The key to keeping your network in the clear from security threats is to remain in a constant state of perpetual forward motion when it comes to your cyber hygiene. Many modern companies rely almost exclusively on cyber functions to carry out day-to-day tasks, making it incredibly important for leadership and employees to understand how to work smarter and safer when dealing with cyber entities.
Being more cyber aware and practicing healthy cyber hygiene, is what will ultimately help you keep your business in the green when you need it most. Let’s look at the benefits of cyber hygiene and how you can begin adopting these strategies into your organization immediately.
Defining Cyber Hygiene
If your organization wants to achieve sound digital security in this modern domain, it will need to adapt a good cyber hygiene strategy. This means protecting and maintaining systems and devices using cybersecurity best practices for every device that can connect to the internet. By being proactive and vigilant to enhance your cyber hygiene, your organization can better protect against cyber threats now and in the future.
In short, cyber hygiene envelopes a company’s hardware, software, and IT infrastructure along with any and all employee awareness and training. This full-spectrum approach towards protecting and maintaining your company’s IT systems and devices can provide you with immediate and effective defenses against cyber-attacks. By adopting cyber hygiene best practices organizations are able to take ownership of their systems’ cybersecurity, giving every individual a part to play in protecting their network from hackers.
Lack of Cyber Hygiene Leads to Cyber Attacks
It doesn’t matter if your company has 10 employees or 100,000 employees, it’s going to be at greater risk for shouldering cyber threats if it doesn’t learn how to be more cyber aware. Computers with internet access getting hacked once every 39 seconds in the U.S. alone, it’s no doubt that businesses and individuals need to take heed to the growing cybersecurity concerns. If your business doesn’t want to fall victim to these types of sophisticated cyber-attacks and become another statistic, then listen carefully.
As the world continues to grow more interconnected, there are invariably more outlets for hackers to use to expose your company’s data to the world. Seeing that by 2020, there will be roughly 200 billion connected devices, it would be a smart move to ensure that your organization understands the threats at hand now instead of later. Becoming more self-aware about the choices that you make while using your connected devices is what will aid in the protection of your network and the data inside of it.
Best Practices for Building a Culture of Strong Cyber Hygiene
Regardless of our rank or position in an organization, every person must play a role in helping to keep its network secure. Creating a strong cybersecurity culture must include buy-in from all stakeholders, from the top-level executives to the summer intern. When the company puts an emphasis on cyber hygiene from the get-go, it puts itself in the front seat for maintaining a low-cost solution that is easy to maintain if everybody understands what their role is.
Update System Software and Hardware Regularly
For many years leading up to the last decade or so, hardware and software upgrades were made regularly for one purpose: speed. During the first decade of the 21st century when computer hardware and software were being innovated at a rapid pace, speed was about the only thing that any business cared about. Then, the 2010s took over and the number and severity of data breaches skyrocketed.
This was when the world (especially companies) took notice of the need to shift their attention less towards speed and innovation and more towards protecting what they had worked so hard to build. Software and hardware engineers worked tirelessly to design new, robust hardware and software that could stymie bad actors from gaining access to an organization’s network.
Although this helped to subdue some hackers, other more crafty ones found ways to infiltrate networks through software loopholes called a backdoor. After rigorous testing, companies found that by installing updates across devices, applications, and operating systems on a regular basis they could thwart some hackers and improve their cyber hygiene in the process.
Sure, it’s easy to ignore updates when you’ve got a lot on your plate. But updating your software and hardware shouldn’t be something that you discount just because you haven’t personally had a breach (yet). Just look at Equifax: they thought updating their software wasn’t important to patch a known bug in their Apache Struts web-application software and because of that, 147.7 million Americans had their data stolen.
All in all, applying software updates is one of the most proactive things that your organization can do to enhance its online protection and security. Regularly applying updates and patches ensures that the operating system and applications you are using are protected against known vulnerabilities. Just remember that if you fail to keep your devices updated on a regular basis, it can drastically simplify the process for cybercriminals seeking to corrupt your connected devices.
Employ Strong Access Management Policies
As more businesses are transitioning to giving employees the option to access the company’s network via their own devices, it is apparent that security is more important than ever before. When access is given to an employee for use on their mobile device, it limits the control of the company’s IT team on that device.
For example, if the employee were to log in to their company server on their mobile device on public wifi, they run the risk of their entire network to be hacked. If the hacker used a virtual private network (VPN) to attack the employee’s connected device, it would totally encrypt their steps and make it nearly impossible for network engineers to quickly and effectively trace the origin of the hack. This is why it’s incredibly important to implement strong access management processes and policies to maintain network security whether your network is being accessed from inside the building or 40,000 miles high on a business class flight.
