Kunal Kislay is a B.Tech IIT Bombay alumnus with 10-plus years of experience in enterprise mobility, Internet of Things, AI, Neural networks and Machine learning. Creating solutions for a vast array of verticals made him understand the pulse of technology and its changing paradigms. He used to work at Antenna Software as lead architect where he developed enterprise mobility platforms and solutions for some of the largest organizations in the world. After Pegasystems took over Antenna Software, Kunal, alongside his two Colleagues, Saquib Khan and Kumar Raman, bootstrapped Integration Wizards in 2014.
Cyber data hygiene is a mechanism to maintain the health and security of our systems to avoid any digital mishap. Threats like malware, phishing attacks, password theft, frauds, and cloud security breaches are on an all-time high.
Our lives have shifted to virtual spaces across devices. Passwords help us enter the world of entertainment, online shopping, social media, and banking, to name a few. A unique digital identity is constantly being created, ever-enriched with various personal credentials. An active digital footprint is generated by logging into multiple channels, posting on social media, and sharing data access with third parties. A passive digital footprint is unintentionally generated when the touchpoint utilizes device location and other information sans access permit. The digital trail built is shaping our lives in numerous ways. Companies often seek social activities for character analysis of prospective employees. It even acts as evidence for relevant authorities in some instances. On the other hand, it also attracts hackers, who seek data for nefarious purposes. Once the data is leaked, it is not easy to protect one’s personal information from going public.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime losses are expected to exceed $6 trillion in 2021. A moment of weakness can threaten and compromise sensitive data. However, certain practices may reduce, if not remove, the chances of such threats entering our devices. A sustainable, easy-to-follow cyber hygiene ritual done at regular intervals, coupled with the following, can be helpful.
Check your Digital Footprint: Some websites inform whether one’s data may have been exposed to unknown parties. The compromised data is not retrievable, but one will remain cautious in the future.
Document your Equipment: Know both the hardware and software of your devices. Reset the old ones that are no longer in use. Update the software on active devices. Track the recent update when provided by the authentic developer.
Run software updates timely: Out-of-date software contains a plethora of digital activity. Cybercriminals can easily mine this information if the software is not up-to-date. The updates shared by software providers close these vulnerabilities reported or identified in regular check-ups.
Device Protection: A password or a lock pattern is a must on all devices. If accidentally misplaced, this secures unwarranted access. Avoid opening suspicious emails. Keep track of applications downloaded. Remove the ones not in use anymore. While choosing to download an app, the developers disclose what kind of information will be collected. Make conscious choices when it comes to sharing the access.
Choose Passwords wisely: A general rule of thumb is to create strong and memorable passwords. Upper/lower case letters, symbols, and numerals, uniquely mixed, can be decoded only by the maker. Passwords like birthdates, anniversaries, and the names of close ones should be avoided as they might be easily detectable.
Remembering unique passwords for multiple channels can be difficult. A password manager is an excellent tool to be deployed.
Use Password Managers: These are automatic management tools that prioritize security and time. The password managers, in-built within web browsers, do not guarantee comprehensive security. Password managers help store, manage and protect all passwords in one place. It can generate unique and complicated passwords that shall be only accessible to its rightful owner.
It can also suggest a time to create a new one and comply with crucial cybersecurity practices.
Multi-Factor Authentications: The most commonly known is two-factor authentication. Another method of login is generating a One-Time-Password. It creates additional steps to get access to a particular channel. This may be a question that only one person may know an answer to. In some cases, one may be able to set the question as well as the answer.
Virtual Private Network (VPN): VPN protects our data by creating a private network, providing anonymity to the home/public network. The digital footprint is protected as the external website cookies installed are unable to decipher the original address of the user. Internet browsing and activity are, hence, harbored with a strong barrier.
Back-Up Data: All data should be backed up regularly to a secondary source. Hard Drives for offline backup or cloud storage for online backup should be used as dependable storage units. This also assures fewer chances of personal/business data tampering if an offline backup version exists elsewhere.
Don’t Accept All Cookies: We have come across a notification box asking us to accept website cookies. Various misleading consent notices are put with such notifications. The option to decline access is usually not given directly. Otherwise, selective freedom is given to people when choosing what the channel can access. By deploying such ‘dark patterns,’ websites mislead visitors to create a pool of information to run their business decisions.
Select the options opposite to ‘accept all.’ Mostly, nothing has to be changed; only the ‘save as preference’ option has to be clicked. The user usually procrastinates this extra step.
The Future Virtual Disposable Machines: If your laptop/ computer is affected by malware, it is difficult to remove the same from the device. VDMs act like mini PCs in the original PC. If malware affects the VDM, it can be reset and ready to use again. No other data outside the VDM is lost. These systems might be revolutionary for sectors like e-commerce and banking, which generate and maintain large amounts of sensitive data.
Cyber data hygiene is nothing less than an exercise that provides immunity to battle threats. The fragility of all systems is such that if any barrier is broken, there is no way back to security. The more obstacles we create, the better. Moreover, prevention is in our hands, and the consequences might be nearly unbearable if one loses control of their data. It is, hence, imperative to mindfully build our online practices, monitor and protects the same.