Cyberattacks have been getting more and more frequent over recent years, and the news in 2017 has especially been full of reports of both businesses and individuals being hacked. As such, it is incredibly important for all organizations to do everything they can to keep cybercriminals at bay.

One way you can be proactive when it comes to security is through what’s known as “cyber hygiene.” Just like we brush our teeth and take showers each day to stay clean and healthy, there are regular habits we can put into place to protect smart devices and networks from cyberthreats and other online security issues.

Read on for the lowdown on cyber hygiene and how you and your team can start thinking about good digital health today.

So, What Is Cyber Hygiene Exactly?

To start with, you need to be clear on what’s meant by the term “cyber hygiene.” Basically, this phrase refers to the establishment and maintenance of various daily routines, plus regular checks and general behaviors, that are needed to keep a person’s or organization’s online health (their security), in tip-top condition. When someone practices good cyber hygiene by following various steps, some of which are outlined below, this decreases their risk of having their computers and systems hacked and crashed.

Use Proper Passwords

Whether you’re a business owner or an IT professional looking after the security of your organization, one of the most important steps your team should be instructed to take is creating proper passwords. Lax codes (such as easy-to-guess, common options like “123456 or “password) lead to lax security, and are one of the ways that hackers frequently gain access to business systems.

Employees should be taught to use complicated, lengthy passwords that are at least eight characters long and devised of a mixture of numbers, symbols, and upper and lower-case letters. Random combinations, rather than those that spell out words or phrases are best; plus, codes should never reference personal or business information which can be found easily online, such as through social media sites. For instance, birthdays, children or pet names, and company taglines or addresses are definite no-no’s.

Another security measure regarding passwords is that they should be updated at least every two to three months. The longer a code is used, the more likely it is that it will be cracked by a hacker or fall into the wrong hands some other way. What’s more, you should also get workers to use different passwords for different sites and devices, so that if one code is accessed by a cybercriminal everything won’t become vulnerable at once.

To make sure employees adhere to these guidelines, it is a good idea to utilize a well-known and trusted password-manager service. These programs remember multiple, complex passwords for users, and can even sometimes alert people to suspicious activity that could be putting their cyber health at risk.

Make Backups

In the last 12 months or so, hackers seem to have become extremely focused on attacks which lock users out of their own computers and networks and then threaten to delete data if ransom demands aren’t paid. These ransomware attacks can cause companies to potentially lose millions or even billions of dollars, not just in paying ransoms but in lost sales, time and more. Ransomware issues can even be such a problem that firms end up closing as a result of the consequences.

If your organization is to avoid this then, you and your team must be proactive when it comes to backing up important data. There are plenty of automated services and software programs which can be utilized for this, for an affordable fee. It is best if key data is kept off-site, in the cloud as well as in physical solutions such as external drives.

Install Security Software and Run Regular Updates

Next, all computers and other internet-enabled devices used by a business should have security software installed on them to help prevent hackers from breaking in, or from viruses being contracted or malicious codes being embedded after clicking on infected links and the like. (Another point to note is that employees need to be taught to avoid phishing and other scams that entice them to click on dangerous links.)

All staff members need to be instructed to run regular updates, too. This includes not just on the security software they have running on their devices, but also firewalls, operating systems, browsers, media players, apps, and more.

Updates are critical because they fix flaws and plug security gaps which can make it easier for hackers to break into devices and networks. Wireless routers used in offices and at home by workers should also be secured and updated.