In this current world of technology slowly revolving around our everyday lives, it has not been overstated just how important it is for someone to protect their data and digital assets. Cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world and it continues to impact businesses in every industry. Cybercriminals are always finding ways to exploit systems and networks so that they can steal valuable data which they can either ransom for or sell on the black market. Because of this, it is extremely important that individuals and organisations do whatever they can to protect their systems and data.
Cybersecurity best practices are simply guidelines and strategies that help individuals and organisations protect their networks, systems, and data from unauthorised access, breaches, and cyber attacks. There are a plethora of best practices recommended by professionals that when implemented proactively, can help ensure the integrity and authorisation of your data is not tampered with. Some of these include:
Use strong and unique passwords
This one is fairly straightforward. A strong password has been proven to be incredibly effective against unauthorised access. Through the use of automated tools and complex algorithms, hackers are now able to perform hundreds of thousands of password guesses on targeted users. The time taken to crack one’s password becomes complex the longer the user’s password becomes. And this is where the user holds all the power. The complexity of the user’s password can work greatly in their favour. Professionals recommend at least 12 characters for a password including a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Simply doing this can make a password uncrackable in any lifetime. For example, a password containing a mix of 18 characters would take 17 quadrillion years to crack. Hive Systems published an article with a graph detailing the efficiency of password character lengths and mixing on April 18th titled “Are Your Passwords in the Green?”. Another recommended password practice is to never use the same password for multiple accounts. Organisations tend to have password policies in their companies that ensure everyone follows a specific set of guidelines when creating passwords. This ensures data integrity is preserved.
Enabling Multi-Factor Authentication
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a multi-step account login process that requires users to enter more information than just their password. There are three main types of MFA methods which are knowledge, possession, and inherence. Ensuring a user provides any of these after entering their password creates an extra layer of data protection and prevention of unauthorised access. Knowledge specifies things such as a PIN or code word. Possession specifies badges, RFIDs, or smartphones. Inherence specifies fingerprints, iris, or voice recognition.
Inherence is the most effective of all these because it is specific to every individual. An iris is the most unique part of every human being and cannot be replicated so easily. When you enable MFA, you ensure that only what you know, have, or possess can let you log into a certain system.
With long and strong passwords come the need to use password management and storage tools
We all know how much of a hassle it is to have to memorise or write down passwords (which in itself is a security issue), which is why the existence of password management tools comes in handy. A password management tool is simply an application (mostly subscription-based) that lets a user store, create, and share passwords in a safe sandbox environment. The application is created with security in mind which means it contains the latest and greatest security features. Additional features such as VPNs, biometric sign-in, automated clipboard clearing, password generation, and even changing all your passwords automatically also exist. This all takes the onus off the user to have to remember their multiple passwords. One needs to only remember their master password to the password management application. A lot of these tools exist on the market and a lot have been praised for their security features and convenience. From Dashlane to 1Password to Bitwarden to Kaspersky Password Manager, there’s a lot to choose from. For an organisation or family, they can create a single account that isolates each user’s password credentials in a separate vault. Passwords that are needed by everyone can be shared.
Keep software and systems up to date
Software and systems updates are crucial because they bring with them critical security improvements and changes. An exploit that existed a few years ago can no longer work on a system that is up to date now because of patches and repairs that were created to handle said exploit. Also enabling automatic updates whenever possible ensures the system or device performs the update process on time. The addition of choosing idle hours of when to perform software updates ensures there is no clash between the user and the device or system.
Regularly back up your data
Back up your data and important files to an external storage device or secure cloud storage service. For systems, creating restore points regularly ensures the possibility of rolling back updates or features when they malfunction or simply not working at all.
Cybersecurity awareness training
For an organisation, regularly train your employees on the importance of performing safe cybersecurity practices. Staying informed about the latest security threats and educating fellow employees can help ensure the organisation stays on top of everything. Training can involve raising awareness on phishing, social engineering, and other common attack vectors. Social engineering alone accounts for the majority of breaches and data theft just because of the psychological nature that humans have. Acting out hypothetical situations can help employees understand what to do when they think it is happening to them.
Have a disaster recovery plan in place
A disaster recovery plan contains detailed instructions on how to respond to unplanned incidents which in this case are cyber attacks. It includes details like how an organisation can quickly resume work after a data breach. Each company’s disaster recovery plan is different, but they all focus on the key five phases which are Prevention, Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. Ensuring you have all these phases documented can be very beneficial when responding to cyber attacks.
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is
Phishing emails and ads and malicious websites are often used to trick users into giving up their personal information or downloading malware without them knowing. Promises of winning money or prizes can easily sway someone who is not knowledgeable, thus it is important to educate yourself or the organisation on these false winnings and how dangerous they are. It is advised to never click on any links or open documents that you would be unsure of. Using an adblocker and firewall goes an extra step in preventing most of these pop-ups from showing up in the first place.
There are even more security tips and best practices that ensure a user stays on top of breaches and attacks. Using a combination of two or more provides a layer of protection necessary for mitigating most threats that may come their way. It cannot be overstated just how important and far-reaching these practices are.