Expert warns that people’s “cyber hygiene” could put their employer at risk for cyberattacks
October 2018 marks the 15th annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), a time to highlight online best practices for connected device users. This is an important topic, as a recent University of Phoenix survey revealed that nearly half of U.S. adults (43 percent) have experienced a personal data breach in the past three years.
The breaches could be the result of “bad online habits,” which 78 percent of survey respondents admit having at least one. These include using the same email to create multiple online accounts, using the same passwords online and making personal information available on social media.
What is “cyber hygiene”?
Sterling Kellis, assistant dean of technology for the College of Information Systems and Technology at University of Phoenix, characterized online habits as “cyber hygiene.” Much like bathing or brushing one’s teeth, online cleanliness can improve virtual health.
He said that keeping one’s online self “hygienic” can be more important than personal hygiene.
“People often trade security for convenience online and with mobile applications, which can leave them more susceptible to data breaches,” Kellis said. “In today’s connected age, it is critical that everyone has a basic knowledge of online best practices to help better secure their information and protect themselves.”
Cybersecurity in the workplace
For employed U.S. adults, their online actions could have negative repercussions for their employer. Business and professional accounts contain more data and often can be the intended end goal for criminals when a personal account is targeted. Bad habits can put a business at risk if proper precautions are not in place to prevent unauthorized criminal access.
The survey found that 35 percent of respondents use the same passwords on their work and personal devices and the same amount has been the victim of a phishing email. While these two are not directly connected, unknowingly opening attachments or links containing spam from phishing emails could, in turn, infect a work device or account if hackers gain access to the passwords that are used across both accounts.
“While data breaches can be devastating to individuals, it is often forgotten that these crimes aren’t always limited to a single victim,” Kellis said. “If a personal account is breached, criminals may be able to use that data to access corporate accounts to exploit business data or target colleagues.”
In observance of this month’s theme of raising awareness for best practices, University of Phoenix is offering a free cyber hygiene video resource that informs viewers of the methods hackers take to access accounts and the steps to help proactively limit breaches.
While professionals in the IT space may see these precautions as straightforward, Sterling encourages employers to teach employees the “R-I-S-K” acronym – four simple steps to avoid the pitfalls of public Wi-Fi and other poor cyber hygiene practices.
To watch the cyber hygiene lecture or access the University’s full survey results, visit phoenix.edu/cyberhygiene. An archived Facebook Live video, where Kellis answered viewers’ questions about their own personal cyber hygiene can be found on the University of Phoenix Facebook page.
Learn how cybersecurity is THE thing in Greater Phoenix here.