In today’s digital age, cyber threats are more prevalent than ever.
From phishing scams to malware attacks, cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in our technology and steal sensitive information.
According to Statista, the total cybercrime cost reached over 8.40 trillion dollars worldwide in 2022.
An IBM research also revealed that a single data breach can cost organizations 4.35 million dollars.
Given such high stakes, it’s critical for organizations to practice good cyber hygiene.
In this article, we’ll explore what cyber hygiene is, its importance and risks, and provide best practices for achieving it.
What is cyber hygiene?
Cyber hygiene refers to the practices and behaviors that organizations adopt & perform to maintain the security of users, devices, and networks and keep them safe from cyber threats.
It involves a combination of proactive measures to prevent cyberattacks such as using strong passwords and regularly updating software, backing up data, and reporting suspicious activity.
Importance of cyber hygiene
Practicing good cyber hygiene is extremely important for organizations because it can help to reduce the risk of cyber attacks and protect their sensitive information.
By following even just basic cyber hygiene best practices, organizations can reduce the likelihood of falling victim to common cyber attacks such as phishing, malware, and ransomware.
This, in turn, can help prevent data breaches and protect sensitive information, such as financial and personal data, from being stolen or misused.
Additionally, it also helps organizations comply with regulatory requirements and industry standards. Apart from strengthening security, cyber hygiene can optimize the performance of hardware and software.
Implementing updates not only decreases the likelihood of exploitable vulnerabilities but can also introduce new features or enhance existing ones.
Neglecting to do so, on the other hand, can result in fragmented files and outdated programs, increasing the risk of exploitable vulnerabilities.
Risks of poor cyber hygiene
The consequences of poor cyber hygiene can be severe.
Even just a single successful cyber attack can disrupt operations, damage relationships with customers and suppliers, and lead to costly legal action.
Let’s look at the top seven risks of poor cyber hygiene and understand how it can affect organizations.
1 – Data loss
Data loss is one of the most significant risks associated with poor cyber hygiene.
Organizations may usually lose sensitive data due to one of the following reasons:
- Failing to properly secure their data
- Accidental deletion
- System crashes
Losing sensitive data can have many severe consequences such as lost revenue, reputational damages, and legal penalties to name a few.
That’s why it’s critical to take proactive cyber hygiene measures such as using complex passwords, maintaining IT asset inventory, and having a robust incident response plan in place to avoid data loss.
2 – Misplaced data
Misplacing data is another common risk associated with poor cyber hygiene. It can occur due to human error or inadequate data management practices.
Unfortunately, misplaced data can also lead to various consequences like loss of productivity, increased data management costs, and sometimes, compliance issues.
To avoid misplaced data, organizations must implement and exercise proper data management policies and procedures.
3 – Software vulnerabilities
When companies fail to update their software regularly, it can leave them vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Cybercriminals can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to the company’s network or steal sensitive information.
That’s why organizations must regularly update their software and ensure that they are using the latest version available.
Additionally, they should also implement strict access control policies and limit access to critical systems and data.
4 – Malicious software
Malicious software, such as viruses, worms, and trojans, can also pose risks to organizations with poor cyber hygiene.
These types of software can infect systems and spread throughout the network, causing extensive damage. To prevent this, organizations must have proper security measures in place.
More importantly, they must conduct regular training programs to educate their employees about the risks of opening suspicious emails or downloading software from untrusted sources.
5 – Compliance violations
Poor cyber hygiene can lead to compliance issues. Organizations that fail to comply with industry regulations and data protection laws (i.e. HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS) can face severe penalties and legal action.
The worst part? — compliance failures can also damage a company’s reputation and erode customer trust.
Therefore, organizations must implement necessary policies and procedures to comply with relevant regulations. Additionally, they should regularly review and update them as and when required.
6 – Poor vendor risk management
Working with third-party vendors can be risky if organizations have not ensured whether the vendors have proper security measures in place.
In fact, if your third-party vendors have poor security measures, it can easily lead to data breaches, reputational damage, and legal issues for your organizations.
That’s why your organization must conduct thorough due diligence before working with third-party vendors.
7 – Data breach
Data breach is the most severe risk associated with poor cyber hygiene.
When cybercriminals gain unauthorized access to a company’s network, they can steal sensitive information, such as customer data, financial information, and intellectual property.
This, in turn, can result in customer identity theft, leading to legal action and a tarnished market reputation.
