The Internet and its conveniences have significantly impacted how we do business. Our reliance on technology has never been greater, which means cyber hygiene is more important than ever before. This blog post will talk about cyber hygiene, its benefits, and why it’s essential for businesses to practice it.
What is cyber hygiene?
Cyber hygiene is taking security measures to protect your assets (people, processes and technology) from unauthorised access. This includes using strong passwords, keeping your software up to date, and being careful about what information you share online. Cyber hygiene also encompasses creating backups of your data and using security measures such as two-factor authentication.
In simplest terms, the definition of cyber hygiene for individuals means taking care of your digital self just like you would your physical self. Just as you wouldn’t leave your house unlocked or your car running with the keys in the ignition, you shouldn’t neglect basic security measures for your online accounts and devices.
Cyber security measures aim to prevent hackers or malicious actors from infiltrating the computer network and stealing sensitive data, like customer information. It is also known as cyber health. Security measures can be as simple as using strong passwords or changing them often, doing routine security audits, or installing security updates.
Cyber Health Check
A cyber health check is essential to decide what to do next, and it entails performing vulnerability checks on important external infrastructure IPs and websites. A VAPT (Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing) assessment will identify your system’s cyber vulnerabilities and suggest methods for reducing them.
Importance of cyber hygiene security measures
Cyber hygiene security measures cannot be understated as the world increasingly moves online. The amount of information shared electronically has grown exponentially in recent years, and with that growth has come an increased risk of cyberattacks.
With the fast adoption of cloud, mobile, and new technologies, organisations of all sizes struggle to keep pace with the changing threat landscape. This has led to data breaches, with organisations losing control of their sensitive data.
The business benefits of good cyber hygiene
Good cyber hygiene is vital for safeguarding data and reducing possible security breaches. Taking care of your computers and software’s routine maintenance with proper practices is beneficial for security.
Do not confuse the benefits of cyber security with cyber hygiene. The former deals with CIA triad of the data in scope, and the later deals with estate wide performance of people, processes and technology controls. There are multiple benefits for a business to maintain good cyber hygiene; these are:
By practising good cyber hygiene, businesses can improve their overall security posture and reduce their risk of being hacked or attacked.
Good cyber hygiene can help businesses save money by reducing the need for costly security measures and avoiding fines or other penalties for non-compliance with regulations.
A business that demonstrates good cyber hygiene is likely to be viewed more favourably by customers, partners, and other stakeholders. This can lead to improved sales and growth opportunities.
Greater employee productivity
When businesses have cyber security hygiene practices, employees are less likely to experience downtime due to malware or other security breaches. This can lead to increased productivity, and fewer missed deadlines.
How is cyber hygiene beneficial?
Maintaining your computers and software with a regular cyber hygiene strategy is beneficial.
Cyber hygiene practices protect your company from cyber attacks by preventing hackers or malicious actors from infiltrating the computer network and stealing private data like customer information. There’s also a significant benefit in terms of time: if you don’t have to spend hours or days trying to remove security threats, you can spend that time on more important priorities.
Naturally, one of the most significant advantages of cybersecurity hygiene is protecting against security breaches and data loss. Cyber hygiene also finds and protects customer data by identifying unmanaged assets, fixing permission issues around sensitive information, removing unauthorised software, and auditing compliance.
Common cyber security hygiene problems
Lack of cyber security hygiene gives birth to many problems with varying attack vectors. This could be related to your hardware, software, processes or people. Some of the common hygiene problems include:
- Data leakage through misconfigured websites, cloud storage or security breach situations.
- Outdated software with known vulnerabilities but is out of support with the vendor.
- Lack of basic security principles such as the least privilege principle, privilege access management and defence-in-depth mechanisms.
- Reliance on IT service providers and software developers for cyber security without any SLAs or lack of speciality skill-sets.
Good cyber hygiene habits to help stay safe online
Cyber security hygiene requires you to attend training and apply the right tools to your environment. Cyber security hygiene can be compared to dental hygiene. Just like one needs to make an effort to ensure their dental hygiene, an individual or a business also needs to take care of their cyber security hygiene.
And it makes sense because you need the right tools, procedures and policies to stay safe online. It also helps people protect themselves against security breaches without additional effort other than making sure they apply security features correctly. It would help if you always kept your hardware and software up to date and did not leave security features disabled.
Cyber security hygiene also means using strong passwords for all your logins, never sharing personal information on the Internet or via email with people you don’t know, and protecting yourself against phishing scams that attempt to get you to reveal sensitive security data like usernames and passwords.
Cyber hygiene best practices
Cyber hygiene is made up of a series of best practices that, when implemented together, can help to secure your computer network. Security measures can be anything as simple as changing passwords often or installing security updates.
