Staying Safe Online: The Everyday Person’s Guide to Good Cyber Hygiene in 2023
With cyber threats constantly evolving, having good cyber hygiene is essential for securing your online accounts, devices, and digital presence in 2023.
Practicing proper cyber hygiene minimizes vulnerabilities that attackers look to exploit.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll outline important cyber hygiene habits individuals and families should adopt to stay safe online at home, work, and on mobile devices.
Follow these proactive tips to protect against malware, phishing, identity theft, and other common attack vectors targeting internet users.
Secure Your Network
Your home and office network provides the gateway to the internet, so properly securing it is a key priority:
- Use a modern router with built-in firewall protections like WPA3 wireless encryption, port forwarding controls, VPN support, anomaly detection, and automatic security updates.
- Change the default admin credentials on network devices to prevent unauthorized access. Disable remote admin if not needed.
- Use private VPN connections when accessing your home network from public Wi-Fi hotspots to prevent snooping.
- Enable your router’s firewall to only allow known trusted connections and block suspicious traffic.
- Create a separate guest network with limited access for visitors and smart home devices. Avoid connecting them to your primary network.
- Consider adding network monitoring to track all traffic and receive alerts about suspicious activities.
Practice Safe Browsing Habits
Your day-to-day browsing habits significantly impact your exposure to cyber threats:
- Use a modern, secure browser like Chrome or Firefox as your default. Keep the browser and all extensions/plugins updated automatically.
- Avoid browsing to HTTP sites. Stick to encrypted HTTPS sites whenever possible to prevent snooping.
- Don’t click on promotional links, pop-ups, or ads without verifying the source first. This is a common way to spread malware.
- Be very cautious about downloading free software, media files, ebooks, etc. from unknown sites as these frequently contain trojans or viruses.
- Use an ad blocker extension like uBlock Origin to prevent malicious ads from loading without your knowledge on sites you visit.
- Clear browsing history, cookies, caches periodically or use private browsing modes to limit tracking.
Protect Your Accounts and Passwords
Compromised user accounts are at the root of many cyber attacks:
- Use a unique complex password for every account. Leverage a password manager app to store them securely.
- Turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever possible for an added account protection layer.
- Be vigilant against phishing emails, texts, calls pretending to be from trusted sources attempting to steal your login credentials.
- Monitor financial and email accounts frequently for any suspicious activity like unauthorized logins or payments.
- Avoid accessing sensitive accounts from public networks or devices. Use your personal laptop and home internet if possible.
- Check online accounts for any unknown linked profiles or apps that may have access. Remove any unfamiliar connections.
Secure Mobile Devices
Smartphones and tablets need protection too:
- Keep your mobile operating system and all apps updated to the latest versions to receive security patches. Turn on automatic updates.
- Only install mobile apps from trusted sources like official app stores. Avoid sideloading from unknown sites.
- Review app permissions carefully and only allow those strictly necessary for the app’s role. Deny excessive or unnecessary access requests.
- Use screen locks with strong passcodes, face ID, or fingerprints to prevent unauthorized physical access to your device.
- Avoid connecting to public USB charging stations as these can potentially compromise your phone. Use AC outlets instead.
- Enable remote wipe capabilities in case your device is lost or stolen so you can erase all personal data if needed.
Protect Your Kids Online
Children’s online safety requires added vigilance:
- Talk with kids about cybersecurity risks and proper internet use. Set clear ground rules around appropriate sites.
- Enable parental controls on all child devices and oversee their app/site access. Filter inappropriate content.
- Restrict usage of devices in private spaces rather than public areas of the home. Monitor their online activities.
- Ensure kids don’t share personal information in online profiles, chat rooms, comments, etc.
- Set all their accounts to maximum privacy settings; disable geolocation tagging whenever possible.
- Explain risks around posting photos, birthdays, locations, school names publicly.
- Have ongoing age-appropriate cybersecurity discussions. Establish an open dialogue.
Protect Your Business Data
For professional online protection:
- Follow all best practices for securing company-issued computers, mobile devices, networks, cloud accounts, etc.
- Provide cybersecurity training to educate employees on cyber hygiene policies and leading threats like phishing.
- Classify data by sensitivity; restrict unauthorized access and implement data protections like encryption.
- Develop incident response plans for dealing with potential data breaches or cyber attacks.
- Control access carefully with role-based permissions. Limit wider exposure of confidential business data.
- Require strong passwords and 2FA for all employee accounts accessing company resources.
- Back up critical systems both on-premise and in the cloud for resiliency. Test restoration regularly.
Adopting positive cyber hygiene habits reduces your attack surface drastically. Following industry best practices for online safety provides a robust defense to help secure yourself and your family from constantly evolving cyber threats in 2023.