What Is Cyber Hygiene? 10 Easy Habits for Online Safety
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The internet is dangerous, and you must venture into it cautiously. People are incurring personal losses, and big businesses are losing big bucks daily at the hands of cybercrimes and bad cyber hygiene. Of course, you do not have to be equipped with heavy armor every time you perform a Google search, but some practices and techniques will help keep you safe while you surf the web. Understanding cyber hygiene best practices and doing what you can to keep your privacy and maintain all security measures is essential in this day and age when cyber-attacks are springing up for a dime a dozen.
What is Cyber Hygiene?
Understanding cyber hygiene is easy when you know what personal hygiene is. Essentially, there are some personal maintenance tasks you have to perform regularly to keep yourself clean and free of bacteria. These include brushing your teeth twice a day, taking a shower every other day, washing hands before and after a meal, keeping your surroundings clean, etc. You must do these things for your internet devices to keep them functioning efficiently and free of bugs.
The cyber hygiene checklist covers every aspect of your online devices, from the hardware to the applications, cache, and other maintenance tasks. You need to perform cyber hygiene best practices to protect your devices from the perils of the internet. The progression of technology has also made it easier for experienced individuals to perform cybercrimes. You are under the threat of being attacked, and your device might also accumulate bogus files or bloatware, making it more susceptible to cybercrime.
While cyber hygiene may sound a little intimidating for some people, it is a straightforward practice. Most cyber hygiene operations occur in the initial stages of owning a device, and the rest happens independently.
The alarming news is that most people connected to the internet do not care as much about their cyber-hygiene as they should. Some of them do the bare minimum, and many of them don't even do that much. So even though many security measures are now automated, and people don't have to do much on their own to maintain their devices, they often actively bar the possibility of automation sometimes too.
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What Are the Consequences of Avoiding Cyber Hygiene?
Giant corporations worldwide are losing millions of dollars daily by becoming cybercrime victims. Many organizations do not cover their cyber hygiene checklist; therefore, their systems are vulnerable to attack. When an organization loses money or assets to cybercrime, they incur heavy losses. They usually can only recover some of what they lose, even though they recover specific amounts. While security measures are strengthening, the need for cyber hygiene is more evident than ever.
Even on an individual level, people end up losing money to cybercrime. If not, they sometimes get severely inconvenienced by cyberattacks and lose trust in the system instead of working on their cyber hygiene.
Another thing you must remember is that cyber-attackers like hackers are usually after vulnerable targets. Most hackers are looking for some benefit, not a challenge, which is why they will seek the easiest option. If you have a weak password or outdated software, you need to be more careful with your privacy over the internet. So someone who has practiced all the best cyber hygiene practices will be left alone, while someone who has not done so is essentially carrying a bullseye for the attacker to target.
There are more cyber hygiene examples that go beyond being vulnerable to attacks. For instance, your laptop may start working very slowly at one point. You will only know what's right if you have looked into the inner workings of your laptop. Your device may get riddled with viruses, which can delete all your data or important files or make your laptop function erratically. There could be spyware or malware on your device, which can steal and misuse personal data. Identity theft is also a huge problem online and happens as a result of lousy cyber-hygiene too.
You might also find yourself with severely outdated software. Outdated software is usually riddled with bugs and is a massive security risk. These bugs get fixed when the software is updated, for which the user often needs to give permission. People who delay these updates for too long could be more vulnerable to attacks or have difficulty moving forward with their work.
Essentially, thousands of issues can result from bad cyber hygiene practices. The only natural way to discover is to experience them; none of us want to do that. Therefore, people must do what they can to stay updated with their cyber hygiene practices.
10 Cyber Hygiene Best Practices
Here are some of the essential cyber hygiene practices you should be mindful of:
Being Equipped With the Right Tools
There is software that will protect you and ensure your device runs smoothly. Sometimes, if you have these tools in hand and nothing else, that is enough to have a fully-functioning, smooth device for a long time. Of course, there are many other things you should care for, but having all the necessary tools tops the list for cyber hygiene best practices.
Some of these crucial tools include the following:
Antivirus is easily the most critical tool of all for good cyber hygiene. The internet is riddled with viruses even now. One wrong click can wipe out your entire hard drive or corrupt some essential files if your device is not protected.
The good news is that most operating systems these days come with pre-installed antivirus software, usually from a reputable security company. However, whenever you get a new device, it is wise to take the prudent approach and see if there is already good antivirus software installed.
Most antivirus software comes with a built-in anti-malware function too. Again, it is only wise to check whether your antivirus has an anti-malware system; if it doesn't, you can get one from another source.
Malware can cause a hacker to spy on you or get access to critical information on your device. And anti-malware software prevents this from happening.
A firewall is essential protection for your device. It can source all your online activity, figure out if you are doing anything unsafe, and either prevent that activity or warn you that it might be unsafe.
Firewalls often come with antivirus software too, and very often, they come pre-installed with your operating system.
Update All Your Software
Software updates and maintenance are crucial aspects of cyber hygiene. A phenomenon that many of us are familiar with includes us getting a pop-up message from our system to allow for updates, and we continue to delay it to a much later date. As a practice, people have been following this for years now. We need to pay more attention to their devices, calling out for updates and eventually having a lot to catch up on.
