Cyber Hygiene 101: Simple Steps to Improve Your Digital Security

Digital security can make or break your organization. Good digital security is a strong business enabler: it demonstrates to customers and stakeholders that your company can be trusted to protect their sensitive information. It also ensures compliance with security laws and industry standards, which further increases trust. Poor digital security, on the other hand, can lead to security incidents, downtime, fines, and may even cause legal liability.

The consequences of poor digital security can be catastrophic for your organization. The average data breach cost organizations $9.44 million in 2022. Sixty percent of companies go out of business within six months after a cyberattack or data breach.

The digital security landscape is constantly evolving. Threats are escalating: a recent research report found that attackers can severely damage a network in just 62 minutes, compared to 84 minutes in 2023. It also found the number of cybercriminal groups is increasing rapidly, and cybercriminals can take just two minutes to break into a network.

The emergence of AI also raises the stakes dramatically. With sophisticated AI tools, even unskilled attackers can launch devastating attacks against your network. AI also makes phishing and social engineering attacks more effective and harder to detect.

Fortunately, there are some straightforward steps you can take to help improve your organization’s digital security and keep yourself safe.

Keep Your Software Updated and Enable Automatic Updates

Keeping software updated with the latest patches is crucial. Many people are hesitant to update their network and server software, fearing it will break something. However, software updates often include critical security patches. The WannaCry ransomware attack, which caused $4 billion in damage worldwide in 2017, targeted a known vulnerability in Microsoft Windows. Microsoft had released patches to address the vulnerability; however, many users had not installed the patches or were running older Windows versions and remained vulnerable.

Practice Good Password Management

Weak passwords are often the source of cyberattacks and data breaches. In a survey, about one-third of respondents indicated they had suffered a data breach in the preceding 18 months because of weak passwords.

Strong passwords which are long and hard to guess can protect your network and data from unauthorized access. Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. Otherwise, if one of your passwords is compromised, an attacker now has access to several of your resources. Also, avoid sharing accounts among multiple users. If passwords are hard to keep track of, consider using a reputable password manager.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication reduces the risk associated with weak passwords: if a password is guessed or compromised, the attacker still cannot access the resource. Compared to other authentication measures like biometric identification, two-factor authentication is low-cost and easy to install.

Be Cautious of Phishing

Technical security measures are effective and useful, but human users can still be the weakest link. Social engineering attacks like phishing can lead to security compromises. According to a study, 79% of account takeovers in 2023 originated from phishing attacks, and 96% of organizations targeted by phishing attacks were negatively impacted. Proper user education can help reduce the effectiveness of phishing attacks.

Secure Your Wi-Fi Network

Wi-Fi access points are becoming the most common entry points for network attacks. The same security measures applied to secure wired networks must also be used for Wi-Fi networks. These include using strong passwords, keeping software and firmware up to date, and implementing standard encryption protocols. A separate network for visitors can be set up that has limited access to crucial resources.

Consider Network Monitoring Tools

Modern network monitoring tools can continually scan network traffic and logs to identify suspicious activity. Conventional anti-malware software reacts when an attack is underway. Network monitoring tools can detect when a network breach occurs, even before any damage is done. If part of the network becomes compromised, the tools can isolate the compromised systems and remediate the threat.

While the threat of cyberattacks is real and increasing, some simple steps like these can significantly increase your digital security and help keep your resources safe from cyberattacks.