COVID-19 pandemic has been a transformative event in recent history. The response to this pandemic has altered many aspects of life. One of them has been our shift towards the digital ecosystem. Over the last several months, many of us have significantly increased our reliance on various digital tools or apps to maintain our way of life. For example, online video calls, online shopping, watching web series on different online media platforms, and online learning tools have become a regular feature of our daily life. We are all now part of a thriving and pervasive digital environment.
We have all seen the benefits of being an active participant in the expanding digital environment. But we should also realize that as with every other expanding ecosystem – the digital environment will also attract bad actors who will like to exploit the gaps in an environment for wrongful gains. Cybercrimes and Cyberattacks are on the rise. Even though many of us lack sufficient depth of knowledge to understand the nature and impact of digital crimes, we need to understand that there are bad actors and they do abuse the ecosystem. We must be responsible, and ensure that the digital environment is safe for each one of us and also for everyone else. Hence there is a need for all of us to actively adopt and maintain good “Digital Hygiene”.
Digital Hygiene is a set of practices and behaviours that we can adopt to ensure and maintain a healthy and secure digital ecosystem. Like with every other daily hygiene activities that we adopt, maintaining good digital hygiene will involve investing in products and tools that fit our hygiene needs, performing these hygienic tasks correctly, and establishing a routine around them.
I am listing down ten simple practices that one can adopt to maintain good digital hygiene:
- Look through the software and apps we use regularly. Always install only from reputed sources. Uninstall not-needed and redundant software. Regularly clean the cache and history. Adopting a minimalistic approach to digital life is always a good first step and additionally, it will keep your hard disk clean.
- Protect the connection to the internet and secure the router. Ensure that the Wi-Fi Id name is less identifiable. Protect the Wi-Fi network through a strong and complex password. Likewise, change default passwords for the router and all the smart devices. These steps are essential to prevent unknown users from easily gaining access to the network.
- Use and enable network firewalls. Firewalls are a good first line of defence to prevent unauthorized access into the network.
- Keep all the interaction on the internet encrypted and secure. As far as possible, prefer an HTTPS connection to access, send, or interact over the internet. Using an HTTPS connection will ensure that all the information exchanged over the internet is encrypted.
- Always be suspicious of emails from unknown senders. Similarly, ascertain the source of links before clicking on them. Being vigilant will go a long way.
- Keep all the software, apps, browsers, and operating systems up to date. Every reputed software provider actively address emerging security issues in their software and release security patches as they find and plug issues. Hence it becomes important for us to keep the software and application up to date.
- Be careful with passwords and never share them. Keep passwords unique and reasonably complex. Change passwords regularly and avoid reusing the same passwords across multiple applications. Additionally, it is always a good idea to invest in a good password management system.
- Actively adopt two-factor authentication wherever available. Two-factor authentication usually involves providing your password and additional unique information like OTP (one-time-password) sent to your mobile phone. Therefore, it provides an additional layer of protection.
- Regularly back up your files and data. Also ensure that the backed-up files are well protected, stored in a secure location through reputed tools and processes. It is important to develop a healthy backup habit to ensure that files are safe and available if systems end up being compromised.
- Invest and install a good and reputed anti-virus and anti-malware software. Regularly scan and check devices for any viruses, malicious code, or software. Apart from ensuring systems are free of viruses, good antivirus software will also provide real-time protection and safeguard the information in your system.
Adopting these practices are quite simple and easy. But following and checking for these regularly will go a long way in ensuring that the digital environment is safe for us and everyone else.