Hygiene is a word that has been used extensively over the past 18 months. We have heard medical professionals in various news outlets talk about how good hand hygiene can greatly reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we have seen signs posted just about everywhere as a reminder to mitigate the risk of infection. This month, we are addressing a different type of hygiene - cyber hygiene.
WHAT IS CYBER HYGIENE
When we talk about cyber hygiene, we are referring to a practice or steps that we take with our computers and/or electronic devices to maintain good system health and improve our online security. This becomes part of a routine to ensure the safety of our digital data, including our identity, and other details that could be stolen or corrupted.
As we look closer at that definition, we note that having good cyber hygiene requires continuous effort, just as we are reminded to wash our hands often to protect against viruses. Constantly taking steps to protect our digital data, will help protect it against computer viruses, including malware and ransomware.
HOW TO ACHIEVE AND MAINTAIN GOOD CYBER HYGIENE
Here are some of the steps we can take to support healthy cyber hygiene. In principle, these steps are not much different than maintaining good physical health hygiene.
- Doctors say that a healthy diet supports a strong immune system. Likewise, to maintain strong computer system health, whether you use a desktop computer, laptop, mobile device (such as a smart phone or tablet), streaming box or stick, IoT or smart home appliances, apply the manufacturer’s updates to the operating system (OS) or firmware as soon as they become available. The same goes for apps that are running on your devices.
- Certain vitamins or supplements, if taken regularly, may help your body to fight certain viruses. Using anti-virus software (AV) is an important step to block malicious code from infecting your system. When selecting a product to use, research which option is best for you and the type of OS you are running. Meadows Bank does not endorse or recommend any specific AV products.
- When visiting the doctor, they likely will record your medical history to know what treatment or remedy to prescribe. When it comes to your data, you should keep track of where it is stored. Are you using online data storage, or is everything stored on your local computer’s hard drive? If you utilize online storage, is everything in one location, or at multiple sites? For instance, you may have documents and photos stored with different providers. It is important to know where your data is and if a third party that you use has suffered a data breach.
- Regularly back up your data. If your data is all stored on the local hard drive, you may wish to consider backing it up to a separate external drive or cloud-based storage. Having current back ups of your data is crucial in the event of a system crash, ransomware attack or other event that prohibits you from accessing it. Additionally, testing the backed-up data by periodically restoring it is a good way to confirm the integrity of the data.
- Just as one avoids areas that have been contaminated to protect their health, having cautious web browsing habits can help to maintain good cyber hygiene. Equally important is being very selective about what you click on within an email (links or attachments).
- Most people likely would not trust their medical or health care needs to a stranger claiming to be a doctor but who only operates in the dark. Sadly, however, many are falling victim to phone scams of con artists who claim to be from reputable companies in order to gain remote access to the victim’s computer system. These strangers operate in the shadows to commit their fraud. Having good cyber hygiene includes not allowing anyone you do not know to access your system, especially when they initiate an unsolicited call and want to perform the operation remotely.
These are just some of the healthy cyber habits to keep your digital data safe and clean. Meadows Bank is committed to protecting our customer’s data and bringing awareness to prevailing threats to help you fortify your cyber immune system against infection.