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Build and Practice Strong Cyber Hygiene

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain the importance of implementing strong cyber hygiene.
  • Describe the core security principles that develop strong security hygiene.

The Power of Strong Cyber Hygiene

Effective implementation of strong cyber hygiene could have mitigated the majority of the cyberattacks of the last decade. Just like doctors recommend patients practice good hygiene to protect against diseases, use of basic security practices can help protect against common exploits. 

Image of a person washing electronic devices in a bucket of soapy water.

Attackers search for the weakest link when penetrating systems. They exploit known vulnerabilities, as well as use social engineering to compromise vulnerable organizations. If your organization has failed to implement core security principles, it is more vulnerable to attack.  

Core Security Principles

The following security principles are foundational to building strong cyber hygiene.

  • Identify hardware, software, and data assets and implement strong configuration management. The basis of protecting any organization is developing a detailed asset inventory and configuration management system. The systems should include monitoring capabilities, and configuration and status of the devices, data sets, and applications.
  • Develop a strong patching strategy to manage vulnerabilities. Patch systems in a timely manner according to a risk-based assessment of vulnerabilities. Indicate what types of vulnerabilities and systems are patched automatically, and which require further testing before they are patched. This is especially important for legacy systems, which may require upgrade plans and compensating controls. Leaders prioritize patching to secure the business, and are careful not to compromise the functionality of critical systems.
  • Implement strong authentication to protect access to critical assets. Attackers abuse weak user credentials (such as default passwords) to gain access to user accounts. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a proven reinforcer of security posture. MFA requires two or more methods (or factors) of authentication. For example, the user logs on to their computer by inserting a USB device (something they have) combined with a PIN number (something they know). The  FIDO Alliance (Fast Identity Online) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) created a standard for the implementation of MFA.
  • Secure the Active Directory to protect access control. An Active Directory is the core identity platform for many enterprises. It uses access control to enforce user permissions and ensure only legitimate users are able to access resources. Implementing a tiered Active Directory model ensures separation of administrative from standard user accounts, and enforces the concept of least privilege, in which users have access only to the information necessary to perform their jobs.
  • Enforce data security mechanisms, such as encryption for critical business data. All sensitive data should be encrypted, at rest and in transit. This helps prevent cybercriminals from obtaining readable versions of company data and monetizing it.

Sum It Up

Building strong cyber-hygiene defenses protects your organization from common threats and hardens the enterprise against common vulnerabilities. In this unit you learned about the importance of identifying your hardware, software, and data assets; properly configuring those assets; quickly patching known vulnerabilities; and implementing strong authentication access to those assets. Let’s focus now on other key considerations when it comes to protecting access to mission-critical assets. 

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