regularly updating your software, applications, and devices can help protect against vulnerabilities and security flaws. Set up automatic updates wherever possible to ensure that your devices and software are always up to date.
- Using unique, complex passwords for each of your accounts, and avoiding using easily guessable passwords or personal information is crucial to good cyber hygiene. Consider using a password manager to create and store your passwords securely.
- Implementing multi-factor authentication for an extra layer of security on your accounts by requiring a second factor, such as a fingerprint scan or a security code, in addition to your password.
- Avoiding suspicious links or opening attachments from unknown sources. Be wary of phishing scams and carefully review any emails or messages requesting personal or sensitive information.
- Regularly backup important files and data to an external hard drive or cloud storage service. This can help prevent data loss in the event of a cyberattack or hardware failure.
- Educating yourself and others about the latest cyber threats and best practices for online safety and security. This can include regular training and reminders for employees in a workplace setting.
- Monitoring your account activity and credit reports to detect and report any suspicious or fraudulent activity.
Common Cyber Hygiene Problems
Most cyber hygiene problems can be rectified easily by establishing and maintaining effective cyber hygiene practices and implementing security awareness & user behavior training, as well as by paying attention to the following:
- Weak and easily guessable passwords – Many people use simple passwords that are easy to guess or crack, such as "123456" or "password". Weak passwords can be easily compromised by cybercriminals, leaving users vulnerable to identity theft and other cyberattacks.
- Failure to install software updates and patches – Software and applications must be regularly updated to protect against cyber threats. However, many people ignore software updates or delay them due to inconvenience or time constraints. Failing to update software can leave users vulnerable to known vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals.
- Falling for phishing scams – Cybercriminals often use phishing scams to trick users into clicking on malicious links or downloading malware. Phishing scams can be difficult to detect, and users often fall victim to them. Once cybercriminals gain access to users' systems, they can steal sensitive data, including personal information, financial details, and login credentials.
- Lack of awareness and education – Many people are not aware of the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices. This lack of awareness can make them more susceptible to cyberattacks. In addition, many people do not receive adequate cybersecurity training or education from their employers, leaving them vulnerable to attacks that could compromise their company's data and systems.
- Failure to backup data – Data backups are essential to protect against data loss due to cyberattacks, hardware failure, or human error. However, many people fail to back up their data regularly, leaving them vulnerable to significant losses in the event of a cyberattack or other data loss incidents.
Bottom Line: Cyber Hygiene
When it comes to cyber hygiene best practices and maintaining a robust security posture, either at home or within large organizations, it’s important to remember that it must be a continuous process. This is why cyber security awareness training for employees remains a core component of security hygiene, as well as coordinating protocols that are easy to implement for all users.
Finally, cyber security hygiene can be seen as your first level of protection, which can then feed into more complex and advanced cybersecurity programs. In fact, by ensuring cyber hygiene is maintained across an entire organization, the job of your cybersecurity team is made simpler, allowing them to concentrate on more important tasks while also being ready to respond to incidents quickly.
For more information on maintaining and improving cyber hygiene, contact a member of the Mimecast team today and explore our blog for the latest insights into the cybersecurity landscape.