Improve Your Cyber Hygiene in 5 Easy Steps

James Frew 03-08-2017

We all know that looking after our own personal hygiene is important for our health and well-being. In the digital world, we need to be aware of and look after our cyber hygiene. While the term is unusual, it means performing regular checks and modifying a few behaviors to secure ourselves online. It’s the kind of advice that we here at MakeUseOf offer regularly in the face of a new leak or attack.


Let us guide you through five easy steps to improve your cyber hygiene.

1. Keep Software Up to Date

The software that we all rely on every day isn’t perfect. Nearly every operating system and app has flaws hidden somewhere in their code. As the flaw becomes known, developers quickly patch it and push out software updates. As users, these constant updates can get frustrating, but without them known flaws can be exploited and used to attack you.

Global ransomware attacks like WannaCry and NotPetya both exploited known flaws in order to spread their malware. In the case of WannaCry, Microsoft had actually published a fix for that exploit months earlier, but many computers hadn’t been updated leading to mass infections.

windows update screenshot

Fortunately the process of keeping your software up to date has never been easier. Windows Update had an upgrade itself in the move to Windows 10 to become less invasive How to Manage Windows Update in Windows 10 For control freaks, Windows Update is a nightmare. It works in the background, and keeps your system safe and running smoothly. We show you how it works and what you can customize. Read More . Apple’s macOS can be updated directly from the Mac App Store A Complete Guide to Updating Your Mac's Software There's no one-size fits all maintenance solution, so it pays to understand how updates for your Mac and its software work. Read More  alongside your other apps. With many of us now using our smartphones as our main device, it’s important to make sure iOS and Android are fully up to date. Make sure you install app updates as often as possible, especially for sensitive apps like online banking.


2. Perform Regular Backups

Just a few short years ago, there was little choice in easy-to-use, set-and-forget backup options. Now there are user-friendly, convenient options for almost every device and OS.

Windows 10 has a range of backup options baked directly into the operating system The Ultimate Windows 10 Data Backup Guide We've summarized every backup, restore, recovery, and repair option we could find on Windows 10. Use our simple tips and never despair over lost data again! Read More , and that’s without all the great 3rd party software The Best Backup Software for Windows Your data is fragile – it only takes one small accident to lose everything. The more backups you make, the better. Here we present the best free backup software for Windows. Read More available. Of course, Apple beat Microsoft to the punch by embedding Time Machine 3 Ways to Restore Data From Time Machine Backups Here are several methods for how to restore your Mac using Time Machine, including what to do about "searching for time machine backups." Read More back in 2007. Even our smartphones are now backed up automatically to iCloud How to Back Up Your iPhone and iPad Wondering how to back up your iPhone? Here's our simple guide to backing up your iPhone using either iCloud or iTunes. Read More or Google Drive How to Easily Transfer All Your Data to a New Android Device When the time comes to move to a new phone, how on earth will you move all your data over? These tips will ease the process and make sure you don't miss a single thing. Read More .

data backups on the cloud

Cloud storage What Is The Cloud? The Cloud. It's a term that gets thrown around a lot these days. What is the cloud, exactly? Read More has proliferated recently with offerings available from nearly all the large tech companies Dropbox vs. Google Drive vs. OneDrive: Which Cloud Storage Is Best for You? Have you changed the way you think about cloud storage? The popular options of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive have been joined by others. We help you answer which cloud storage service should you use. Read More . In an effort to compete with each other, the services range between free to $10/mo. You can use their generously spaced offerings to backup your files — and have them within easy reach no matter where you are.


Services like Amazon Cloud Drive How to Share Unlimited Photos With Your Family on Amazon Prime Amazon Prime has a new feature called the Family Vault that lets you share unlimited photos with your family! Here's how to take advantage of it now. Read More and Google Photos Get Free Unlimited Photo Storage & More with Google Photos If you aren't using these hidden Google Photos features, you're really missing out. (Hint: There's free and unlimited photo storage!) Read More will even allow you to store unlimited photos for no additional cost. Of course, if you’d prefer a local backup you could always use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device to deposit all of your files. NAS devices will even allow you to use multiple drives for improved redundancy Things You Should Know About Redundancy and Backups Redundancy is frequently confused with backups. Indeed, the concepts are relatively similar, albeit with some important differences. Read More .