Cyber hygiene best practices
Alt text: These cyber hygiene best practices will help you strengthen your cloud infrastructure.
The importance of cyber hygiene cannot be overstated. Given the various risks associated with poor cyber hygiene that we just discussed, it is not just incredibly critical but non-negotiable for organizations to achieve good cyber hygiene.
Thankfully, there are several best practices you can implement and follow to improve the cyber hygiene of your organization. Let’s look at some of them.
Create complex passwords
Passwords serve as the first line of defense against any kind of cyber attack.
Creating strong and complex passwords can significantly reduce the risk of a cyber attack.
This is why organizations must encourage their employees to create passwords that are at least twelve characters long because such passwords are difficult to crack.
Remember, a strong password is made up of a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
Additionally, they should also avoid using common words or phrases and to change passwords frequently.
Update software regularly
Hackers often look for and target vulnerabilities in outdated software because it’s easier for them to gain access to an organization’s digital assets.
Therefore, it is essential to keep software up to date with the latest security patches.
Ideally, every organization must establish a process that regularly updates its software and ensure that all employees are aware of the importance of doing so.
Maintain an IT asset inventory
An IT asset inventory is a comprehensive list of all the hardware and software assets that a business owns or uses.
Now, creating an IT asset inventory manually is undoubtedly a long & complicated process.
But the good news is that there are several tools like CAASM available in the market that not only help to create & maintain an inventory but also take care of the entire cybersecurity of an organization.
What is CAASM? — CAASM (Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management) is a new kid on the block that has taken the cybersecurity space by storm.It is an all-in-one cybersecurity solution that helps organizations keep track of all their cyber assets, and monitor & reduce the attack surface.
Using a robust CAASM solution, organizations can keep track of their digital assets, identify potential vulnerabilities, and ensure that all assets are up to date with the latest security patches.
Control admin privileges
Admin privileges give users unrestricted access to a business’s digital assets.
Therefore, it is crucial to control who has admin privileges and to limit access to only those who need it.
Businesses should establish a process for granting and revoking admin privileges and ensure that all employees understand the importance of limiting access to sensitive information.
This includes monitoring the use of admin privileges, conducting regular audits, and limiting the number of users who have admin privileges.
Implement an incident response plan
Despite taking all necessary precautions, businesses may still fall victim to a cyber attack.
In such cases, it is essential to have an incident response plan in place. For the uninitiated, an incident response plan outlines the steps that a business should take in the event of a cyber attack.
It includes procedures for detecting, containing, and mitigating the damage caused by the attack.
Businesses should test their incident response plan regularly to ensure that it is effective and up to date.
An effective incident response plan can help reduce the damage caused by an attack and minimize downtime.
Achieve good cyber hygiene today!
Cyber hygiene is a critical practice that every organization must adopt to safeguard their digital assets from cyber threats.
By following the above-mentioned cyber hygiene best practices, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of falling prey to cyber attacks.
Remember, cyber hygiene is not a one-time task but requires constant monitoring and maintenance. Therefore, organizations must make it a habit to regularly assess their digital systems, identify vulnerabilities, and take necessary steps to address them.
A cyber hygiene assessment is an evaluation of an organization’s network to identify potential vulnerabilities and risks that could be exploited by cyber attackers.
It helps organizations to identify and address security gaps, strengthen their security posture, and minimize the risk of cyber attacks.
A clear indicator of good cyber hygiene is the consistent implementation of cybersecurity best practices.
This includes regularly updating software and security patches, using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, encrypting sensitive data, and backing up critical information.
Additionally, good cyber hygiene also includes promoting cybersecurity awareness and education among employees or individuals.
Cyber hygiene is critical for protecting digital assets, maintaining regulatory compliance, and safeguarding public safety.
By implementing good cyber hygiene practices, organizations can reduce the risk of cyber attacks and minimize the impact of any that do occur.
Poor cyber hygiene can lead to a variety of issues that can have serious consequences for organizations such as malware infections, ransomware attacks, data breaches, and compliance violations.
Improving poor cyber hygiene requires a proactive effort to implement and maintain cybersecurity best practices.
The most important cybersecurity best practices include using strong passwords, keeping software up-to-date, enabling two-factor authentication, imposing strong access controls, and educating employees on latest cybersecurity threats and best practices to maintain good cyber hygiene.