Your mother always told you to brush your teeth, comb your hair, and wash behind your ears. This is all part of good personal hygiene. You learn this as a kid and then it just becomes part of your daily routine when you get older. Today’s blog post is going to be about a different type of hygiene, digital hygiene. Much in the same way that personal hygiene can keep you clean and safe, digital hygiene ensures that you keep your online presence virus-free.
Digital hygiene is, in my opinion, one of the three pillars of a safe online life. The other two pillars are Security and Privacy. There is much overlap between these three pillars, but we can talk about that in later posts as this will be the start of a multi-part series.
Yes, I know, we are already doing a multi-part series on moving to Linux. But we can do more than one at once I think. Plus, these topics run nicely with the ideals and philosophies of the open source software what makes Linux great.
In the same sense that personal hygiene is made up of multiple things, e.g. brushing your teeth, showering regularly, washing your clothes, etc, so too does digital hygiene require multiple approaches.
But of course the question might be why bother? In the same way that you won’t win many friends with bad personal hygiene and have significantly higher potential for getting sick, with digital hygiene, your whole online life can become infected with some pretty bad stuff.
So what makes up the different parts of digital hygiene?
1) Treat your password like a toothbrush. Which means you should; a) Pick a good one, b) Change it regularly and c) Never share it. The next blog post on this topic will be all about passwords, how to pick a good one, and how to remember it.
2) Keep your personal life personal. Far to often people air all of their dirty laundries online and are surprised when the wind blows back their way. Always remember; “What goes online, stays online.”
3) Careful what you click. This goes for links to pages, as well as emails and their attachments. If the email is not from someone you know, delete it! If it is from someone you know but the message is uncharacteristic of them, don’t click on any links or download any attachments
4) Practice situational awareness. Be critical of everything, Don’t trust that snake oil salesman, or banner ad claiming you’ve won the lottery. If you didn’t enter a raffle, you haven’t won a prize.
5) Two-Factor-Authentication for your accounts. For important things like emails and social media, look for 2FA (Two-Factor-Authentication). This requires an extra step to verify that you are, in fact, you trying to login.
6) Stay up to date. Update your internet browser and all programs to prevent bad actors from exploiting vulnerabilities that have been fixed. IF you get a flu shot, you’re much less likely to catch it. Same goes for your computer.
7) Look at the URLs (Universal Resource Locator – that’s the website address up in the address bar of your browser) to have ‘httpS’ not just ‘http’ because the difference is the ‘S’ stands for secure. It’s a secure connection between you and the server that’s hosting the page you’re viewing.
8) Two is one and one is none. That’s an old saying which means that one backup is worthless if you lose it. Having multiple backups of important information is, well, important.
9) Work/ life separation. Don’t do personal things on your work PC and be careful doing work at home. Your work is most likely able to track anything you do online, visiting *ahem* questionable sites is not recommended. If you bring your work home, and your home computer is infected with malware of some sort, your work data could be stolen or infected.
10) Don’t install what you don’t need/know. It can be tempting to download ‘Ace Windows Cleaner Pro 2000’ which promises to clean up your computer for free, but most of the time what you get is a PUP (Potential Unwanted Program) and if you’re unlucky, you’ll get a PHA (Potentially Harmful Application.) Don’t install software unless you have done your research and understand the risks.
11) Lastly, DO install some good software. There are many free programs that can be installed to help keep you safe and clean as a whistle. We will be going over these in a future blog post, but if you need this right now, check out ‘Avast‘ free antivirus and ‘Malwarebytes‘ anti-malware. Those two are about 80% of what you’ll need.
I know this might seem like a LOT to take in, that’s OK, we’ll be going over each point in more details. Perhaps one or two topics per blog post? Please also let me know in the comments if you’d like to see a short course on Digital Hygiene and I’ll see about making one for everyone to learn from and keep as a way to refresh yourselves on the upcoming topics.
Thanks for reading my post, I hope you brush your teeth and think about digital life in a different light.
P.S. ‘Ace Windows Cleaner Pro 2000’ is a made-up product name. Although, it is totally the kind of program my father is known to install on occasion. Sorry Dad, had to call you out there. 😛