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What is Cyber Hygiene?

As cyberattacks have grown more common throughout the world, disrupting company and government activities and frequently resulting in enormous ransomware settlements and damaged corporate reputations, cyber hygiene has emerged as a critical approach for building operational resilience.

Cyber hygiene is a set of routine practices for safeguarding vital data and securing networks. It's similar to personal hygiene, in which you build a habit of small, unique tasks to avoid or mitigate health issues. Cyber hygiene techniques include inventorying all endpoints linked to a network, managing vulnerabilities, and updating software and apps.

What is Cyber Hygiene?

Figure 1. What is Cyber Hygiene?

What does Cyber Hygiene Mean?

Cyber hygiene means performing the minor things regularly and correctly every time to reduce your attack surface.

It is taking the effort to verify that you are not allowing a hostile attacker to exploit holes and vulnerabilities in your network. This may be accomplished by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does my anti-virus and anti-malware software have the most up-to-date definitions?
  • Are my server and workstation operating systems patched and up to date?
  • Are my firewalls up to date on patches and firmware?
  • Is it true that my virtual hosts have been patched and updated?
  • Is my third-party software patched?

If you responded "no" to any of these questions, you should think about improving your cyber hygiene.

What are the Benefits of Cyber Hygiene?

Cyber hygiene benefits both individuals and organizations in a variety of ways. For example, excellent cyber hygiene may have avoided catastrophic data leaks, saving the organization massive amounts of money and its reputation. It may also provide more comfort to those working remotely amid a public health disaster such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Cyber hygiene helps by minimizing the likelihood that hackers may exploit security flaws:

  • Protect a business's data and client information
  • Keep devices and computers running well
  • Safeguard against ransomware and malware
  • Avoid phishing attempts and other malicious activity
  • Identify and fix outdated admin privileges from former employees, etc.
  • Locate unmanaged assets
  • Find unauthorized software on a system

When businesses or individuals neglect cyber hygiene, they can encounter all sorts of problems. Maintenance allows software and computers to run effectively and ward off more serious problems, such as data loss due to corruption or hacking, and misplaced data.

What Challenges of Cyber Hygiene?

While the human hygiene metaphor helps to clarify the core principle, the parallel soon falls apart when considering the issues associated with cyber hygiene.

Here are five of the most pressing cyber hygiene issues.

1. Insufficient sight into devices

Simply having insight into all assets is a massive challenge when it comes to cyber hygiene.

The explosion of gadgets in our corporate environments has made it impossible to answer the most basic question: How many devices do I have, and are they secure?

With unmanaged devices, cloud instances, and personal devices accessing company data, merely compiling a thorough cybersecurity asset inventory becomes difficult.

2. Lack of awareness of the scope of security solution coverage

Once you've overcome the visibility challenge, you can move on to the second cyber hygiene obstacle: fully understanding security solution coverage.

Organizations invest time, effort, and money in creating security and management solutions for every type of device and user.

Here are a few examples:

  • Platforms for Endpoint Security
  • Cloud Infrastructure for SIEM Solutions
  • Management of Mobile Devices
  • Directory Services for DNS Management
  • IAM/PAM

3. Inability to prioritize threats

There will always be vulnerabilities, and there will almost certainly be more security flaws than resources to remedy them. Prioritization is therefore important when it comes to including vulnerability management as part of a cyber hygiene plan.

Knowing which devices have serious vulnerabilities allows you to prioritize what needs to be fixed first. Cyber hygiene does not always imply remediating the greatest vulnerabilities regardless of the device; rather, you utilize precise information on each asset to inform vulnerability management.

4. PAM, user access, and offboarding

Understanding which people have privileged access, as well as constantly validating permissions, are also essential components of any cyber hygiene program.

Here are a few examples of results that should be included in a cyber hygiene initiative:

  • AD-enabled users with incorrect setups: Any user that has a password that is set to never expire, no pre-authorization required, no password required, and so on.
  • Users who haven't seen their device in X days: Any user who hasn't seen their device in a particular timeframe.
  • Admin accounts with outdated passwords: Any admin user who hasn't updated their password in a certain amount of time.
  • Users with failed logins: Users who attempted but failed to log in in the last seven days.

5. Managing Cloud Assets and Internet of Things Devices

What are the two sorts of assets that are likely to hinder cyber hygiene initiatives? IoT devices and cloud instances.

  • As more enterprises migrate to the cloud, they frequently discover that the security and management solutions that secure their on-premise and network equipment do not always transfer.
  • When it comes to cyber hygiene, IoT devices provide another problem to security and IT departments. With thousands of always-on, always-connected gadgets infiltrating our networks, these devices are unmanaged and, as a result, are frequently excluded from security regulations.

Why is Cyber Hygiene Important?

Many organizations rely almost entirely on cybersecurity specialists to carry out day-to-day duties aimed to secure their sensitive data and that of their end-users.

This is a big mistake. Every employee must be aware of fundamental cyber hygiene procedures as well as their responsibility in safeguarding and maintaining your IT systems and devices. This will allow for better incident response and rapid and effective protection against cyber threats.

In addition to increasing security, cyber hygiene may help your hardware and software perform more efficiently. Files can get fragmented and applications might become out of date if they are not maintained. Patching not only reduces the risk of exploitable vulnerabilities but may also provide new or improve current capabilities.

What are Common Cyber Hygiene Problems?

Here are some of the problems that show why you need cyber hygiene.

1. Loss of Data

When important or sensitive information on a computer is compromised due to theft, human mistake, viruses, malware, or power failure, data loss happens. It can also happen as a result of physical damage, mechanical failure, or faulty edifice equipment. Backing up files regularly allows for data recovery in the case of data loss. Professional recovery services may be able to restore lost data if it has not been backed up.

Backing up data is the main cyber hygiene task that must not be forgotten.

2. Out of Date Software

Not all cyber security threats are caused by software. The rapid distribution of software updates might make it difficult for hardware to keep up. This, in turn, introduces vulnerabilities that might jeopardize the security of a company's data. Many antiquated devices will not enable updates with the most recent patches and security measures when hardware becomes obsolete. Devices that rely on outdated software are more vulnerable to cyber attackss, posing a significant risk. It is critical to keep an eye on this and respond swiftly when gadgets become out of date.

To prevent known vulnerabilities, software programs must have security updates delivered regularly. The success of the WannaCry ransomware computer worm exemplifies why updating operating systems is critical to good cyber hygiene.

3. Security Breach

Any incident that leads to unauthorized access to computer data, applications, networks, or devices is considered a security breach. As a result, data is accessed without authority. It usually happens when an invader can circumvent security measures.

A successful cyber breach is the worst possible result of poor cyber hygiene. Improper configuration management, poor vulnerability management, and lax security policies and attack response processes can expose your firm to data theft, economic interruption, and exorbitant ransomware payouts. In the end, they can result in significant financial consequences, a tarnished brand, and a loss of client loyalty.

4. Older Security Software

To keep up with the ever-changing threat landscape, antivirus software and other security software must be constantly updated. Outdated security software, even software that hasn't been updated in a few months, can't defend the company from the most recent attacks.