3. Use an Antivirus

For Windows users, it’s almost certain that you have had a virus, malware, or some other rogue software appear on your computer without your consent. During the days of Internet Explorer 6 and Windows XP, the operating system’s susceptibility to infection was something of a running joke 3+ Myths Told about Windows that Aren't True (Anymore) Windows haters like to tell myths about Microsoft's operating system giant. Let's see if there's any truth to these stereotypes. Read More . Three iterations later and Windows 10 finally has a robust, built-in antivirus in Windows Defender 4 Reasons to Use Windows Defender in Windows 10 In the past, Windows Defender was overshadowed by other options, but now it's quite a contender. Here are a few reasons why you should consider dropping your security suite in favor of Windows Defender. Read More . You could stick with the default, but there are better options out there The Best Antivirus Software for Windows 10 Want to tighten security on your PC? Here are the best antivirus software options for Windows 10. Read More if you want to be fully protected.

antivirus scan on laptop

The misconception that Macs are immune to viruses and malware has been proven wrong many times. That’s why running antivirus software on your Mac 9 Apple Mac Antivirus Options You Should Consider Today By now, you should know that Macs need antivirus software, but which one should you choose? These nine security suites will help you stay free of viruses, trojans, and all other sorts of malware. Read More isn’t such a bad idea. As smartphones have continued to proliferate, malicious attackers have moved some of their resources towards your mobile devices. Your smartphone holds some of your most sensitive information, so you should be taking precautions Do You Need Antivirus Apps on Android? What About iPhone? Does Android need antivirus apps? What about your iPhone? Here's why smartphone security apps are important. Read More there too.


4. Use a Better Password

Given how many accounts we all use every day, it’s little wonder so many of us rely on simple, easy to remember passwords like “123456” Keeper Reveals the 25 Worst Passwords of 2016 2016 was notable for the amount of data breaches made public. Which gives us an insight into the worst passwords you can use right now. Read More . These passwords — which often follow the patterns of our keyboards — are easily cracked in the event of a data leak.

Using a stronger, more complex password can help, but the problem of easily remembering it remains. Complex passwords that are easily forgotten often end up written down, which undermines the safety of using the better password. While coming up with a pattern to your passwords 6 Tips For Creating An Unbreakable Password That You Can Remember If your passwords are not unique and unbreakable, you might as well open the front door and invite the robbers in for lunch. Read More can help, it isn’t a bulletproof solution.

typing password on laptop

Instead, you should turn to a password manager. These useful pieces of software function like a secure digital vault for all of your passwords How Password Managers Keep Your Passwords Safe Passwords that are hard to crack are also hard to remember. Want to be safe? You need a password manager. Here's how they work and how they keep you safe. Read More , often locked with a Master Password. This means that you only have one password to remember before your password manager unlocks your secure store.


Many password managers even have a feature to automatically generate and store secure passwords 7 Clever Password Manager Superpowers You Have to Start Using Password managers carry a lot of great features, but did you know about these? Here are seven aspects of a password manager you should take advantage of. Read More for you, removing the need to create one in the first place. While there are many benefits to password managers, keep in mind that they aren’t perfect 4 Reasons Password Managers Aren’t Enough to Keep Your Passwords Safe Password managers are valuable in the ongoing battle against hackers, but they don't offer sufficient protection on their own. These four reasons show why password managers aren't enough to keep your passwords safe. Read More .

5. Beware of Online Threats

We have become accustomed to the ever-present threat of people trying to manipulate, deceive, or otherwise con us in our lives. Despite the early Utopian ideals of the internet, this trend spread online. Most of us have probably come across a variation of the Nigerian email scam Do Nigerian Scam Emails Hide A Terrible Secret? [Opinion] Another day, another spam email drops into my inbox, somehow working its way around the Windows Live spam filter that does such a good job of protecting my eyes from all of the other unsolicited... Read More , but there are many other more insidious threats out there too.

