Cyber hygiene refers to the steps that users of computers and other devices can take to improve their online security and maintain system health. Cyber hygiene means adopting a security-centric mindset and habits that help individuals and organizations mitigate potential online breaches. A fundamental principle of cyber hygiene is that it becomes part of everyday routine.
Cyber hygiene is about training yourself to form good habits around cybersecurity so that you can stay ahead of cyber threats and online security issues. Cyber hygiene is sometimes compared to personal hygiene – in that both are precautionary processes carried out regularly to ensure health and wellbeing.
Cyber hygiene aims to maintain hardware and software's basic health and security, ensuring they are protected from threats such as malware. Practiced regularly, cyber hygiene helps to keep data safe and secure. As with any habit you want to entrench, cyber hygiene requires routine and repetition.
Building a routine around cyber hygiene will help prevent cybercriminals from causing security breaches or stealing personal information. It will also help you keep up to date with software and operating systems.
As a concept, cyber hygiene has increased in relevance since the Covid-19 pandemic, as more people around the world working remotely led to a rise in cybercrimes.
Some of the problems which cyber hygiene is designed to address include:
There are two critical aspects for cyber hygiene for individuals – developing regular routines or habits and using the right tools. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Regular routines or habits:
Cyber hygiene isn't a one-off event – it's something that has to be practiced regularly. You can create habits by setting automated reminders or adding dates to your calendars for different tasks. These might include scanning for viruses using antivirus software, changing your passwords, keeping apps, software, and operating systems up to date, and wiping your hard drive. Once you get the hang of cyber hygiene, it becomes part of your regular personal cybersecurity routine.
Using the right tools:
Practicing cyber hygiene helps keep your digital environment in good shape, not least because it will ensure you keep programs up to date. Out-of-date programs may have vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit, which means web applications, mobile apps, and operating systems need to be updated regularly to eliminate security issues. Regular updates deliver new software patches to correct flaws. Hardware updates will help prevent performance issues.
Routine antivirus scanning can help prevent issues before they arise. With proper maintenance, digital assets will have protection against persistent online threats. This will also protect files from breaking into fragments, resulting in data loss.
People sometimes wonder how to dispose of old computers safely. If you are selling or getting rid of your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, it’s important to make sure your personal or sensitive data isn’t passed along as well. It isn’t sufficient to simply delete your personal files or data – you need to reformat and then wipe your hard drive clean. A clean hard drive means you are not passing your personal information along. Lifewire has a helpful guide to wiping hard drives here.
Bear in mind that, as with personal hygiene, you need to practice cyber hygiene regularly for it to be effective.
To ensure good cyber hygiene, here is a personal cybersecurity checklist you can use pro-actively to make sure you are following best practices:
Keeping passwords safe and secure
Using multi-factor authentication
Backing up data regularly
Keeping apps, software, and firmware up to date
Avoiding social engineering attacks
Using network firewalls
Wiping hard drives
Ensuring high-quality antivirus protection
Ultimately, cyber hygiene means developing a protective routine to keep your personal and financial information secure when using your computer or mobile device. Using strong passwords and changing them regularly, keeping software and operating systems up to date, wiping hard drives, and using a comprehensive antivirus like Kaspersky Total Security will help you stay ahead of the latest cyber threats.