The fact that our world is increasingly digitized and cybercriminals are becoming more agile and intelligent with time, deploying security software is a great strategy to do; however, cybersecurity does not just stop there…

In our previous newsletter issue, we listed down the possible gateways that the cybercriminals might use in attacking your network and the tools to combat them.

However, achieving full cybersecurity across your organization isn’t just a piece of cake. With the increasing complexity of cybercriminals and technologies, no matter how advanced your security technologies are, you could still get breached in any way, especially if your employees still practice bad security habits.

With today’s security landscape, it is critical to be proactive and vigilant to protect against cyber threats in order to be as secure as possible. And the cornerstone to achieving this is practicing good cyber hygiene, but it also begs the question, what does good cyber hygiene look like and how do you implement it?

What is Cyber Hygiene?

Cyber hygiene is the term used for a protective routine to keep your personal and financial information secure when using your computer or mobile device. Just as good dental hygiene refers to flossing and brushing regularly for oral health, good cyber hygiene means following sound daily practices for the health and security of your organization

Good cyber hygiene is ensuring that individual data points, devices, and your networks are protected against vulnerabilities while also ensuring that all systems are maintained, if not future-proofed, by using cybersecurity best practices – and the latest technologies.

Good cyber hygiene also means that security and monitoring are exclusively controlled from a centrally managed point and not reliant upon individual employees to update their systems.

Cyber Hygiene Is Everyone’s Job

Like personal hygiene, cyber hygiene should start with the basic actions that are most likely to promote good health. As much as people would like to lay cyber hygiene at the feet of the IT department, cyber hygiene is an organizational challenge. For example, IT might set password policies, but users have to set strong passwords and keep them secret.

To further complicate matters, an organization’s threat landscape changes daily, and new variants of attacks on computer systems appear by the hour. The sheer number of security vulnerabilities in hardware, software, and underlying protocols–and the dynamic threat environment–make it nearly impossible for most organizations to keep pace.

How can we do this?

So how do you go about implementing good cyber hygiene? Each organization will probably have its own unique structure aligned to their needs, but here are some basic things that everyone should be doing.

Know What’s In Your Network

The first step to good cyber hygiene is being able to identify every inch of your network – you can’t protect what you can’t see. You have to know what type of equipment is on your network and where it is – internal networks, hosted on the Internet or part of a cloud platform. 

This includes maintaining a continuously updated inventory of the hardware and software that’s authorized to be in your network.


Remove What Shouldn’t Be In Your Network

This Once you know what’s authorized to be on your network, it is equally important to identify and remove those things that don’t belong. This is typically accomplished by running continuous scans and then comparing the results against the list of authorized hardware

and software. Once unauthorized hardware and software are identified, develop automated procedures to remove them.


Scan And Patch

Once you are able to see all the devices and applications on your network, you should scan them from a central point on a regular basis and have the ability to patch and deactivate as necessary remotely. For larger organizations, the scale of this operation is the challenge, especially with limited maintenance

windows and architectural complexities. Flexible and scalable security scanning services are therefore becoming increasingly necessary as web apps and devices proliferate.


Continuously Look for Vulnerabilities

With the increased frequency and complexity of attacks, it is no longer an option to scan your network on a semi-regular basis. You should try to constantly monitor for threats, and quickly address them within your network.

This is likely to be the biggest challenge for security professionals within the next decade – finding the time within the business to scan for threats and adjust on a continuous basis.


Continuously Look for Control Change

In operations, when something breaks, the first question asked is, “What changed?” This question is equally important from a security perspective. Change is necessary but oftentimes introduces new risks and vulnerabilities into a system. Organizations should develop a system in which systems and applications are continuously monitored for changes. As changes are identified, security needs to ask a series of “what-if” questions to identify and respond quickly to risk. For example, if a host firewall is disabled and there is no supporting change ticket, automatically generate a ticket notifying the incident response team.


Equip Your Employees and IT Team with the Right Tools

Security professionals can’t be at every meeting or necessarily be involved in
every IT project. Nor can security staff sit with every employee as they make hundreds of security-related decisions every working hour – e.g., should I click on this link? Instead, security must equip the organization with the right tools, typically starting with easy to understand policies and procedures. It is also important to train staff on these policies and procedures. Where possible, you should also provide your IT staff with security tools and make them an extension of your team. For example, provide your C developers with a static code analyzer so that they can quickly catch and fix security vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows before they get introduced into production.

Developing comprehensive cyber hygiene procedures is a must for today’s enterprises to keep up with the evolving threat landscape. Practicing good cyber hygiene will enable organizations to be able to respond to threats in an agile manner and minimize the impact on your overall security posture.

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