Hygiene is essential for the overall well-being of a person. From taking a bath to brushing one’s teeth, good hygiene is crucial to health. In the digital realm, cyber hygiene is a term that refers to precautions, principles, and practices to keep a digital environment pristine from cybercriminals.
Similar to personal hygiene, cyber hygiene is a commitment to consistency. It must become a sound routine to keep vital corporate data well-protected. These are steps that an organization must undertake to maintain the integrity and strength of its computer network.
When done correctly, cyber hygiene can eliminate threats and prevent the natural deterioration of a computer system.
Cyber Hygiene vs. IT Hygiene
Information technology also has concepts of digital hygiene. But its scope revolves around the maintenance of data integrity and availability.
Cyber hygiene focuses on security processes such as password rotation and virus scans to keep the digital environment free from infections from malware or advanced persistent threats. These are practices that may appear routine or straightforward, but they can help save time and resources.
Let’s look at two critical examples of cyber hygiene: endpoint protection and patching.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees work from home and use corporate devices with connections to the company computer network. These include tablets, laptops, Internet-of-Things devices, smartphones, and wireless connections. Endpoint security is essential to protect these remote devices by ensuring they have compliance with safety standards.
The execution, audit, and remediation of endpoint protections must continually undergo updates for maximum effectiveness. When left unchecked, there can be ghost users, especially employees who have left the company already. APT attackers like to target these vulnerabilities.
Software and applications that a company uses can be prone to vulnerabilities in the long run. Patching solves these problems by introducing a bug fix to enhance the applications or remove its exposure to exploits.
As part of cyber hygiene, patching must be a regular practice to thwart aggressive APTs. These threats are continually evolving at a breakneck pace, so companies must keep up to bolster their cyberdefenses. Patches keep your cybersecurity up to date.
Top 11 Best Practices for Cyber Hygiene
The two examples above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cyber hygiene. Here are the top eleven best practices to protect your company from threats to experience the comprehensive protection that cyber hygiene offers.
1. Diligent Documentation
To get an overall picture of a company’s digital environment, exhaustive documentation of all hardware and software is necessary.
Hardware covers all computer units and connected devices such as fax machines and printers. It also encompasses smartphones and tablets, especially for remote connectivity.
The software includes all programs that are accessible within the corporate network. Web and smartphone applications should be here as well, particularly those that exist in cloud infrastructures.
2. Assessment of Inventory
After the creation of a list, a comprehensive assessment must take place to look for potential vulnerabilities. If there is unused equipment, these must undergo a proper wiping and disposal protocol. Programs that are no longer used should undergo uninstallation.
There must also be a reconsideration of what apps to dedicate to corporate usage. For instance, if the company uses two messaging applications, there must be a consensus of what app to adopt. The other messaging app should only be a contingency and can be subject to deletion.
3. Policy Synchronization
After documentation and inventory, there must be a consolidation of policies and practices in the workplace. Cyber hygiene requires consistency by implementing an advanced security system such as the NIST framework.
With a uniform policy in place, it will be easier to set a standard timeframe for vital tasks. For instance, companies can change every 30 days. Updates can occur every week. Repetition of a productive habit can lead to an improvement in productivity and posture in the long run.
4. Software Defense
Various layers of cybersecurity are essential in maintaining cyber hygiene. The first defense line should be a robust and reliable antivirus software that scans a computer network for viruses and malware.
Useful antivirus software can pinpoint specific files that potentially have malicious software. The antivirus software can also automate regular network scan scheduling, which is vital for cyber hygiene. When these scans do not skip a beat, they will provide round-the-clock protection.
5. Remote Device Encryption
Most companies have data encryption processes in place in the office workplace. But with the advent of work-from-home arrangements, most personnel have been bringing their work operations at home with remote devices.
Mobile devices vital for remote work will contain sensitive corporate data that may compromise the company in the event of a hack. Laptops, cloud storage, removable drives, and smartphones are among the devices that require encryption to secure necessary information.
6. Network Firewalls
Network firewalls provide another layer of defense to maintain good cyber hygiene. These digital barriers offer security by preventing the unauthorized access of mail servers, websites, and other online sources of information.
7. Router Protection
The wireless network is a vulnerable access point of any company. The router must have WPA2 or WPA3 encryption to ensure the utmost privacy of information over the wireless network.
The router’s default name and password that came with the manufacturer must undergo customization to offer more protection. It is also essential to turn off remote management.
8. Scheduling of Updates
A consistent schedule of updates is critical in deterring new threats as they happen. Web applications, mobile apps, and operating systems must have regular updates to eliminate glitches. Regular updates deliver new software patches to correct vulnerabilities and flaws that hackers can exploit.
For safety, developers do not always alert when a critical patch is ready because this will also inform hackers that may lead them to respond immediately with a counter. Regular updates will help cover these surprise patches.
Cyber hygiene involves regular software updates to ensure that applications are running on optimum performance. Hardware updates will help prevent performance issues.
9. Password Strengthening
Passwords are integral to cybersecurity and cyber hygiene. When they are compromised, they can break open the proverbial gates that are protecting your digital environment.
