Good cyber hygiene means having good security practices

Armin Wasicek 18 Aug 2021

As we take simple steps towards a healthier life, we all can start with an implementation of habits that improve our cyber hygiene.

As more and more aspects of our lives take place in the online world, cyber hygiene has become an essential concept. While many of us are aware that there are certain risks that come along with being online, it can remain difficult to adapt our online behavior to mitigate these risks. This isn’t only the case for beginners, either: Research suggests that people who describe themselves as being “cybersecurity experts” often exhibit less secure behaviors and only have little knowledge of cyber hygiene. The perception of online risks plays a major role in this paradox. 

Avast’s Online Safety Score can help you avoid online risks

Human beings are prone to misjudge risk because of things like personal biases – these are often caused by external factors such as media coverage, misleading personal experiences, or holding on to past decisions in a changing environment. In addition, we humans have general difficulties in understanding probabilistic processes. 

A solution to mitigate these deficiencies is to improve our perception of what’s actually going on. This can be done by describing the potential risk by using facts in a way that a user can perceive the risk to be relevant to his or her situation. 

This is where our Online Safety Score (OSS) feature comes in. OSS creates facts by assessing the current state of a user’s equipment and behavior, then computes a potential risk score and suggests remediation in the form of safe practices. It does that by breaking security down into multiple dimensions and defining a set of actions that a user can take in order to increase their security posture for each of those areas.

online safety score
The three main components of the OSS shown above assessment, scoring, and safe practices aim at the same goal: To change an individual’s perception of their security posture and empower them to change it. And this last point is crucial, as what really matters is how individuals change their behavior as a result of working with the OSS. 

Classic security products like antivirus mostly prevent bad things from happening, and by nature, they only intervene during or after an intrusion takes place. 

The best way to visualize this is the “swiss cheese model”. In that model, antivirus covers the prevention, protection, and mitigation phases, but it has no control over the avoidance part. Avoiding threats is something that only the user can do, and OSS supports the user by informing them on good choices to make. No single measure is perfect by its own, but combined, they are powerful.

A key requirement of this system is the availability and usability of safe practices. This is to say that people must not only be aware and capable of implementing safe practices, but they must also perceive that the countermeasures are readily available for use.

The bottom line

As we take simple steps towards a healthier life, we all can start with an implementation of habits that improve our cyber hygiene. Such simple steps made daily will cumulatively reduce security and privacy risks in the long term.

Cyber hygiene is part of digital security that every user should implement in addition to installing security tools like antivirus. In this post, we’ve outlined a few simple things that can tremendously improve a device’s security.

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