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Ultimate Guide to Cyber Hygiene for Businesses

Ultimate guide to cyber hygiene for businesses
(Last Updated On: November 15, 2023)

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Cyberattacks have become a lot more common now as compared to before. According to studies, Americans lose almost $30 million in a year due to cyberattacks. Almost 71% of these attacks target businesses, particularly small and medium-sized ones. 

In 2020 alone, cyberattacks impacted the world on a global level. The total loss was calculated at around $304.6 million, while in 2021, this number increased to $304.7 million.

The risk of cyberattacks has significantly increased since many organizations have started conducting their businesses online and employees are now working remotely. Because of this, companies are spending a large sum of money on their cybersecurity. In fact, global cybersecurity spending is expected to reach $1.5 Trillion by 2025.

That is why it is crucial that organizations start implementing strong security practices in every aspect of their business. 

This is where cyber hygiene comes into play. 

What Exactly Is Cyber Hygiene?

Similar to how it is vital to maintain good personal hygiene for better well-being, cyber hygiene is needed to keep important data safe. All operating devices will continue to smoothly function when good cyber hygiene is maintained. These devices will remain protected from outside attacks that can affect their functionality, like malware. 

Cyber hygiene mainly focuses on keeping critical data secure from all types of theft by following proper practices and taking precautions. 

The Importance of Cyber Hygiene

Cyber hygiene comes with numerous benefits. An organization that maintains its cyber hygiene can minimize the risk of data loss and operational interruptions by enhancing its overall security.

The strength of an organization’s cybersecurity depends on how well-prepared they are when it comes to taking care of current and future threats. Optimal cybersecurity can be achieved through standard cyber hygiene. 

On the other hand, poor cyber hygiene could result in data loss, security incidents, financial loss, operational downtime, legal issues, government fines, and degradation of an organization’s reputation. 

What Are Some of the Common Cyber Hygiene Issues?

Oftentimes, there are multiple elements within an organization that require cyber hygiene. This includes all software and hardware, such as connected devices, phones, computers, and so on. 

Online applications that are being used in an organization should also be a part of a regular maintenance program. All of these systems have their own weaknesses that can cause different issues, if not taken care of properly. Listed below are some of these common issues. 

1. Software Being Out of Date

It is crucial to regularly update all software to make sure that the latest ones are being used all across the organization. This will ensure that these programs stay secure and are less prone to cyberattacks. Old software tends to be at a higher risk when it comes to malware. 

2. Losing or Misplacing Data

No one wants to lose their important data. By not taking care of one’s data makes it susceptible to corruption, hacking, and other issues. Backing up online cloud storage and hard drives on a regular basis will ensure that all of the data stays protected. 

Moreover, important data can be lost in other ways due to bad cyber hygiene. There are numerous places where one can store their data. Hence, not keeping a proper record can easily result in the misplacement of these files.

3. Breaking Through Security

Organizations always have to keep themselves protected from all sorts of threats such as spam, hackers, malware, viruses, phishing, and so on. These threats are constantly changing as new ways to obtain private data are always coming out. 

95% of cybersecurity breaches happen because of human error. Therefore, it is also critical to be careful when working online.

4. Out-Of-Date Security Software

All security software should always be up-to-date so that it is ready to face whatever threat might be out there. When you don’t update the security software even for a few months, it won’t be able to protect an organization against new threats. 

How Can an Organization Evaluate Its Cyber Hygiene?

A performance monitoring solution is used when assessing an organization’s cyber hygiene. It scans the IT environment, which helps in identifying vulnerabilities within a computer’s security system. 

According to the CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System), an organization’s vulnerabilities are placed in four severity levels, based on their urgency: Low, Medium, High, or Critical. 

All of these vulnerabilities are divided based on their criticality, to see which one will significantly impact a business. A CEO’s computer, for example, will require more attention as compared to an intern’s computer, when it comes to unfixed vulnerabilities. 

An organization’s IT team can prioritize critical vulnerabilities based on their importance through cyber hygiene assessments. They can work towards fixing urgent security issues that need attention before moving on to the next ones.

An organization will be better able to understand its current security system and fix it accordingly by regularly assessing its cyber hygiene.