PTo give hackers a hard time, passwords must be complex and unique to give hackers a hard time. These must contain at least twelve characters with lowercase letters and symbols. Passwords must have a lifespan as well and must never be subject to reuse. This prevents malicious activity and improves cybersecurity.
Firmware passwords are also important because they protect hardware from unauthorized resets or reboots.
10. Hard Drive Management
Good cyber hygiene requires reformatting when hard drives are no longer in use by an employee. Deleting files or data is not sufficient because hackers have ways to retrieve these files.
Hard drives are reliable, but it also makes brilliant sense to back up essential files in the cloud. Data loss is a significant problem with grave repercussions if hackers can get access to it. A mirror copy of the information will ensure its safety just in case a malfunction or breach occurs.
11. Multi-Factor Authentication
Gaining prominence in social media sites, two-factor or multi-factor authentication provides additional assurance for people’s cybersecurity. Hackers will have a more challenging time bypassing the security layers that multi-factor authentication offers, especially using biometrics and unique codes via cell phone.
Benefits of Cyber Hygiene
Cyber hygiene is essential to build a culture of mindfulness within an organization. With advanced persistent threats evolving in complexity as days pass, there is no room for neglect and overconfidence.
When done correctly, here are the positive effects of cyber hygiene in a company:
Both hardware and software should always be running at peak efficiency. However, if mishandled through neglect or improper use, they also lose their effectiveness. Practicing cyber hygiene helps keep the digital environment in tiptop shape because it will update programs to address vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
Routine scanning and inspection can help prevent these issues before they rear their ugly heads. With proper maintenance, digital assets will have robust protection against advanced persistent threats. It will also protect files from breaking up into fragments, resulting in significant data loss.
Both hardware and software should always be running at peak efficiency. However, if mishandled through neglect or improper use, they also lose their effectiveness. Practicing cyber hygiene helps keep the digital environment in tiptop shape.
Without cyber hygiene, programs will begin to be outdated and have more vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. Files can also break up into fragments, resulting in significant data loss.
Routine scanning and inspection that comes with cyber hygiene can help prevent these issues before they rear their ugly heads. With proper maintenance, digital assets will have robust protection against advanced persistent threats.
The hostility of threats, viruses, identity theft artists, and malware increases in magnitude and complexity. The lack of presence of mind to protect against these problems will prove damaging to an organization.
Predicting when threats will happen may not be an exact science yet. Still, cyber hygiene helps consolidate everyone’s efforts to improve its cybersecurity and prevent these problems.
Typical Cyber Hygiene Problems
But what happens when cyber hygiene is not a priority in organizations? Numerous problems can hamper the productivity of a company. Without proper maintenance, the following negative situations may arise:
1. Data Loss
The loss of vital sensitive information, especially clients’ data, can be damaging to a company. Some laws protect data privacy, and the penalties for these are harsh. Without cyber hygiene, hard drives can easily be subject to neglect and may result in corruption or vulnerabilities.
2. Misplacement of Information
A lesser variation of data loss forgets where to locate it. The information may still be there, but it is as good as gone if there is difficulty finding it. Cyber hygiene helps a company organize the inventory of their digital assets to be accessible as needed.
3. Breaches and Hacks
The unauthorized entry of malicious agents and software can result in no due diligence in protecting the digital environment. Cyber hygiene instructs everyone to be mindful of all the devious hackers’ tactics, including phishing, malware, spam, and viruses.
4. Outdated Software
Change is constant. When programs and applications cannot keep up with the daily grind because of a lack of updates, there is much potential for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities with malware and viruses. Cyber hygiene helps establish a consistent schedule for scan and security patches to solve these problems.
Security software such as antivirus programs must always keep up with the evolving landscape of advanced persistent threats. These programs must remain one step ahead of these digital troublemakers.
Professional Guidance for Cyber Hygiene
Cyber hygiene is an integral part of a new cybersecurity compliance guideline called the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). To ensure that your organization is not violating any necessary government protocol, RSI Security can help assess and prepare your digital environment.
There are five CMC levels to assess cybersecurity practices during a CMMC audit that RSI Security will guide you through:
Level 1: Basic Cyber Hygiene for Practices and Performed for Processes
Level 2: Intermediate Hygiene for Practices and Documented for Processes
Level 3: Good Cyber Hygiene for Practices and Managed for Processes
Level 4: Proactive for Practices and Reviewed for Processes
Level 5: Advanced/Progressive for Practices and Optimizing for Processes
RSI Security is a CMMC-AB Registered Provider Organization, and we have an experienced team of CMMC-AB Registered Practitioners to help assure your company.
Cybersecurity is no longer the primary domain of the IT department. It must be the responsibility of everyone in the company with the help of cyber hygiene. As more employees rely on technology to work from home, they must have the mindfulness of cyber hygiene to protect the organization from exploits, hacks, and breaches.
Prevention is always better than cure. RSI Security will help empower your employees to always keep in mind the best cyber hygiene practices to protect against phishing, malware, spam, and viruses.