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Good cyber hygiene

Have you heard of something called cyber hygiene? Surely brushing teeth and taking showers isn’t something we traditionally associate with technology—yet the term is a useful metaphor for those of us who need to make smart decisions about our smart devices.

Good hygiene is something we’re taught as children and something that generally sticks with us for the rest of our lives. It involves three basic principles: using products/tools that fit our hygiene needs, performing these hygienic tasks correctly, and establishing a routine.

But what does that have to do with your computer?

Cyber hygiene is about training ourselves to think proactivity about our cyber security—like we do with our daily personal hygiene—to resist cyber threats and online security issues. We don’t yet live in an age where cyber security is taken as seriously as cavities and root canals—we take cyber security for granted—but that’s something that will inevitably change. Whether we like it or not, leaning to practice good cyber hygiene is here to stay. Here are a few tips to get you and your family thinking about good cyber hygiene:

Use the Right Products and Tools

Ever try brushing your teeth without a toothbrush? Without the right tools for the job, maintaining personal hygiene would be a bit more difficult. The same is true for managing good cyber hygiene. Without the right products and tools, personal information you think is secure could in fact be at risk.

Reputable anti-virus/malware software, a network firewall, and password protection all help to protect personal data stored on your home computer. Taken together, these tools help you feel confident about the security on your home computer or laptop.

Additionally, you should always make sure the security brand is a reputable source before installing anything on your computer.

Be Thorough, Be Accurate

Everyone is supposed to floss, right? But does everyone do it as much as the dentist recommends? Deleted or presumably irretrievable files on your computer require a kind of flossing—if you will—and demand special attention from time to time.

Most people think that regularly emptying the trash can or recycle bin removes personal or sensitive data from the hard drive. This is unfortunately not the case.

To permanently delete files from your computer, you must use data wiping software. Whenever you introduce new software, add on hardware, or modify system files, you’re at risk of losing personal data. Get in the habit of regularly clearing out data you don’t need and make sure to wipe it clean from the hard drive.

Another area of security that requires attention is password protection. Don’t get lazy and skimp on creating a complex, unique password. Change your account passwords fairly frequently, and you’ll be on your way to better cyber hygiene in no time.

Make Cyber Hygiene a Routine

Learning to monitor your cyber security regularly will greatly increase your chances of avoiding an online threat. And just like any habit you wish to make stick, it requires routine and repetition.

Get started by setting an alarm or marking a calendar with dates to address a series of tasks—things like scanning for viruses with anti-virus software, updating the operating system, checking for security patches, wiping the hard drive, and changing your passwords.

Once you start to get the hang of cyber hygiene, it will become second nature to you.

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