Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting systems, networks, hardware, software, data, and programs of internet-connected systems from cyberattacks.
Cybersecurity is an extremely broad category that encompasses numerous hardware and software technologies and can be applied on any level, including personal, corporate, or governmental devices or networks.
It’s also referred to as information technology security or electronic information security.
The term applies during a sort of contexts, from business to mobile computing, and may be divided into a couple of common categories.
Cybersecurity is comprised of an evolving set of tools, risk management approaches, technologies, training, and best practices designed to guard networks, devices, programs, and data from attacks or unauthorized access.
Cybersecurity has never been simple. And because attacks evolve a day as attackers become more inventive, it’s critical to properly define cybersecurity and identify what constitutes good cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity protects the info and integrity of computing assets belonging to or connecting to an organization’s network.
Its purpose is to defend those assets against all threat actors throughout the whole life cycle of a cyber attack.
Types of cybersecurity
- Network Security – protects network traffic by controlling incoming and outgoing connections to stops threats from entering or spreading on the network.
- Cloud Security – provides protection for data used in cloud-based services and applications.
- Application security – focuses on keeping software and devices free of threats. A compromised application could provide access to the data it’s designed to guard. Successful security begins in the design stage, well before a program or device is deployed.
- Information security – protects the integrity and privacy of data, both in storage and in transit.
- Operational security – includes the processes and decisions for handling and protecting data assets. The permissions users have when accessing a network and the procedures that determine how and where data may be stored or shared all fall under this umbrella.
- Disaster recovery and business continuity – define how an organisation responds to a cyber-security incident or the other event that causes the loss of operations or data. Disaster recovery policies dictate how the organization restores its operations and knowledge to return to an equivalent operating capacity as before the event. Business continuity is that the plan the organization falls back on while trying to work without certain resources
- End-user education – addresses the most unpredictable cyber-security factor. Anyone can accidentally introduce a virus to an otherwise secure system by failing to follow good security practices. Teaching users to delete suspicious email attachments, not plug in unidentified USB drives, and various other important lessons are vital for the security of any organization.
Purpose of cybersecurity
Cybersecurity measures should always be implemented to protect the data of small and large organizations and individuals.
Even though significant security breaches are the ones that often get publicized, small organizations still have to concern themselves with their security posture, as they may often be the target of viruses and phishing.
Why is cybersecurity important?
In today’s connected world, everyone benefits from advanced cyber defense programs. At an individual level, a cybersecurity attack can result in everything from identity theft, to extortion attempts, to the loss of important data like family photos.
Everyone relies on critical infrastructures like power plants, hospitals, and financial service companies. Securing these and other organizations is essential to keeping our society functioning.
Organizations are starting to understand that malware is a publicly available commodity that makes it easy for anyone to become a cyber attacker, and even more, companies offer security solutions that do little to defend against attacks. Cybersecurity demands focus and dedication.
The world relies on technology more than ever before. As a result, digital data creation has surged. Today, businesses and governments store a great deal of that data on computers and transmit it across networks to other computers.
Devices and their underlying systems have vulnerabilities that, when exploited, undermine the health and objectives of an organization.
A data breach can have a range of devastating consequences for any business. It can unravel a company’s reputation through the loss of consumer and partner trust.
The loss of critical data, such as source files or intellectual property, can cost a company its competitive advantage. Going further, a data breach can impact corporate revenues due to non-compliance with data protection regulations.
It’s estimated that, on average, a data breach costs an affected organization $3.6 million. With high-profile data breaches making media headlines, it’s essential that organizations adopt and implement a strong cybersecurity approach.
Types of cybersecurity threats
Malware is a form of malicious software in which any file or program can be used to harm a computer user, such as worms, computer viruses, Trojan horses and spyware.
Ransomware is a type of malicious software. It is designed to extort money by blocking access to files or the computer system until the ransom is paid.
Paying the ransom does not guarantee that the files will be recovered or the system restored.
3. Social engineering
Social engineering is an attack that relies on human interaction to trick users into breaking security procedures to gain sensitive information that is typically protected.
