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What is cyber hygiene?

What is cyber hygiene?

In healthcare, cyber hygiene refers to safeguarding sensitive medical data and healthcare systems from cyber threats. Healthcare professionals actively update security software, enforce strong password policies, and regularly train staff in data security protocols. They also implement secure patient data management systems, utilize encryption for sensitive information, and regularly back up critical data. Healthcare providers can protect patient confidentiality, prevent data breaches, and ensure necessary healthcare services' continuous, reliable operation.


Main components of cyber hygiene

  • Strong password management: Creating and regularly updating complex, unique passwords for each account to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Regular software updates: Consistently update all software, including operating systems and applications, to patch vulnerabilities and strengthen security.
  • Antivirus and anti-malware software: Installing and regularly updating reliable antivirus and anti-malware programs to detect, prevent, and remove malicious software.
  • Data backup: Regularly backing up data to multiple secure locations to prevent loss in case of cyber attacks or hardware failure.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA): Employing MFA to add an extra layer of security, reducing the risk of unauthorized account access.
  • Firewall utilization: Using firewalls to protect networks by monitoring and controlling incoming and outgoing network traffic, and blocking unauthorized access.
  • Email security: Being vigilant about phishing attempts, not clicking on suspicious links or attachments, and verifying the authenticity of emails.

Risks of poor cyber hygiene

  • Data breaches: Poor cyber hygiene often leads to vulnerabilities in systems, making them susceptible to data breaches. This can result in stolen sensitive personal or organizational data, including financial information, personal identification details, and confidential business information.
  • Identity theft: Cybercriminals can exploit weak cybersecurity practices to steal personal information, leading to identity theft. This can have long-term consequences for individuals, including financial loss and damage to credit ratings.
  • Financial loss: Inadequate cyber hygiene can lead to financial losses for individuals and organizations. This can occur through direct theft of funds, ransomware attacks, or a data breach, leading to fines and legal costs.
  • Malware infections: Without regular updates and antivirus protections, systems are more vulnerable to malware, including viruses, spyware, and ransomware. These malicious programs can disrupt operations, corrupt data, and even take control of systems.
  • Reputational damage: Organizations suffering from cyber attacks due to poor cyber hygiene can experience severe reputational damage. Loss of consumer trust and confidence can have long-lasting effects on business relationships and market position.
  • Operational disruptions: Cyber attacks can disrupt business operations, leading to downtime, loss of productivity, and sometimes permanent loss of critical data.
  • Vulnerability to phishing scams: Lack of awareness and training about cyber threats makes individuals and organizations more susceptible to phishing attacks, leading to unauthorized access to systems and information theft.


The role of cyber hygiene assessments 

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) emphasizes the role of cyber hygiene assessments in strengthening cybersecurity defenses. These assessments enable organizations and individuals to identify and rectify vulnerabilities in their digital infrastructure. According to CISA, regular cyber hygiene assessments are necessary to proactively discover network and system weaknesses before malicious actors can exploit them. They involve evaluating current security practices, verifying the effectiveness of antivirus and malware defenses, ensuring that software and systems are up-to-date, and assessing the strength of passwords and authentication methods.

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