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Three simple best practices to ensure cyber hygiene

Together, these three steps provide a simple but holistic approach to cyber hygiene for individuals and organizations.

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In our everyday lives, it is common and even essential to introduce practices that provide for well being of our bodies and minds. But in today’s cyber world, how do we achieve the same degree of security and health for our information systems?

This emerges as an important question when we consider that cybersecurity is a bigger concern than at any time past. It is especially true in India where Ransomware attacks have developed into a major concern. This was especially highlighted in recent studies conducted by many cyber-security firms, which demonstrated that cyber hygiene in India was generally poor.

In fact, the percentage of companies hit by Ransomware attacks were estimated to be at 82% in 2020. This was over 10% higher than the estimate for any country across the globe. In this scenario, let us consider three essential steps that any organization or individual must adopt to ensure basic cyber hygiene for their devices.

Embracing cyber hygiene: An approach for organizations and individuals

Implementing the right tools: Adopting the right tools is the most basic but essential best practice to maintain cyber hygiene. This includes the use of trusted antivirus and malware software, a network firewall, password protection with multi-factor adoption, and the encryption of data. For instance, the role of a network firewall is crucial in ensuring cyber hygiene. It is the first line of defense in your network security that prevents unauthorized access to its websites, mail servers, and other information.

Most importantly, the security of both organizations and individuals must be entrusted to the reputed brand. As the Sophos survey titled The State of Ransomware 2020 referenced in The Windows Club points out:

“…Cyber hygiene is generally poor in India, and pirated technology abounds, creating weaknesses in cyber defenses and making organizations more vulnerable to attack.” Clearly, choosing the right tool seems to be most possible when it bears the stamp of quality of a known organization.

Adopting a thorough approach to cyber hygiene: It is not enough for you to adopt the right security tools, it is also imperative that your security processes run deep. For example, merely deleting and emptying the recycle bin does not eliminate data from the hard drive. In reality, it is essential for organizations to use data-wiping software to permanently remove information from hard drives.

Similarly, it is not enough for you to ensure password protection, it is also essential for you to have strong passwords that are changed frequently. Cyber hygiene implies the use of complex, unique passwords that use at least 12 characters and combine letters, numbers, and special characters.

Other factors that indicate a thorough and more considered approach to cyber hygiene are the provisions of additional security layers through two-factor or multi-factor authentication and data protection to supplement standard password protection. While two-factor authentication requires you to enter your name and password along with a second credential, which could be a unique user code that is sent to your mobile phone, multi-factor authentication leverages other security levers, such as biometrics, to protect your device. In addition, you could also use more sophisticated techniques, such as data encryption, to protect sensitive information on any device.

Such an approach implies doing more than just providing lip service to cyber hygiene and turns it into a way of life.

Nurturing cyber hygiene every day: While cyber hygiene may be adopted and it could be deep, it must become routine. Quite simply, it must become a habit. There are several measures that could be taken to achieve this. On one hand, monitoring your security systems regularly helps you pre-empt and even remove online threats.

On the other hand, it is necessary to adopt a proactive approach to cyber hygiene. Some steps to achieve this are calendarizing and setting reminders for routine tasks such as scanning for viruses, updating operating systems, checking security patches, wiping hard drives, and changing passwords.

But perhaps the most basic habit that can be turned into a routine is backing up important data regularly, either using an external hard drive or on the cloud. It is the simplest and most effective way of ensuring that you retain your access to vital information, even if hackers gain control over your device.

Together, these three steps provide a simple but holistic approach to cyber hygiene for individuals and organizations. In a world threatened by new cybersecurity threats every day, it helps you introduce essential practices that provide for the well being of your information systems and safeguard the integrity of your data.

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