Technology is a ubiquitous part of our everyday lives, both at work and at home. However, many people don’t realize that it requires constant maintenance of privacy and security settings to keep your data protected from all types of threats.
Think of your attempts to keep your data safe as cyber hygiene – like physical hygiene habits, it involves forming effective hygienic habits that keep you protected against outside germs (or, in the case of technology, viruses, and malicious actors). Cyber hygiene must be practiced both in professional contexts, where you need to ensure the security of sensitive information regarding your business and on personal devices since they likely hold data such as credit card and banking details.
Although there is much more that goes into cyber hygiene and healthy digital habits than keeping your computer data safe, it is one of the first steps you should take. Here are some tips on how to do so.
Look at Emails Carefully
Before you click on external links or attachments in an email, make sure to take a look at the email carefully. Email is an easy way to spread viruses, and you should be careful of messages even if they seem like they are coming from a source that you are familiar with. Make sure you run attachments through a scanner before opening them and ensure you turn off the auto-download of attachments.
Additionally, try to visit the attached web pages by typing in the URL or through another legitimate path (like searching for it via a trusted search engine) wherever possible, instead of clicking on an email link. While it takes a few more seconds of your time, it reduces the digital risk you are taking.
Install Trustworthy Antivirus and Malware Protection
Installing antivirus software is a critical part of protecting your computer data, and it’s important that you choose the software that will best address your particular needs. If you’re wondering which to choose, the experienced team at softwarelab.org suggests narrowing down a list of preferences and then doing an in-depth comparative analysis. Additionally, you can look for detailed reviews that provide opinions on which software is best for your needs.
The antivirus software you choose should be able to:
- Perform automatic scans on a set schedule
- Scan individual files if necessary
- Delete malicious files, software, and codes from your device if needed
- Ensure that your computer is “healthy.”
- Alert you if there are specific files that need to be scanned in further detail
Additionally, make sure to update your software as required. If possible, automate updates or set a schedule to check for and manually install any new updates to your antivirus and malware protection software.
Keep Your Passwords Safe
Ensuring your passwords are strong and difficult to crack is an essential part of keeping the data on your computer safe. This doesn’t just mean keeping the passwords you use for websites such as your email and online banking secure. It also means ensuring your primary computer password is protected.
Make sure to avoid reusing passwords where possible. Remembering several different passwords can be challenging, so consider using a password manager to keep track of all your login information. These managers encrypt your information, and all you need to do is remember a single password, which you can use to decrypt the data stored on the password manager as required.
Additionally, make sure to use different passwords for your home and work computers, as well as for any other devices that you may have (such as your mobile, tablet, or laptop). Furthermore, some apps and websites will offer you the option of having them “remember” your password. Allowing them to do so is risky and makes it easier for your data to be hacked, so ensure you do not permit this.
Delete as Needed
If you no longer need to store sensitive information for any reason, make sure to delete it from your devices. Your workplace will likely have guidelines as to what and when information can and should be wiped from your computer.
When it comes to your home device, you should establish rules for when to delete information. For example, if you switch bank accounts and find you no longer need to hold on to old banking information, you may find it preferable to wipe all information pertaining to it from your computer rather than retain it.
The more sensitive the data, the more you should consider deleting it as soon as possible. Additionally, avoid storing sensitive information on your digital devices as much as you can.
If you do encounter any suspicious activity, make sure to report it, especially if it occurs on your work computer. Suspicious emails should be reported to your email provider as well. For any issues with your work device, make sure to contact your supervisor immediately and follow your workplace’s reporting procedures.