Clean up your act: 8 steps to improve your cyber hygiene

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October is European Cyber Security Month (ECSM), a time to focus on raising awareness of cybersecurity threats and educating people on how to protect themselves online. The first theme for this year’s campaign is Cyber Hygiene, so in celebration of ECSM 2019, we’re giving you eight top tips for maintaining healthy and secure systems.

Before we get into that, though, what is cyber hygiene? Cyber hygiene refers to the proactive strategy that all computer users should develop in order to keep their systems shipshape and secure. It’s an invaluable tool in the fight against malware, phishing, viruses and data loss, so let’s have a look at the steps you can take to keep yourself digitally clean:

Step One: Get a checkup.

Before you set up your hygiene regimen, check to see whether your online accounts have been attacked already. Websites such as haveibeenpwned.com and breachalarm.com let you know whether hackers have recently exposed your email password online (it’s more likely than you think), which will give you the necessary impetus to get on with steps two to eightas quickly as possible.

Step Two: Take stock.

Make a comprehensive list of all your current hardware, software and online applications. Analyze this list, looking for potential vulnerabilities.

Step Three: Get yourself organised.

We all live busy lives, and it’s easy to let cyber hygiene fall down on your list of priorities. In order to prevent this, set up a calendar and schedule regular reminders to keep your systems and devices in check.

Step Four: Have a plan B.

It’s a good idea to have a contingency plan in case you do fall victim to an attack, so have a contact at hand whom you can call if someone breaches your defences, such as your cybersecurity provider.

Step Five: Set up your defences.

It’s useful to be well armed in the fight against malware, so kit yourself out with some robust fortifications. Antivirus software detects and eradicates viruses and malware, while firewalls stop unauthorized users from accessing your information.

Step Six: Change the locks.

We know, you’ve heard about passwords before, but you didn’t listen, did you? Ensure that your passwords are strong; they should be at least 12 characters long, containing upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts, and change them up periodically. 

Step Seven: Keep up to date.

Keep your software updated to protect against vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers, and uninstall any unused programs. If your hardware is getting outdated, it might be time to think about an upgrade.

Step Eight: Get backup.

Regularly back up your data on an external hard drive, or in the cloud. If you have any unused devices, wipe their hard drives in order to protect your data. This is different to deleting files: You’ll need special software to completely wipe the hard drive.

Start your Cyber Security Month off right by following these eight easy steps to keep yourself safe and protected, this October and beyond.

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