Cyber security measures must be implemented in three areas, mainly:
These three areas work together to ensure good cyber hygiene in an organisation. The security cyber hygiene best practices in cybersecurity protect your company from cyber-attacks by preventing hackers or malicious actors from infiltrating the computer network and stealing confidential data, like customer information. There’s a significant benefit in terms of time, too – if you don’t have to spend hours removing security threats, you can spend that time on more important priorities.
If you want an excellent cybersecurity hygiene practice for your company, here is a list of cyber security best practice measures:
Strong password controls
Strong password controls are one of the most effective ways to help authentication mechanisms.
Make your password as complex as possible by incorporating a mixture of symbols, capital and lower case letters, and numbers. Password firmware can help prevent unauthorised access to your computer. Also, remember to change your passwords daily if at all possible.
Staff should mandate the use of password managers to store sensitive data and generate random passwords with defined criteria.
Passwordless authentication mechanisms are a new concept in this area, and you should explore the pros and cons of this technology.
Update software regularly
Updating your software will always make sure that you have the latest protection. Software developers often provide updates to security software without you knowing. But if they do, hackers may attack before you can get those patches installed. Patch management is a tricky process to get right. It would help if you kept a close eye to ensure all the latest vulnerabilities, especially for Internet-facing services, are patched as a priority. Read more on patch management here on how this is an essential part of the hygiene routine.
Use multi-factor authentication
Biometric devices are a way to make it hard for cybercriminals to get into your accounts. They detect the presence of fingerprints and the face, which is an extra layer of security. Multi-factor authentication – requiring an additional password when logging in – is another good practice.
Even if you don’t know the sender, it’s probably best to avoid opening unknown email attachments and links. Just delete them instead of clicking on anything inside the email. Cybercriminals often send out phishing scams that trick people into downloading malware or disclosing security information through fake websites. Read more on how to identify and report phishing emails.
Install antivirus and malware software (endpoint protection)
Antivirus software helps you get rid of viruses and other nasty things. You should install it first to be safe from threats affecting your Operating System and installed software.
Keep your hard drive and removable media storage clean.
Reformatting your hard drives can assist you in creating a more secure starting point for your business. Reformatting them will also remove unnecessary data that could cause security issues or take up too much storage space on your computer, which reduces the risk of accidentally storing old files and reusing the same password so as not to forget it later. Security measures should be adopted for removable media, such as on-access scanning, encryption, and restrictions on access within the company network.
Use network firewalls and host firewalls.
Firewalls are another important measure you can take to prevent unauthorised people from potentially accessing your website and other accessible online information. The use of network-based firewalls will prevent unwanted traffic and offer layered protection. Additionally, host-based firewalls are available for free along with Operating systems such as Windows or open-source tools that should be used to restrict access at the host level.
Back up regularly
To protect against cybercriminals, one should back up files offline or to an external hard disk or cloud. Doing so helps you in the event of a security breach. Backing up your files regularly also ensures that if someone gets access to your computer, they won’t be able to delete or tamper with critical business information stored on it as long as there is an offline backup version somewhere else. Administrators from IT departments or relevant teams should randomly test and restore the backup to ensure it works as expected.
Ensure that your organisation’s data protection strategy also includes an incident response plan and any other areas that are relevant in context to your business in your hygiene policy. By implementing these cybersecurity best practices, you’ll be able to prepare against security breaches and thefts, protect personal data like customer information and have more time for essential priorities. Cyber security falls under the risk management domain, where the primary objective is to minimise the probability of risk to the assets. Therefore, it can never be zero.
For a more strategic initiative, you may want to look at the excellent resources below:
Using the right tools for cyber hygiene
To maintain personal hygiene, you need the right tools. For example, you can’t maintain good dental hygiene without a good toothbrush. The same is valid for managing good cyber hygiene. Similarly, without the right products and tools, your personal information could be in the wrong hands.
Computer viruses and malware can destroy computer systems, backups and other data storage. It would help if you had antivirus software on your computer that protects it. A network device such as a firewall is also essential to protect data from being shared with people you don’t know. And password protection will keep people who cannot use your device from doing so if you set it upright.
- Ensure that default passwords for Wi-Fi networks and other devices in your house are changed to complex, non-dictionary words generated using a password manager.
- Use VPN for securing your internet traffic when using your systems/devices in public places, e.g. cafes, airports, lounges, and stations.
- Inspect and improve settings of web browsers, software applications or software programs you have installed on your system.
- Invest some time into learning cyber security practices and awareness about online risks and social media dangers.
How to measure cyber hygiene?
To measure cyber hygiene or cyber health, ask security experts to perform security audits on your computer network. Have security experts conduct routine security audits and system scans to discover security vulnerabilities.
