We’ve been getting lots of instruction lately – from the media, from businesses, from our mothers – about hygiene. With the corona virus pandemic in full swing, hand washing and sanitizing is definitely happening more often than usual. We’re being careful whose air we’re breathing. We’re wearing masks and becoming experts in the life-expectancy of viruses on all sorts of surfaces. Our standards of personal hygiene have risen to the max and cleanliness is on everyone’s mind.
How, you may ask, does this relate to cyber security? Well, for one, you probably shouldn’t use the same computer as someone else unless you’ve thoroughly Cloroxed the keys. In a broader sense, though, Covid-19 can remind us of the importance of cyber hygiene.
That’s right. No, we’re not talking about flossing your hard drive or wearing gloves for your touch screen. We’re talking about protecting your computer from the sorts of viruses and malware that lurk at all times of the year, even when we’re not all quarantined. And like the best personal hygiene, cyber hygiene is not a one-and-done task to be completed. It takes a certain amount of routine in order to keep up your device’s “immunities” and to prevent the various disasters that these computer bugs want to cause.
You don’t have to be a computer geek to defend yourself, though. Here are some basic, first priority hygiene tips that we can all apply.
Update Everything Regularly: From apps to operating systems to software to browsers, updates are often made available to patch security holes. Some organizations, like those operating browsers, sometimes do so on a regular basis and the updates can be scheduled to happen automatically on your end. These updates are vital for a few reasons. For one thing, they may patch a weakness in a product that is already being abused by the bad guys. It already has been known to let malware in. Using unpatched software or applications with known and active vulnerabilities is like wearing gloves with a rip in the palm or touching the handle in a public restroom. Bad! Secondly, once a patch has been released, all the bad guys now know about the security weakness, even if they didn’t before. And they know that lots of people won’t be updating their systems and are thus open to the attack.
Don’t be that guy.
Don’t Click that Link: Ok, you’ve heard this before. Unfortunately, phishing scams are still one of the most popular ways that the bad guys try to infect your computer. Once you’ve clicked on that link – you know, the one promising lottery winnings or a lawsuit or to be your grandmother – you unleash whatever cyber “germs” the bad guys have sent you. It might be ransomware (locking you out of all your files until you pay the ransom) or something more devious that spies on you without your knowledge. Some malware are even designed to spread themselves, highjacking your email in order to send out another round of spam messages and using you as a carrier.
Don’t click on a link unless you’re sure it’s safe.
Install Anti-virus/Anti-malware Software: That way, if something sneaks through despite your precautions (see #1 and 2 above), you have one more layer of defense. Anti-virus and anti-malware software isn’t perfect and, as new attacks are constantly being created, they won’t catch everything. Many attacks, however, are reused over and over – targeting, ahem, people who don’t follow #1 and 2 above – and these viruses/malware are much more likely to be stopped.
Get it now.
Be quick to recover: Sometimes, despite your best efforts at personal hygiene, you get sick. The same goes with your digital devices, so it’s a good idea to back up your important files so that if the worst happens, that data isn’t lost for good. You can read more about backing up your data in another of our articles here.
Do those four things and, like washing your hands, wearing a mask, and standing 6 feet away from everyone, you’ll go a long way towards protecting yourself. So stay healthy! And keep your devices healthy too.