It’s hard to imagine our lives without the internet. From online banking to social media, we rely on digital platforms for many tasks. However, with this convenience comes the responsibility of ensuring our online safety. Just as we maintain personal hygiene for our well-being, cyber hygiene is crucial for a secure digital life.
This article delves into the best practices for maintaining top-notch cyber hygiene and explains how VPNs and password managers could solve many digital security concerns.
Understanding cyber hygiene
Cyber hygiene refers to the practices and habits that users adopt to maintain the health of their digital systems to protect their online security and privacy. Just as personal hygiene practices (like washing hands) help prevent illness and maintain health, cyber hygiene practices help prevent security breaches, data theft, and other cyber threats.
Good cyber hygiene involves a combination of regular routines and best practices. These habits ensure that devices, software, and networks remain resilient against cyberattacks and that personal and organizational data remains secure.
1. Regular software updates
Software updates are often perceived as a nuisance due to persistent notifications. But there’s a reason manufacturers want you to install these updates as soon as possible. Aside from performance or visual improvements, software updates also typically come with security patches to prevent hackers from exploiting known vulnerabilities.
Updates to your operating system and apps are equally important. It’s best to enable automatic updates to ensure all security fixes are in place.
2. Strong password policies
Account passwords are the first line of defense between your data and hackers. With a weak password, you’re making the job of the adversaries quite easy. They can either guess the password or use an automated tool to brute-force their way into your account. Using unique, complex passwords for different accounts and changing them regularly is key to avoiding this threat.
However, remembering a unique, strong password for every online account can be daunting. This is where password manager apps come into play. These tools can generate and check how secure passwords are, which would be difficult for cybercriminals to crack. Password managers store your passwords in an encrypted vault, ensuring they remain inaccessible to hackers.
3. Two-factor authentication (2FA)
While strong passwords are essential to preventing threats, they’re sometimes not enough. As hacker tools and capabilities evolve, passwords are getting easier to crack. That’s why you need additional protection to ensure only you can access your accounts.
With two-factor authentication (2FA), users must provide two distinct forms of identification before accessing an account or system. 2FA ensures that even if a malicious actor obtains a user’s password, they would still need the second factor to access the account. This significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access.
Popular authentication methods include:
- SMS codes: Users receive a text with a code to enter to access the account.
- Authentication apps: Largely considered the most effective and convenient approach. Popular apps include Google Authenticator and Microsoft Authenticator)
- Push notifications: A login attempt triggers a push notification on the user’s device to confirm their identity.
4. Create data backups
The previous steps are preventative controls to safeguard your data. But what happens if hackers still manage to encrypt or delete your data or your storage device stops working?
Data backups are a safety net, ensuring that even in the face of unexpected events, data remains accessible and intact. That said, backing up all of your data is time-consuming and unnecessary. To maximize your resources and save time, determine which data is essential and create regular backups of those critical files. In business terms, this approach is called a tiered backup.
5. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a tool that encrypts your internet connection, ensuring that your online activities remain private. Here’s why every internet user should consider using a VPN.
VPNs hide your IP address, which makes your online actions untraceable. This is especially crucial when using public Wi-Fi networks, which are often less secure and more susceptible to breaches. By creating a secure tunnel for your data, VPNs ensure that your information, be it personal or financial, remains encrypted and away from prying eyes.
In the vast digital universe, threats lurk around every corner. However, you can navigate this space securely with the right tools and practices. By integrating tools like VPNs and password managers into your daily routine and following the best practices outlined above, you can enjoy the benefits of the internet without compromising your security. Remember that your digital safety is in your hands. Prioritize your cyber hygiene just as you would your well-being.