As an individual, you should maintain security hygiene by keeping your computer updated and protected against viruses, malware and other cyber security threats.
There are various methods to assess cyber hygiene in an organisation as a business.
Any business that relies on the Internet for its day-to-day operations is vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Finding your weaknesses in your IT and security controls should be a top priority for any organisation to protect their data and maintain the trust of their customers.
Cyber hygiene services
As the cyber security landscape evolves, it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to stay one step ahead of attackers. One way to do this is by undertaking regular penetration testing. This is where a cyber security specialist simulates a real-world attack on your systems in order to identify vulnerabilities that malicious actors could exploit. By uncovering the unknowns in your environment, you can then take steps to prepare and defend against cyber attacks. Cyphere is a leading UK provider of penetration testing services. Our team of experienced cyber security experts can help secure your business by identifying, analysing and mitigating cyber vulnerabilities. Find more about penetration testing services here:
Web Application Penetration Testing
As businesses increasingly rely on web applications and APIs to power their operations, they become more vulnerable to cyber security threats. OWASP’s top 10 risks against applications and APIs starkly remind how threat actors can exploit weaknesses in these systems.
One way to mitigate these risks is through web application penetration testing. This service from cyphere helps businesses identify security vulnerabilities in their applications and APIs so that they can take steps to fix them. By doing so, companies can help protect their customers’ data from being compromised by cybercriminals.
Web application penetration testing is an essential part of any cyber security strategy. Businesses that take advantage of this service from Cyphere can benefit from improved security and peace of mind. Please have a look at our web application pen testing and get in touch to schedule a conversation about your security concerns.
One way to reduce the risk of cyberattacks is to conduct vulnerability scans regularly. This process involves using specialised software to identify weaknesses in a company’s network and digital infrastructure. By identifying these vulnerabilities, businesses can take steps to fix them before cybercriminals exploit them.
Cyphere is a leading provider of vulnerability scanning services. Our experts will work with your organisation to assess your unique cyber security risks and develop a customised plan to address them. We use the latest tools and techniques to perform our scans, and our reporting is designed to be easy for non-technical staff to understand.
Find more about Cyphere’s vulnerability assessment service below:
Credential leakage detection
Credential leakage is one of the primary security headaches for businesses. Leaked data would make it to cybercriminals who can utilise against the company’s other assets.
It is essential to monitor digital risks due to leaked data with our credential leakage detection service. For example, if an employee’s login credentials are found on the dark web, cybercriminals could use them to launch phishing attacks or gain access to other sensitive systems.
With Cyphere, you can continuously monitor the cyber security landscape for leaked data to take proactive steps to protect your business.
Phishing simulation assessment
Phishing is the number one cyber security threat facing businesses and individuals today. Phishing attacks are typically carried out by email, and they often involve cybercriminals impersonating a legitimate organisation to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. The best way to protect against phishing attacks is to educate yourself and your employees about the dangers of phishing and how to spot suspicious emails.
Additionally, it would help if you considered investing in a managed cyber security training and education service like Cyphere’s. Our service provides interactive and multi-lingual cyber security training to help you and your employees learn how to identify and avoid phishing attacks. This includes demonstrating ROI to senior management to ensure progress against the investment.
What are examples of good cyber hygiene?
Some of the top cyber hygiene practices include using strong passwords, updating software regularly, secure backups, endpoint protection for all end-users and being aware of potential phishing attacks.
What are cyber hygiene practices?
Cyber hygiene practices are habits or routines that can be performed to help protect against potential threats to computer networks and devices. They can include using strong passwords, updating software regularly, backing up data securely and being aware of phishing scams.
How can cyber hygiene be improved?
Many simple steps can be taken to improve cyber hygiene, such as using strong passwords, updating software regularly and backing up data securely. Additionally, raising awareness of potential threats such as phishing scams can help to improve cyber hygiene.
What are the consequences of poor cyber hygiene?
Poor cyber hygiene can lead to system vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers, the spread of malware and other malicious code, the loss or theft of sensitive data or even lead disruptions in service availability.
How do you practice good cybersecurity habits?
- Educate yourself and your employees about good cybersecurity practices. This includes things like creating strong passwords, using password managers, not sharing passwords, and being aware of phishing scams.
- Ensure you have security measures in places, such as firewalls and antivirus software.
- Regularly back up your data in case of a security breach.
- Be aware of the latest cybersecurity threats and how to protect against them.
What is tech hygiene?
Tech hygiene is keeping your devices and data clean and safe from potential threats. This includes everything from regularly updating your software to using password managers and two-factor authentication.
Shahrukh, is a passionate cyber security analyst and researcher who loves to write technical blogs on different cyber security topics. He holds a Masters degree in Information Security, an OSCP and has a strong technical skillset in offensive security.