Just like brushing your teeth twice daily to prevent tooth decay, cybersecurity hygiene refers to the small but critical daily practices individuals and organizations can take to counter cyber threats. With global reports citing a 38% increase in cyber attacks in 2022 from 2021, everyone must practice good cybersecurity hygiene to protect against potential data breaches, identity theft, and other malicious activities. Cybersecurity is not only the responsibility of the IT team but of everyone in every department. In this blog post, we will explore some practical tips that individuals and organizations can follow to enhance cybersecurity hygiene.
- Create strong, unique passwords. Passwords are the first line of defense against cyberattacks, and individuals should avoid using the same password across multiple accounts. Strong passwords typically include a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Since memorizing a complex and unique password for each account is an impossible task, a password manager is the best method for individuals to protect each of their accounts with a strong password.
- Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA). Multi-factor authentication provides additional layers of security by requiring users to provide numerous forms of identification to access their accounts. MFA can consist of a combination of a password, a biometric identification such as a fingerprint, a physical token, or a code sent to a mobile device.
- Install software updates. Software updates often contain security patches that address known vulnerabilities. Individuals should ensure that their operating system, antivirus software, and other applications are up-to-date to minimize the risk of a cyberattack.
- Be wary of suspicious links. There was a 61% increase in phishing attacks in 2022 compared to 2021. Phishing is a social engineering tactic to steal user data, including access credentials and credit card numbers. An attacker, disguised as a trusted party, tricks the victim into opening a malicious link from an email, instant message, or text message. A phishing attack can lead to the installation of malware, a ransomware attack, or the revealing of sensitive information. Individuals should be cautious of suspicious links sent through email, social media, or messaging apps, especially from unknown senders.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN creates a secure, encrypted connection between a user's device and the internet. VPN is especially beneficial when accessing public Wi-Fi networks, which can be vulnerable to cyberattacks.
- Implement a strong password policy. Organizations should establish a password policy that requires employees to use strong, unique passwords and change them on a predetermined basis.
- Conduct regular security awareness training (SAT). Employees are often the weakest link in an organization's cybersecurity defense. Regular security awareness training, such as for phishing, can help educate employees on recognizing and responding to potential cyber threats.
- Limit access to sensitive data. Organizations should limit access to sensitive data and ensure that only authorized personnel have access. This could include enforcing a least privilege access model or mandating data encryption to protect data at rest and in transit.
- Adopt a zero-trust architecture (ZTA) and network segmentation. Network segmentation divides a network into smaller segments, which can help contain a potential cyberattack and prevent it from spreading to other parts of the network. Adopting a zero-trust architecture defines the business case for network segmentation and provides a process and technique for building a segmented network.
- Run regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing. Regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing can help identify vulnerabilities in an organization's cybersecurity defense and address them before cybercriminals exploit them.
Cybersecurity hygiene is imperative for both individuals and organizations. Utilizing a military-grade cyber range, such as the SimSpace Cyber Force Platform, can help your organization successfully implement the cyber hygiene initiatives above. A cyber range can play an essential role in improving cybersecurity hygiene by allowing organizations to test, train, and validate their cybersecurity defenses in a simulated, controlled environment. By identifying weaknesses in their defenses and refining their incident response plans, organizations can reduce their risk of falling victim to a cyber attack and improve overall cybersecurity hygiene.