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What is Cyber Safety?

Being online exposes us to criminals and individuals with ill intent. Cyber safety is the practice of being safe online. It is a complex set of ideas and practices that culminate to achieve a common goal. This goal is to protect users while browsing the internet through prevention, mitigation, and protection. While it is always possible for a hacker to be persistent in their efforts, implementing security measures and making yourself a more difficult target can deter a large amount of threat actors.

Whether at home or at work, cyber safety is crucial to operating on the internet. In the workplace, cyber safety can appear in many different forms, however, it is traditionally implemented into an organization via internet usage policies and training. Employers with cyber safety front of mind have policies that aim to protect employees and their data while online. These policies often consist of rules for applications and services installed onto company devices. Employers also supply periodic education to their employees informing them on best practices to stay safe online.

Practicing cyber safety at home can be more complicated. Without an employer to provide guidance or invest money into protection applications, it can be overwhelming to decide what the best approach may be. However, the most cost effective and arguably most effective method overall is to educate yourself on best practices. There are plenty of resources online, for data security we recommend you check out our article on ‘5 Tips to Secure Your Devices’.

The implementation of cyber safety in any given environment is aimed to protect a target or target group against a threat. Each threat that may cause harm to these targets requires different forms of prevention, mitigation, and protection. Although these ideas and practices combined are specific to each threat type, they frequently can be used in cyber safety efforts against other threat types. Understanding the prevention, mitigation, and protection strategies for each, will allow for security hardening and achieving your cyber safety goals.

Malware

Preventing a device from being infected with malware can be a tricky endeavor. Malware is designed to spread from device to device to cover an attack surface to its fullest extent. Understanding how your devices are connected and what they are connected to is the key to preventing malware. Utilizing extra security on these devices should be a priority to keep them clean and prevent them from becoming infected in the first place.

Assuming that a system in any given network is already infected, the next step to practicing cyber safety would be mitigation. Mitigating malware can be tricky due to malware being able to have many different purposes and design philosophy. Some malware types, such as spyware, are designed to be invisible to the average user to prevent its removal. Other malware such as ransomware locks down a computer which makes it hard to mitigate damage since it’s already been done. Regardless of the type however, if you can identify that one machine on a network has been infected with malware, quarantining that device can prevent the further spread of it, mitigating the potential damage to other systems on that network.

Finally, after mitigating the effects of malware on a given system, there are additional steps that can be taken to further protect against future threats. Education is one of the best protection techniques that can be practiced for any threat type, but specifically for malware. Thinking before you click to download anything is essential in keeping a system secure. Making sure that all users understand this principle can be the difference between a clean and infected system.

Fraud

Many people assume fraud isn’t a cyber safety concern, however with the world digitized, fraud is prevalent online as bad actors attempt to trick people out of money, property or other valuable information. Prevention in theory is simple, however in practice, there is a lot of information that needs to be secure, and it isn’t always in the victim’s control. Preventing fraud is done by controlling sensitive information and the access that it provides. While protecting the credentials of one account is easy, increasing that number up to 20 or even 50 accounts, starts to make the task more difficult. The easiest way, that the average user is in control of, is to only give websites and services information needed for them to function. Oversharing creates gaps in security that threat actors can later take advantage of.

Mitigating fraud is unique due to the need to be proactive. Fraud can spread to multiple accounts if gone undetected and if the victim was practicing password reuse. Password reuse opens a user’s attack surface and makes it easier for an attacker to move laterally within a system once access is gained. Using strong, unique passwords for accounts is a great way to mitigate the damage fraud can do.

Implementing further protection against possible fraud can be done by utilizing multifactor authentication (MFA). Simply put, MFA is the use of another system to confirm your identity, or authenticate you. By taking this extra step, fraud can be prevented because a user’s system with MFA implemented is much harder to access compared to one without it. Although MFA isn’t fool proof, utilizing it provides advantages that are necessary in preventing fraud.

Theft

Similarly to fraud, theft prevention is simple in theory but takes discipline in practice. The best way of preventing theft is to keep credentials secure, and only utilize trusted methods of payment. Preferably using third party payment systems designed around security is ideal, however utilizing payment forums of trusted websites can also be an option. If a website seems suspicious and doesn’t use a third-party payment system, do not submit any financial information through the site. The website itself may have good intentions, however, unsecure sensitive financial information may be subject to interception from attackers.

While preventing theft can be difficult, mitigating theft is primarily handled and monitored by financial institutions. One way that users can mitigate the effects of theft is to use credit cards when making online purchases. By taking advantage of a credit card, users can not only get notified by the algorithms financial institutions have in place to prevent fraud, but also prevent damage from occurring most of the time due to credit card companies assuming the liability. While not fool proof, credit cards add an extra step between your personal funds and the motives of an attacker.

Additional protection measures against theft all fall under education. Determining how you store your financial information digitally is a huge factor in if you may be exploited. Making sure financial information is never stored in clear text provides an attacker from gaining this sensitive information in an easy way. Additionally, thinking before sending anyone financial account information can protect against theft. You should never send this information via email or other potentially unsecure means of communication.

Cyber Safety Diligence 

The landscape of cyber safety is constantly changing. Techniques and practices often get replaced due to the innovation of the technology industry which directly effects the cybersecurity industry. These innovations provide more security features, widespread adoption of technology and more exploits for threat actors to take advantage of. Ultimately, education is the best way to ensure cyber safety, for today and the future.

Managing a cyber environment within the workplace can be difficult. It’s not always an achievable goal to create a cyber safe environment alone. That’s why NuHarbor is here to help with our cyber professionals. NuHarbor’s experts provide top quality assistance and implementation of offered services that increase the security of organizations. Contact an expert today to ensure that your organization’s environment is cyber safe.

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