How Is Your Enterprise IT Hygiene?

Posted by: Artiom Levinton
April 07, 2024
How Is Your Enterprise IT Hygiene__1200x628_3
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

We’re hearing a lot these days about the need for strong and consistent enterprise IT hygiene and cybersecurity hygiene. But what does this actually mean? 

Any IT hygiene or cyber hygiene definition should start with the meaning of the word “hygiene.” The word comes from the Greek “hygiene techne,” which means “the healthful art.” Enterprise IT hygiene and cyber hygiene, therefore, is the art of maintaining a healthy IT and cybersecurity ecosystem – and it’s crucial for ensuring robust security posture.

What is IT hygiene?

Hygiene in human beings refers to staying clean and doing regular healthy activities, like brushing your teeth and washing your hands, to avoid getting sick or infecting others. 

IT hygiene refers to the practices and measures employed to maintain the health and efficiency of IT systems. It involves regular updates, data backups, and other proactive measures to prevent and address issues. Good IT hygiene ensures the smooth operation and security – the ‘health’ – of digital infrastructures.

Critical Components of Enterprise IT Hygiene

IT hygiene ensures insight into the “who, what, and where” of your IT ecosystem, empowering you to proactively tackle security risks before they escalate. When assessing your environment’s security, a robust IT hygiene solution should address these three pivotal components:

  • The “who”: Identify who operates on your network and understand their capabilities. Credential theft – the pilfering of administrative privileges – is a huge issue and enables silent network infiltration and permission elevation. Inadequate password policies and “permission creep” expose your network to potential brute force attacks.
  • The “what”: Examine the applications in use and assess associated security risks. Unpatched applications and operating systems, especially in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scenarios, can be exploited by attackers. When users fail to update applications, they can create vulnerabilities. What’s more, deploying unnecessary software can lead to unnecessary licensing fees for unused programs.
  • The “where”: Identify unprotected systems within your environment. The strength of a chain relies on its weakest link. Unprotected systems serve as potential backdoors for attackers.

IT Hygiene vs. Cyber Hygiene

IT hygiene is about making sure that systems run well. It’s about ensuring high availability and data integrity. Cyber hygiene applies the concept of hygiene to security processes. Both processes are crucial for a healthy digital environment, but they tackle different aspects.

IT hygiene focuses on keeping systems running smoothly and involves tasks like:

  • Regularly updating software
  • Backing up data
  • Ensuring system performance

Cyber hygiene is all about security, and best practices include:

  • Using strong passwords
  • Spotting phishing attempts
  • Keeping firewalls active

Both IT hygiene and cyber hygiene are essential. IT hygiene creates a stable foundation, while cyber hygiene protects it from attacks.

Top Five Cyber Hygiene Best Practices

Most security countermeasures have an associated cyber hygiene practice. The top five examples of what companies should do to stick to a healthy security routine include:

  1. Regular software updates and patch management – Keep operating systems, software, and applications up-to-date with the latest security patches. Regularly applying updates helps address vulnerabilities and strengthens defenses against potential cyber threats.
  2. Strong password policies – Enforce robust password practices, including the use of complex passwords, regular password changes, and multi-factor authentication (MFA). Strong authentication mechanisms significantly enhance protection against unauthorized access.
  3. Employee training and awareness – Educate employees on cybersecurity risks and best practices. Regular training sessions can help raise awareness about phishing attacks, social engineering tactics, and other common threats. This reduces the likelihood of human error that leads to security breaches.
  4. Network security measures – Implement firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and secure network configurations to safeguard against unauthorized access. Monitoring and controlling network traffic contribute to a more secure digital environment.
  5. Data backup and recovery plans – Regularly back up critical data and ensure the availability of recovery plans. In the event of a cyber incident or data loss, having reliable backup systems helps restore operations efficiently, minimizing potential disruptions and losses.

It’s important to note that controls only work if they’re constantly being checked to ensure they’re performing their designated tasks. For example, you may have a procedure that declares user accounts must be deleted after the user leaves the organization. However, unless you check on a regular basis, “ghost users” who make you vulnerable to cyber security attacks inevitably remain in the system.

Exposure Management Helps with Both Cyber and IT Hygiene

Exposure Management is a holistic approach that aids in both cyber and IT hygiene by systematically identifying, analyzing, and mitigating potential attack paths within a network. 

IT hygiene affects everyone in an organization. IT has its share of responsibilities. SecOps and DevSecOps do as well. Every employee has certain IT hygiene duties, too, like not leaving passwords written on post-it notes and so forth. How can you know if everyone is doing their part? How can you know if certain IT practices are actually creating holes for attackers to move laterally in the organization?

That’s where exposure management enters the picture. A comprehensive approach to exposure management allows you to verify whether people are following their IT hygiene routines, and how this affects overall cybersecurity.

This can be done by conducting automated cyberattack simulation that illuminates all of the potential attack paths that adversaries could use to jeopardize your critical assets. It probes your network and devices, looking for security holes (such as misconfigurations and unpatched servers) that can be exploited to successfully breach your defenses.

An exposure management platform can even spot subtle and easy-to-miss problems like cached passwords to privileged accounts, administrative sessions where the user left the connection open, and other common IT hygiene problems. It can simulate attacks from any part of your environment with a focus on critical assets, provide security posture scoring and offer a truly comprehensive view of steps for mitigation. 

Exposure management facilitates a comprehensive understanding of vulnerabilities and their interconnectedness, allowing organizations to prioritize and address IT and cybersecurity risks effectively. How so?

  • For cyber hygiene, attack path management strengthens defenses against external threats, preventing unauthorized access, and minimizing the impact of potential breaches. 
  • For IT hygiene, attack path management enables visibility into network infrastructure, helping manage system configurations, software vulnerabilities, and user permissions. 

By actively managing and securing attack paths, organizations can enhance their overall cybersecurity posture, reduce the likelihood of successful cyberattacks, and maintain the health and resilience of their IT systems.

Artiom Levinton

Find and fix the exposures that put your critical assets at risk with ultra-efficient remediation.

See what attackers see, so you can stop them from doing what attackers do.