Scammers are always looking for new ways to take advantage of our habits and routines. This has led to the popularization of techniques like phishing How to Spot a Phishing Email Catching a phishing email is tough! Scammers pose as PayPal or Amazon, trying to steal your password and credit card information, are their deception is almost perfect. We show you how to spot the fraud. Read More , vishing, and smishing New Phishing Techniques To Be Aware of: Vishing and Smishing Vishing and smishing are dangerous new phishing variants. What should you be looking out for? How will you know a vishing or smishing attempt when it arrives? And are you likely to be a target? Read More . All three attacks attempt to trick you into clicking fraudulent links or divulging personal information using either email, voice, or SMS. Being able to spot a phishing email How to Spot a Phishing Email Catching a phishing email is tough! Scammers pose as PayPal or Amazon, trying to steal your password and credit card information, are their deception is almost perfect. We show you how to spot the fraud. Read More or SMS scam How to Spot an SMS Scam and What to Do Next SMS phishing (or SMiShing) is the act of phishing using SMS messages. They're common, so must be a successful line of attack for online scammers. But how can you spot an SMS scam? Read More can be invaluable in the effort to protect your data.

Cyber Cleanliness

It can sometimes feel like not a day goes by without yet another leak, hack, or global malware attack. It’s no wonder we end up with security fatigue 3 Ways to Beat Security Fatigue and Stay Safe Online Security fatigue -- a weariness to deal with online security -- is real, and it's making many people less secure. Here are three things you can do to beat security fatigue and keep yourself safe. Read More . Fortunately, by managing your cyber hygiene you have created an additional roadblock to any exploitative attacker.

If you want to take your security protections further, you could add Two Factor Authentication What Is Two-Factor Authentication, And Why You Should Use It Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security method that requires two different ways of proving your identity. It is commonly used in everyday life. For example paying with a credit card not only requires the card,... Read More (2FA) to your online accounts. Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the best things you can do to improve your online security 11 Reasons Why You Need a VPN and What It Is Virtual private networks can protect your privacy. We explain what exactly they do and why you should use a VPN. Read More and keep away eavesdroppers. We all post a lot of information online, but if you want to stay protected there are things you should never share 5 Types of Information You Should Never Post Online What do you post online? Ever share your location, home address, bank details? There's a lot you should never share. Read More .

How do you manage your Cyber Hygiene? Do you regularly perform all these tasks? Are there some you think we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!

Related topics: Antivirus, Data Backup, Online Security, Password Manager.

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  1. Zhong
    August 4, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Don't subscribe to too many websites as there will be an infestation in your inbox; deleting unused account and reading the EULA will need to be an habit.

    • James Frew
      August 4, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      Wholeheartedly agree. I spend quite a lot of time emailing companies about accounts I want deleted and request that they confirm the deletion.

      • Zhong
        August 4, 2017 at 10:43 pm

        Certain companies might trick you since they are looking to see if you actually respond to the spam, so you either need to block the address or unsubscribe manually.

        • James Frew
          August 5, 2017 at 2:32 pm

          Ah yes - I mean about accounts that I created that I no longer require. You are correct to say that you should just mark spam messages as spam and ignore them.

    • Winstin
      August 8, 2017 at 7:09 am

      I I find root for android so you can remove the rapeware and windows registry for the same. I'm learning the registry but until then I find I just have to pull the adapter from the pc and use a dongle. It's like being able to put a condom on. The blue tooth is a suck unless you are a spy. In murica or government sets is up to fail so we can't defend ourselves. I used to wonder if the Russians were so freaking smart at binary because of their language. Trying to catchup i can see that it is the freedom. America boombed when it was free and now it is repressed. It's crazy how much things can shift in a lifetime. I was only able to figure out what snowden was trying to tell us based on I can't find it on the interweb.