Remember when you were told to brush your teeth twice every day? If you say no, you’re lying — but if you say yes, here’s another question: Why do you do it? Is it because it keeps your breath from stinking, or because it keeps your teeth healthy? Whatever the case, hygiene is a standard that helps you stay at your personal best, and believe it or not, there’s a version of the same standard for digital interactions: it’s called cyber hygiene, and it’s crucial for anyone trying to keep their digital environment safe, secure, and issue-free.
Cyber hygiene isn’t combing your hair and bathing before a Zoom meeting: instead, it’s a set of expectations regarding your behaviors in computer use. Just like personal hygiene is a set of “best practices” that has to do with your body, cyber hygiene simply consists of the “best practices” for interacting with computers, networks, and the world wide web. To maintain your system’s health and to boost your security posture, you should follow a regimen — regular practices that help your network stay healthy and secure.
Many problems can arise as a result of poor cyber hygiene: whether it’s outdated software, data loss, or even a security breach, these things can be made less likely — and into less of an issue — if you have steps to follow that make it so.
You don’t question hygiene. The unwritten rules are that you brush your teeth, you deodorize thoroughly, and you bathe — all without being asked. It’s part of your daily routine, just like going to work or eating. These good habits are meant to keep your body working, among other things — but what are the good habits that define cyber hygiene? What many have found is that a holistic approach works best, tackling every and all aspects of your cyber behaviors, rather than just changing one or two specific habits. Look at the following to get an idea of what that holistic approach should look like.
First and foremost, you need to be able to trust your team. Whoever is given access to certain departments, certain tools, and certain assets in your company should have the expertise to use them — and these should be people you trust to handle these things with care. That means your users will undoubtedly be practicing good cyber hygiene as well. But it all starts from the top down: divide user access roles by level and department, and don’t give full access to everyone on your team — give piecemeal access to whoever’s essential in a certain role.
It’s imperative that you have the right tools to defend yourself. Installing programs like a well-recognized antivirus, a firewall, and even using an EPP security tool make it easier to protect your device from cyber attacks, and to manage risks, network control, and your corporate cyber hygiene from every endpoint, every possible way that someone accesses your network.
Nothing lasts forever. Your passwords are one prime example, as there’s always someone on the other side of the web trying to get a crack at them. Your best chances at maintaining a healthy relationship in password management is by regularly updating your passwords. But that’s not all that needs updating: Software often will offer patches that you need to download and install to make sure that you have the most up-to-date functional support, as well as security measures; The same goes for hardware and though updates may not be as often, they are crucial to having a well-oiled machine in the long run.
It’s always best to have the most secure options available in any scenario: whether it’s by boosting your password strength (no birthdays or football teams), introducing multi-factor authentication, or ensuring you have encryption for your endpoint devices, opting for the deadbolt is always more secure than using the traditional lock on its own. You should even check to make sure your network router uses encryption (WPA2 or WPA3) that will ensure a safer connection across the board.
This is the stuff that everyone mentions, but people tend to forget to do for themselves: back up everything, always making sure to have a copy of your assets available in case of disaster. Additionally, you should be cleaning your hard drive regularly — because if you don’t, it’ll be harder to manage when you have tons of old, unused files or programs that take up space or even introduce possible breaches.
With all these hygiene practices in place, you can be a lot more secure and sure of your system’s health. However, each one first starts with a user, and with a user comes the endpoint, the entryway into your network: a mobile device, an on-premise computer, or some other point of access is where you and your team interact with the network, your company’s system, on almost every level.
These practices above help define how you can do that in a way that protects the network, because without these practices, any breach, loss of data, or even outdated components starts at the endpoint: it’s your use of an endpoint that opens your network up to attacks, and it’s your management of endpoints that defines how well your storage and updates are handled — ultimately, the business is protected or weakened by your actions as a user.
It’s like personal hygiene: it can affect your whole life for better or worse, depending on whether you put the practices into effect. But each one is something you do to yourself, your body — and when you start treating your endpoints like you should treat your body, you can bet the benefits will start to show.