Basic cyber hygiene habits to stay safe online

In this digital era, cyber hygiene has become as important as personal hygiene. It includes best practices that a user can take while staying online to protect the system’s health and themselves from cyber fraud, attacks, and protect privacy by improving internet security. According to an article, cybercrimes will cost $10.5 trillion by 2025. Coalition‘s H1 2020 Cyber Insurance claim report says that there was a 100% increase in ransomware attacks in quarter 1 of 2020 than in 2019. The median ransom payment has risen to $44,021.

The numbers mentioned here are scary and worrisome. Every digital citizen needs to ensure cyber hygiene to stay safe. It can be practiced on the device and personal level. Device levels include systems like our mobile phones, laptops, servers, database, and software applications. The personal level involves how we interact with the system, our knowledge about these systems, and other measures that we need to take while we interact with these systems.

Basic steps to ensure cyber hygiene

Device-level practices

According to an article, McAfee detects 419 cyber threats every minute, and cyber risks are too on the rise. Protecting devices is the first step toward safety. At the server level, these include protecting databases and open ports against various attacks like SQL injection, Man in the middle attacks (MiTM), Zero-day attacks, botnet attacks, etc.

As an internet user, you can increase the protection of your laptops and smartphones on a device level by installing good quality security software, having strong firewall settings, and increasing Wi-Fi protection.

Using security software

Antivirus, anti-malware, and firewalls are the basic requirements for a device even before connecting to the internet. For maximum protection, the antivirus digital signatures and malware database should be up to date so that it can catch newer vulnerabilities and threats. Windows 10 ships with an inbuilt antivirus ‘Windows Defender’. If you are using your device just for browsing and light downloads then Defender does a decent job.. If you need additional security, you can purchase a good antivirus subscription from Norton, Bit Defender, Kaspersky lab, or McAfee.

There is a misconception that Mac users don’t need antivirus software because the apple ecosystem is impenetrable. But it is not true, especially while browsing online. As the number of mac and MacBook users are on the rise, security risks and threats are also on the rise. Cybercriminals are also targeting mac users. The same applies to Linux users too.

Having strict firewall settings can make it difficult for an attacker to target a system. Turn on the firewall settings and do not try to change the settings below recommended settings. Keep track of software that can bypass the firewall settings.

Enhancing Wi-Fi protection

All our devices are connected to Wi-Fi as it acts as a common gateway to the internet. Thus an internet user must enhance Wi-Fi protection to stay safe. Using strong passwords and encryption algorithm ensures that an attacker cannot ‘air attack’ or guess your password easily. Make sure that the encryption algorithm used in the Wi-Fi settings is WAP2. After installing a new Wi-Fi router or modem, the admin username and password should be changed so that malicious actors won’t misuse and hack the network. The Wi-Fi admin panel also needs to be encrypted.

Personal level practices

No matter how secure a device is, a user can infect a device or reveal insensitive information to the public when they don’t follow unwritten cyber rules for better privacy. Limiting digital footprint allows a digital user to stay anonymous and hide their identity to an extent while using good passwords for sensitive accounts will make sure your private data is secure and safe.

Limiting digital footprint

A digital footprint is a piece of information about a person online that exist on the internet due to their online activity. However it is not possible to completely hide our digital footprint, we can reduce it by using secure connection software and programs. If you don’t wish to give your personal information to a particular website, you can provide false information. Only provide your actual data to a website only when you completely trust the site. When you need to give correct information, like using online banking and payments.

Try to not click on daft surveys that pop up on the browsers. These include modern clickbait surveys like “Which Marvel character are you” and others which are temptation but in reality, you are giving away your identity and characters by answering questions in it.

Deactivating from older social media and email accounts, reviewing the third-party websites that you have connected using your email periodically can keep you safe. Use incognito or stealth mode in browsers whenever you wish to not be tracked and hide your browsing history. Always use incognito mode while using a public computer. Make sure that you do not use the window in full-screen mode. When using full-screen, the browser will send data about the device to the server.

Passwords, OTP, and multiple authentications

Passwords are like keys and you should always keep your password safe and secure. Never try to use the same passwords for multiple accounts. We all know how hard it is to remember each password. Every password must be a complex combination of letters, symbols, and numbers. Optionally, you can use a good password manager software like Google Password Manager and Last pass.