However, it is essential to remember that many components of your device get updated these days automatically. These include drivers for different hardware, software updates for all your applications, and any bugs in the system that need fixing.
The problem arises when the operating system itself is outdated. For example, in terms of Windows users, if you find someone who still uses an old OS such as XP or Vista and they have important information and sensitive data on the system, they will be much more vulnerable to attacks. After a specific time, these models stopped getting updates from the manufacturer, and any security risks and bugs in the system persisted. It is valid for all operating systems and software where individuals use outdated versions.
Some people are also afraid of what new updates might do to their devices. The logic is that if it is working perfectly fine now, one should leave the device as it is. Unfortunately, that is not how the internet works. Constant updates are the only way to ensure that a device continues to run correctly.
Scheduled Device Clean-up
It is imperative to clean up your device now and then as well. A device clean-up should occur after a long time of working on the system. You must have downloaded different programs and files, experimented with new applications, visited various websites, and taken part in a lot of activity that requires using different aspects of the system. All this usage leaves behind unnecessary bloatware, cache, and other temporary files in the system. These files slow the system down, take up a lot of space, and are just massive inconveniences.
So, running a device clean-up every couple of months is essential. You will often notice how your device starts running smoothly immediately after.
Your passwords protect a lot of your activity online. Including, but not limited to, banking accounts, email, social media accounts, and anything else that requires you to sign up and give the other party personal information. So your passwords are vital for data protection and your privacy. It should be a practice to update your essential passwords now and then. You can do it monthly, but looking into it at least once a year is a good practice.
One thing most people are afraid of when changing passwords is that they cannot keep track of multiple passwords, and it is hard for them to get used to a new one after a short time. Here is where it helps to use a password manager. It will stay updated with all passwords and allow you to change them and still be able to keep track of them effectively.
Backup Your Device
The digital world is also a very fickle space. Anything can happen at anytime, and you never know when you might need to use your backup. This doesn't just pertain to getting your hard drive wiped out by a virus or another bad scenario; it could be something as simple as changing your device.
You bought a new phone and want to transfer all the data from your old phone into it. Your old phone is not accessible, and you do not want to lose all your data, which is why, during the life of the device, ensuring a backup for your device is a healthy practice. It is easier to import the files later, and there is a minimal chance of losing anything important.
Automate the Clean-up Processes
So much of technology these days is automated. We barely have to do anything on our own. If we have some control over updates, virus scans, or anything, that task remains undone the longest. Like when people are asked to update their operating systems. Those who know how technology works and what it means to update an OS might do it promptly, but many others just let the task simmer. It takes a long time and lots of persuasions for many people to take this step.
Therefore, it is best to automate as many cyber hygiene processes in your system as possible. Set up a scheduled virus scan regularly, which the software can perform independently. Give the OS a time when it can update everything that needs to be updated too. You must perform the minimum intervention to ensure the system runs appropriately.
Make Your Network Secure
Your wireless network can also be a source of danger and unwelcome intruders in your system, which is why you should ensure that it is protected. You can do this by personalizing the name of the network and password, resetting the router as soon as you have it, and switching off any controls that remote operators have of the system. Ensure the network is also encrypted with the help of WPA2 and WP# encryption methods which will further ensure the system's privacy.
Stay Ahead of All Security Measures
You can also add an extra layer of security to your businesses online by enabling multi-factor authentication and strong passwords.
Multi-factor authentication refers to using two or more ways to log in to an account instead of just one. You use your password, and another code is sent to your phone or email for further verification. This way, you no longer rely on a single password to protect all your information.
It is also essential to use strong passwords for all your accounts. Strong passwords are much harder to intercept. They usually consist of alphabets, numbers, and symbols in combination. A strong password is also at least eight characters long.
Jack Up Your Privacy
Remember to be as cautious about your privacy as possible. Do not post sensitive information online, such as your credit card details. Remember that banks usually do not ask for sensitive bank account information directly from an individual, so if you receive any messages trying to do something of the sort, you should report them immediately. Also, do not share your password with someone online either. Keep your personal life and sensitive information as far from digital media as possible.
Stay Updated on the Latest Practices
Security methods keep changing as the years go by. Even viruses and phishing scams have evolved immensely in the past few years, and cyber-security is trying to use all sorts of new methods to keep their efforts iron-clad. So try to find out everything that is going on in the security world and reap as many cyber hygiene benefits as possible.
Maintaining Cyber Hygiene
The only natural way to reap cyber hygiene benefits is by ensuring you maintain the practices as much as possible. Create a cyber hygiene checklist and follow it as much as possible regularly. An example of such a checklist includes:
- Make sure you have the right tools
- Use a different password for everything
- Enable multi-factor authentication for everything
- Being vigilant with personal information online
- Create backups
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Cyber Hygiene Infographic
Maintaining cyber hygiene by performing cyber hygiene best practices is essential because the online world is unsafe without protection. Understanding how you can incorporate the necessary steps into your life will help to protect you from danger and inconvenience. Good cyber hygiene aims to protect you from cyber-attacks and ensure your digital journey is as smooth as possible. If you begin taking care of your online devices now, you can be sure they will last you for a very long time.