Access management is a simple, yet effective way to maintain cyber hygiene across your organization. By implementing policies that call for the creation of strong passwords and two-factor authentication across all devices and accounts, companies can lower their risk of their data being leaked via a credential stuffing or brute force attack.
The key to access management is to ensure that all passwords are complex, incorporating numbers and special characters while also trying to avoid reusing any passwords across accounts if at all possible. This is because if your account is breached on one site, and your information is stolen, hackers can use this leaked information to target other accounts in the network. With the average cost of a data breach now at $3.92 million, optimizing the budget that you allocate towards access management only makes sense.
Stay Vigilant When Sending and Receiving Emails
Cybercriminals understand all too well that 95% of cybersecurity breaches are due to human error. This is why they tend to focus their efforts on opportunities to infiltrate your company’s defenses by way of one of your negligent employees’ emails. If your employees are not skilled in knowing what to look for when one of these email-based attacks drops into their inbox, you may not be in business much longer.
For companies just becoming conscious of the threats and risks associated with cybersecurity, the first step they can take is to secure their emails. Due to email’s ubiquitous use in modern businesses, it remains the easiest way to distribute malware to unsuspecting users. Hackers who use this medium for their attack vector, largely rely on tricking recipients into clicking on malicious links and attachments, often by impersonating another employee or someone they know.
Some of the most popular email scams are phishing scams which include links to websites that look legitimate. Once the employee clicks through to the website, the link steals their credentials or infects their device with malware.
To combat such threats, you must be vigilant when responding to emails, especially those with links and attachments. Ensure that emails are being scanned for viruses and use two-factor authentication (2FA) to verify email login at all times. These extra steps aim to impede cybercriminals and giving them more reason to move on to an easier target instead.
If you still feel that this level of protection just doesn’t cut it, then make sure to encrypt your emails to ensure that your private information is not stolen. This will prevent hackers from intercepting your emails and ensure that they are only delivered to their intended address. Email encryption does call for the recipient to decrypt the message in order to read it, but this extra step serves a major role in protecting your sensitive data, thereby increasing your organization’s cyber hygiene.
Implement a Robust Cyber Response Plan
All businesses, regardless of size, should have an incident response and recovery plan in place to minimize downtime in the event of an attack. Make sure you and all other employees are aware of this plan so there are no questions about the next steps during an attack.
Since the overall average breakout time for hackers around the world is 4 hours and 37 minutes (Russia is less than 19 minutes), we can see that even the most prolific and efficient IT team would have a tough time subduing an attack without a streamlined cyber response plan. The type of cyber response plan that would help your organization maintain good cyber hygiene is one that works to reduce dwell time, minimize the exfiltration of data, and get everyone back online faster.
Since data breaches require a rapid response, that means that your organization’s cyber response plan should be developed and tested well before a breach actually would occur. Developing a thorough and thoughtful incident response plan allows your organization to respond to data breach incidents systematically. Everyone involved with the plan should be trained on how to communicate in a manner that preserves the application of both privilege and work product to the maximum extent possible.
Once the plan is prepared, employees should practice running through a variety of mock incident response periodically using simulated data breach situations. Make sure to set attainable goals when you practice implementing your cyber response plan in these virtual environment scenarios though. A realistic goal is to get rid of cyber threats in 8 to 12 hours which will usually allow unauthorized data access to be minimalized to non-critical areas.
Putting your Cyber Hygiene Plan Into Motion
By implementing these key strategies in your network infrastructure, you can keep your company free from the clutches of hackers who are focused on getting access to your data by whatever means necessary. Improving your response time to cyber threats will also keep hackers from moving beyond their point of entry in any significant way.
Influencing the integration of a top-notch cyber hygiene program doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes years of testing to find out what unique strategies and solutions work best for your organization to maintain a high level of security. Whether it’s keeping your software and hardware updated regularly, employing solid email and access management protocols, you need to make sure that every person in your organization is in the loop and ready to follow suit from day one.
Developing comprehensive cyber hygiene procedures is a must for modern organizations. When carried out in conjunction with robust, company-wide security practices, sound cyber hygiene practices can help to maintain a sound security posture for your organization. By integrating the simple, easy-to-follow best practices that were detailed in this article into your organization’s daily tasks, you can minimize your cyber threats, protect employees and clients, and defend the integrity of your information for years to come. Contact RSI Security to get started today.