For banking and online transactions, always use a two-factor authentication system. This is also applicable for social media accounts and cloud storage too. Multi-factor authentication will make sure that even if one device or program is compromised, an attacker cannot access your data. All these steps require patience and time, but practicing these would make sure that you and your data are protected. For additional safety, you can use VPN services and tor networks for anonymity.

Device level practices

According to an article, McAfee detects 419 cyber threats every minute, and cyber risks are too on the rise. Protecting devices is the first step toward safety. At the server level, these include protecting databases and open ports against various attacks like SQL injection, Man in the middle attacks (MiTM), Zero-day attacks, botnet attacks, etc.

As an internet user, you can increase the protection of your laptops and smartphones on a device level by installing good quality security software, having strong firewall settings, and increasing Wi-Fi protection.

Using security software

Antivirus, anti-malware, and firewalls are the basic requirements for a device even before connecting to the internet. For maximum protection, the antivirus digital signatures and malware database should be up to date so that it can catch newer vulnerabilities and threats. Windows 10 ships with an inbuilt antivirus ‘Windows Defender’. If you are using your device just for browsing and light downloads then Defender does a decent job.. If you need additional security, you can purchase a good antivirus subscription from Norton, Bit Defender, Kaspersky lab, or McAfee.

There is a misconception that Mac users don’t need antivirus software because the apple ecosystem is impenetrable. But it is not true, especially while browsing online. As the number of mac and MacBook users are on the rise, security risks and threats are also on the rise. Cybercriminals are also targeting mac users. The same applies to Linux users too.

Having strict firewall settings can make it difficult for an attacker to target a system. Turn on the firewall settings and do not try to change the settings below recommended settings. Keep track of software that can bypass the firewall settings.

Enhancing WiFi protection

All our devices are connected to Wi-Fi as it acts as a common gateway to the internet. Thus an internet user must enhance Wi-Fi protection to stay safe. Using strong passwords and encryption algorithm ensures that an attacker cannot ‘air attack’ or guess your password easily. Make sure that the encryption algorithm used in the Wi-Fi settings is WAP2. After installing a new Wi-Fi router or modem, the admin username and password should be changed so that malicious actors won’t misuse and hack the network. The Wi-Fi admin panel also needs to be encrypted.

Personal level practices

No matter how secure a device is, a user can infect a device or reveal insensitive information to the public when they don’t follow unwritten cyber rules for better privacy. Limiting digital footprint allows a digital user to stay anonymous and hide their identity to an extent while using good passwords for sensitive accounts will make sure your private data is secure and safe.

Limiting digital footprint

A digital footprint is a piece of information about a person online that exist on the internet due to their online activity. However it is not possible to completely hide our digital footprint, we can reduce it by using secure connection software and programs. If you don’t wish to give your personal information to a particular website, you can provide false information. Only provide your actual data to a website only when you completely trust the site. When you need to give correct information, like using online banking and payments.

Try to not click on daft surveys that pop up on the browsers. These include modern clickbait surveys like “Which Marvel character are you” and others which are temptation but in reality, you are giving away your identity and characters by answering questions in it.

Deactivating from older social media and email accounts, reviewing the third-party websites that you have connected using your email periodically can keep you safe. Use incognito or stealth mode in browsers whenever you wish to not be tracked and hide your browsing history. Always use incognito mode while using a public computer. Make sure that you do not use the window in full-screen mode. When using full-screen, the browser will send data about the device to the server.

Passwords, OTP, and multiple authentications

Passwords are like keys and you should always keep your password safe and secure. Never try to use the same passwords for multiple accounts. We all know how hard it is to remember each password. Every password must be a complex combination of letters, symbols, and numbers. Optionally, you can use a good password manager software like Google Password Manager and Last pass.

For banking and online transactions, always use a two-factor authentication system. This is also applicable for social media accounts and cloud storage too. Multi-factor authentication will make sure that even if one device or program is compromised, an attacker cannot access your data. All these steps require patience and time, but practicing these would make sure that you and your data are protected. For additional safety, you can use VPN services and tor networks for anonymity.

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