A Complete 9-Step Guide to Cyber Hygiene for Australian Business Owners

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February 9, 2023

Just as regular hand-washing can help you avoid viruses and harmful bacteria, so too can cyber hygiene protect you and your business from digital threats. Take a methodical approach to IT hygiene within your business, and you’ll prevent costly data breaches, avoid outages and disruptions, and maintain the level of business continuity you need to thrive in the digital era. Of course, like hand-washing, cyber hygiene won’t do you much good if you take a lackadaisical approach. 

There’s a step-by-step process to follow that starts with itemising assets, regularly assessing risks, and identifying vulnerabilities across your entire IT environment. From there, you must efficiently and methodically address all issues uncovered in preparation for cycling through the steps once more. 

A Managed Service Provider can handle much of the digital grunt work involved. However, there are some basic steps all business owners should take to ensure they and their staff are always working with IT hygiene in mind. Below, you will find a comprehensive overview of these essential cyber hygiene protocols.

The 9 Steps to Achieving Cyber Hygiene

1. Maintain an inventory of IT assets

From hardware and devices to software and apps, it’s crucial to have a comprehensive overview of all the IT assets your business uses. This inventory will form the basis of your cyber hygiene strategy, allowing you or your managed IT services provider to assess risks, plan updates, and take the appropriate protective actions. 

If you’re operating on a remote or hybrid working model, you should also maintain an inventory of all devices that have access to your network and systems. This is crucial for developing a clear understanding of all your vulnerabilities and risks. 

Remember to update your inventories whenever you upgrade your hardware, switch software providers, or add or remove devices from your network. 

2. Perfect your passwords

Any password that’s easy for you to remember will probably be easy for hackers to crack. So, as frustrating as it is, there’s no way around the fact that you and every team member need unique and complex passwords. Many businesses opt for password management systems like Bitwarden or KeyPass to make it easier for all team members to keep their credentials safe. 

Where possible, you should also activate multi-factor authentication (MFA) and ensure your team members do the same. Google Workspace, Hubspot, and other tools and platforms will prompt users to set up MFA. However, there’s usually an option to skip set-up. So, check in with your team members to ensure they’re not ignoring this vital IT hygiene step. 

3. Review access rights

Reviews should be conducted regularly throughout the year, with one-off checks included whenever team members are hired, change roles, or leave their positions. Checking over everyone’s access rights will ensure no former employees maintain access they should no longer have. It will also help you protect your data and avoid unnecessary risk exposure from current employees. 

As a general rule, data, apps, and software should only be available to those who need access to perform their role. By limiting access rights, you limit the potential for social engineering attacks and accidental data breaches.

4. Create a disaster recovery plan before you need it

The best time to figure out how to manage a digital disaster is long before one is on the horizon. Your disaster recovery plan should be something you can activate without a second thought the moment you’re alerted to a problem – this is the best way to minimise damage and maintain continuity of service. 

If you’re not sure how to go about establishing a disaster recovery plan for your business, speak to your IT department or managed IT service provider. 

5. Have a bulletproof data backup system

Your backup system should go hand-in-hand with your disaster recovery plan, ensuring you can maintain business continuity. Even a ransomware attack – which generally involves encryption of your data and/or system – won’t hit as hard if your approach to data backup is bulletproof.  

You can use the cloud, a physical storage device, or both. What’s most important is that your backups are thorough and conducted regularly. To determine the best backup strategy for your business, we recommend consulting your in-house IT department or an MSP like Invotec. 

6. Become a stickler for software updates

Sometimes, it feels like you can’t get through a single day without something demanding that you update it. While these notifications can feel tedious and unnecessary, we can assure you they are far from excessive. Indeed, you should be happy that they’re coming so regularly. 

Regular updates mean that the tools you’re using are fully supported and that the providers are actively looking for, fixing, and patching bugs and vulnerabilities. So, flip your thinking on software updates and be thankful when they pop up. 

It is essential to know how to spot fake software updates. However, once you have this knowledge down, be sure to action every genuine update request promptly. You’ll be practising good IT hygiene and keeping your system, data, staff, and customers safe. 

7. Understand the latest cyber-attack vectors

Cybercrime is a rapidly-evolving industry composed of motivated and, in many cases, highly organised players. They are astonishingly quick at adapting to the protections businesses use to thwart their attacks. So, it’s no good to have one cyber security training session during the employee onboarding process and then leave it at that. Instead, you and your team must engage in regular IT security training to ensure you’re on top of all the latest attack vectors. 

8. Protect all devices that connect to your system

This step is particularly critical for businesses operating on a remote or hybrid model. If you only allow employees to access your system from the business premises, chances are you’re already on top of network security. 

However, if you work with remote workers and freelancers, they may be accessing your system from personal devices that may not be adequately protected. If you decide their devices aren’t your responsibility, then your system will be at risk if they use public wifi networks and don’t bother with antivirus and firewall software.

9. Be mindful of what you share online

As with all the other cyber hygiene steps, this one applies to you and all your team members. If, for example, you share that you all enjoy a four-day work week, with no one having to go near the office on Mondays, you may win plenty of likes on social media, but you’ll also reveal that the office is unattended three days out of every week. Depending on your level of physical security, this could create some risk. 

Many other less obvious threats can arise from social media posting. For example, cybercriminals may be able to determine the answers to a staff member’s security questions by looking at their social media profiles. Many people display their family connections and schools they attended, along with photos from the past and posts about innocent daily activities. This can make it frighteningly easy for cyber criminals to establish, for example, a person’s favourite colour, their first pet’s name, and their mother’s maiden name – all common security questions. 

So, ensure you and your staff practice good cyber hygiene when posting on social media. Some of the simplest but most effective actions include making your profiles private, taking a moment to think before each post, and deleting any previous posts you feel may be problematic. 

While your IT department or Managed Service Provider can ensure your IT infrastructure is orderly and your systems protected, it’s crucial to back up their efforts by practising good cyber hygiene. IT hygiene is as crucial for CEOs as it is for entry-level employees. If you have any questions or would like to review your company’s cyber hygiene, feel free to contact Invotec today. We’ll connect you to an IT specialist with experience in your industry to ensure you receive targeted support. 

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