Did you know that there were 11,58,208 cybersecurity incidents occuring in India between the years of 2020 and 2021?

Since then, according to India’s MSME, ransomware attacks increased to over 30 million in the 3rd quarter of 2022 alone.

With so many hacking attempts, how do you stay safe online? 

The short answer is practicing cyber hygiene. But what is it and how do you do it? Let’s find out.

What is cyber hygiene?

Cyber hygiene is a set of good practices and tools that keep your tech safe and healthy. It protects your data from theft and fraud and enables you to react quickly if an attack does take place.

On a broader scale and as stated by India’s National Cyber Security Coordinator Rajesh Pant, building a culture of strong cyber hygiene is crucial to protect national security.

Ways to improve your cyber hygiene

Here are 7 main ways to improve your cyber hygiene and reduce the risk of threat.

#1. Use strong passwords

It can be tempting to use passwords that are easy to remember and/or even the same password for different accounts. This makes life easier for you and cyber criminals. To avoid having yor pasword hacked:

  • Use a strong and unique password for each account and change it regularly.
  • Use passwords that are long and contain a combination of numbers, letters (upper and lower case), and characters.
  • Don’t share them or write them down.

If remembering them is challenging, use a password manager that will safely generate and store passwords, so you only need to recall one.

#2. Only use secure Wi-Fi connections

Public Wi-Fi networks are dangerous as they may be unsecured. They could offer hackers access points to your device or the ability to set up rogue or look-alike websites.

If you have no choice but to use public Wi-Fi, be extremely cautious. Follow these simple steps:

  • Check the details of a website as your search may have taken you to an imposter site.
  • Never conduct sensitive activities such as financial transactions on a public network.
  • Never use the “Automatic connect” feature when you don’t know what network you are connecting to. Ensure this feature is disconnected on your device.

If you have a VPN, it will greatly decrease the risk.

#3. Use a VPN

Even if you are not using public Wi-Fi, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is invaluable. It creates a secure connection and keeps your IP address secret, ‘hides’ you, and encrypts all your data.

Not all VPNs are created equal. Part of your cyber hygiene practice should be subscribing to a reputable service that offers thorough, reliable protection rather than a free service. 

Doing a VPN download is not a complex matter and will make a vast difference to the level of cyberprotection you have.

#4. Beware of phishing

There’s a golden rule when it comes to unsolicited electronic communications from an unfamiliar source: don’t open it or respond. All too often an innocuous-looking email, link, or attachment is far more sinister.

You need to carefully examine correspondence before opening it. If you are using a work device, check with your company’s IT department if you are unsure or concerned.

#5. Perform regular updates & backups

Regardless of the type of device you use, one of the most important cyber hygiene habits is to keep all your software up to date. This includes your operating system, browser, and apps. These updates keep inbuilt security features current.

It’s also important to only download updates from official sources and to delete apps you don’t use. Ideally, activate the automatic updates feature on your devices.

In addition to updates, you should backup your data. This should preferably be done to an external hard drive (that’s not connected to your device/network) or the cloud. This has a twofold value.

Firstly, if you lose your device or it’s stolen, you retain access to your documents and files. Secondly, if you fall victim to a cyberattack you can retrieve documents and files and mitigate the damage.   

#6. Avoid social engineering attacks

This is something that many fall prey to as it seems innocent, even fun. These attacks often take the form of social media posts or giveaways.

If you see something that asks what your favourite pet is, to tag a person or place, or name your ideal holiday location, don’t respond. This is probably an attempt to gain personal information.

If you spot an offer or link promising a prize or a discount, don’t click on it. The rule of thumb is that if it looks too good to be true it probably is and may well be dangerous too.

#7. Install antivirus & firewall protection

Investing in a reputable antivirus is worth it as it scans the websites you visit, the emails you receive, and the hard drives you connect to. This software no longer only looks for viruses and other malware. It’s evolved to look for activity on your device that looks suspicious. Once identified, malware can be isolated and dealt with.

Good antivirus software usually incorporates firewalls. These are designed to specifically look at incoming and outgoing connections. If a fraudulent connection is detected the flow of information is immediately blocked.

In closing

Basic cyber hygiene rules are simple. Use strong passwords, invest in a robust VPN and antivirus software, avoid unsecured connections, perform regular updates and backups, and be aware when opening emails, links, and attachments.

Once you adopt these regular habits and routines you will enjoy greatly boosted levels of security!

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