4. Hackers and Predators
People, not computers, create computer security threats and malware. Hackers and predators are programmers who victimize others for their own gain by breaking into computer systems to steal, change, or destroy information as a form of cyber-terrorism.
These online predators can compromise credit card information, lock you out of your data, and steal your identity.
As you may have guessed, online security tools with identity theft protection are one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from this brand of the cybercriminal.
Phishing is the practice of sending fraudulent emails that resemble emails from reputable sources.
The aim is to steal sensitive data like credit card numbers and login information. It’s the most common type of cyber attack. You can help protect yourself through education or a technology solution that filters malicious emails.
6. IoT Attacks
The Internet of Things is becoming more ubiquitous by the day (according to Statista.com, the number of devices connected to the IoT is expected to reach 75 billion by 2025).
It includes laptops and tablets, of course, but also routers, webcams, household appliances, smartwatches, medical devices, manufacturing equipment, automobiles and even home security systems
7. State-Sponsored Attacks
Beyond hackers looking to make a profit through stealing individual and corporate data, entire nation-states are now using their cyber skills to infiltrate other governments and perform attacks on critical infrastructure.
Cybercrime today is a major threat not just for the private sector and for individuals but for the government and the nation as a whole. As we move into 2021, state-sponsored attacks are expected to increase, with attacks on the critical infrastructure of particular concern.
8. APTs (advanced persistent threats)
is a type of attack on integrity, where an unauthorized user infiltrates a network undetected and stays in the network for a long time.
The intent of an APT is to steal data and not harm the network. APTs often happen in sectors with high-value information, such as national defense, manufacturing, and the finance industry.
What are the risks of having poor cybersecurity?
There are many risks, some more serious than others. Among these dangers is malware erasing your entire system, an attacker breaking into your system and altering files, an attacker using your computer to attack others, or an attacker stealing your credit card information and making unauthorized purchases.
There is no guarantee that even with the best precautions some of these things won’t happen to you, but there are steps you can take to minimize the chances.
What can you do to improve your cybersecurity?
The most difficult challenge in cybersecurity is the ever-evolving nature of security risks themselves.
Traditionally, organizations and the government have focused most of their cybersecurity resources on perimeter security to protect only their most crucial system components and defend against known threats.
1. Keep software up to date
Install software patches so that attackers cannot take advantage of known problems or vulnerabilities. Many operating systems offer automatic updates. If this option is available, you should enable it.
2. Run up-to-date antivirus software
A reputable antivirus software application is an important protective measure against known malicious threats. It can automatically detect, quarantine, and remove various types of malware.
Be sure to enable automatic virus definition updates to ensure maximum protection against the latest threats.
Note: Because detection relies on signatures known patterns that can identify code as malware even the best antivirus will not provide adequate protection against new and advanced threats, such as zero-day exploits and polymorphic viruses.
3. Use strong passwords
Select passwords that will be difficult for attackers to guess, and use different passwords for different programs and devices. It is best to use long, strong passphrases or passwords that consist of at least 16 characters.
4. Change default usernames and passwords
Default usernames and passwords are readily available to malicious actors. Change default passwords, as soon as possible, to a sufficiently strong and unique password.
5. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA)
Authentication is a process used to validate a user’s identity. Attackers commonly exploit weak authentication processes.
MFA uses at least two identity components to authenticate a user’s identity, minimizing the risk of a cyberattacker gaining access to an account if they know the username and password.
6. Install a firewall
Firewalls may be able to prevent some types of attack vectors by blocking malicious traffic before it can enter a computer system, and by restricting unnecessary outbound communications.
Some device operating systems include a firewall. Enable and properly configure the firewall as specified in the device or system owner’s manual.
7. Be suspicious of unexpected emails
Phishing emails are currently one of the most prevalent risks to the average user. The goal of a phishing email is to gain information about you, steal money from you, or install malware on your device. Be suspicious of all unexpected emails.
8. Connect Securely
Cybersecurity tips about this have been dished out by nearly every tech expert under the sun, but many still don’t follow this advice.
You might be tempted to connect your device to an unsecured connection, but when you weigh the consequences, it’s not worth it. Only connect to private networks when possible, especially when handling sensitive information.