Best Cyber Hygiene Practices 

One can never predict the threat that might dismantle the security of an organization. However, by taking precautions and following good cyber hygiene practices, these threats can be prevented from having a big impact. 

The following cyber hygiene practices are a good starting point that an organization can further build upon. 

1. Maintain an Inventory of All Critical Assets

Similar to how a thief searches for valuable items in a home, a cyber attacker will also want to get their hands on important information. Hence, it’s vital to maintain an inventory of all the valuable assets. 

Anything that is known to be ‘business critical’ will be an important asset for the majority of organizations. This might include information like customers’ data, copyrights and patents, payment information, corporate financial data, proprietary source code, and so on. It helps to find these assets, keep them safe, and maintain a record of who can access them. 

2. Integrate Complex Passwords 

Regularly changing passwords and maintaining them is one of the strongest defense systems against numerous security threats. Users within the organization should have passwords that consist of a mixture of different letters (upper and lower case), special characters, and numbers. 

At least fifteen characters must be used in administrative passwords. Also, it helps to go through current commonly-used-passwords books to see if the passwords being used are truly unique. 

Moreover, multi-factor authentication makes everything more secure. This is when a user is required to use other forms of verification, like a numerical code or a thumbprint. 

3. Update All Software on a Regular Basis

As mentioned earlier, it is important to update all software within an organization. Cyber attackers take advantage of bad patch management, hence they can easily infiltrate. 

In order to reduce the risk of malware attacking the network, it is critical that an organization’s application patches and operating system are regularly taken care of. An organization’s best defense against different security incidents is an effective patch management system. 

4. Decide Who Should Have Admin Privileges

Systems and programs that require admin-level access should be the only ones to have it. High-level administrative privileges come with high-security risks. Regular users should have limited access and capabilities. 

5. Keep a Regular Backup of All Data

Losing or misplacing data can cause quite an issue, as explained earlier. Hence, it is crucial to perform regular backup procedures to make sure that no valuable data gets lost. Also, it helps to put the restoration process to the test on a regular basis to ensure its workability.

6. Take Care of End-of-Life Systems

Computer software and hardware that cannot be supported through security updates and patches from their manufacturers are known as end-of-life systems. These types of software and hardware pose a high risk within an organization and should be taken care of immediately. 

7. Have an Incident Response Plan Ready

Every business, regardless of its size, should prepare an incident response plan. This can help minimize the damage caused by an attack. Cyber attackers can hack machinery and start moving through a network in just a short amount of time. 

Therefore, it is important to create a quick response protocol. This will help in minimizing the hacking of data and work on getting rid of the hacker. Different teams need to test the plan’s effectiveness beforehand to see how it works and what changes can be made to improve it.

What Is the Difference Between Individual Cyber Hygiene and Business Cyber Hygiene?

In the case of individual cyber hygiene, it works by keeping an individual safe from security threats and hackers. Business cyber hygiene works by reducing the risk of an attack within an organization. 

Certain practices are used by both parties, like using antivirus software, implementing complex passwords, staying alert when answering emails, and keeping a backup of important data. 

On the other hand, business cyber hygiene comes with bigger concerns, like taking care of IT infrastructure, managing vendor risk, and so on. At the end of the day, the main goal for both parties is to protect data and computer systems from all types of attacks.

Conclusion

With cyberattacks on the rise across all business industries, one of the top priorities should be to implement cyber hygiene and reduce the risk of falling victim to any type of attack. 

It can take about a month of downtime to recover from a cyberattack, on average. Hence, good cyber hygiene practices can help in improving an organization’s ability to quickly bounce back from all types of cyberattacks.

About the author

Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., a distinguished legal scholar with a business law degree and a Doctor of Juridical Science, is a leading expert in business registration and diverse business departments. Renowned for his academic excellence and practical insights, Dr. O'Neill guides businesses through legal complexities, offering invaluable expertise in compliance, corporate governance, and registration processes.

As an accomplished author, his forthcoming book is anticipated to be a comprehensive guide for navigating the dynamic intersection of law and business, providing clarity and practical wisdom for entrepreneurs and legal professionals alike. With a commitment to legal excellence, Dr. Gabriel O'Neill, Esq., is a trusted authority dedicated to empowering businesses within the ever-evolving legal landscape.