Why Cybersecurity Is Required?
At its core, cybersecurity involves protecting information and systems from cyberthreats. Cyberthreats take many forms, such as application attacks, malware, ransomware, phishing and exploit kits.
Recent technological advancements have opened up new possibilities for cybersecurity, but unfortunately, adversaries have benefited from these advancements, as well.
Taking advantage of automation, attackers can deploy large-scale attacks at significantly reduced costs. Further, the cybercrime economy makes sophisticated attacks easy to deploy and available to a wide variety of motivated adversaries.
Cybersecurity tools and technologies should incorporate automation, machine learning and shared threat intelligence to help organizations get ahead and stay on the cutting edge to combat advanced threats
How Cybersecurity is Evolving
Traditional cybersecurity is centered around the implementation of defensive measures around a defined perimeter.
Recent enablement initiatives like remote workers and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies have dissolved the perimeter, reduced visibility into cyber activity, and expanded the attack surface.
Today, breaches are increasing at a rapid pace despite record levels of security spending. Global organizations are turning to human-centric cybersecurity, a new approach that places focus on changes in user behavior instead of an exponential number of growing threats.
Founded on behavior analytics, human-centric cybersecurity provides insight into how an end-user interacts with data and extends security controls into all the systems where data resides, even if not exclusively controlled by the organization.
Ultimately, this approach is designed to identify behavioral anomalies in order to surface and prioritize the most serious threats, reducing investigation and threat detection times.
Major key challenges for cybersecurity
In business and society today, we are too often focused on bolting on cybersecurity in a hyphenated manner. We want “security-enabled” this, “security-enhanced” that.
But cybersecurity cannot be an add-on. Rather it must be built into every product and system from the moment it is conceived. To achieve such integration, we need to address four fundamental leadership challenges.
1. Real-time information sharing
The pace of the digital world continues to increase exponentially. To keep up, security professionals have to address threats and security weaknesses rapidly, before cybercriminals strike.
Speed is fundamental to an effective cybersecurity strategy; cybersecurity systems must keep up with the increasing speed and volume of internet traffic.
The speed of reaction is vital as well. Too often, there are long lag times in addressing cybersecurity problems. Criminals can – and do – take advantage of this.
But speed requires visibility. To act fast, we must share threat information in near real-time.
Cybercrime has no borders. In a world that is so deeply interconnected by digital technology, cybersecurity and global security are the same things.
No single organization, public or private, can have a complete view of the entire cyber landscape.
Senior leadership must insist organizations share information to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Otherwise, we will be flying blind.
2. Widespread collaboration in cybersecurity
Effective cybersecurity must be deeply and widely collaborative. Collaboration enables the good guys to create a hive mind, to learn rapidly, constantly expanding our competency and capacity.
If organizations or states do not learn from one another, the same attacks will needlessly take down countless entities.
Wide collaboration means including everyone in a broader conversation about cybersecurity.
Deep collaboration means making everyone smarter and creating knowledge repositories that are part of our operational systems.
It means collaborating on threat intelligence sharing and it means collaborating on education.
The more we talk about the importance of cybersecurity and its fundamental role, and the more education is shared, the more we will educate and nurture the future generations of cybersecurity professionals we very much need.
The estimated cost of damage caused by hackers, malware and data breaches is projected to reach $6 trillion by 2021.
To empower leaders to meet these challenges, technological experts and top-level decision-makers across the public and private sectors must work together. This takes time. Senior leaders should make it clear that such collaboration is time well-spent.
Working together, we could see tangible results very fast. More than 92% of malware is delivered via email.
With the right awareness campaigns and policies, as well as diligence in practice, we could eliminate more than 90% of malware simply by teaching new skills that overcome ingrained behaviors.
3. Creating and promoting a common vision for integrated cybersecurity
Public and private sector leaders must commit to creating a common vision for integrated cybersecurity.
This vision for integrated cybersecurity must be comprehensive and inclusive, anticipating the next actions of cybercriminals rather than solely reacting to them.
The common vision must be operational and must look at how best to address the technical challenges of effective cybersecurity, including the skills gaps I focused on in a previous piece.
Cybersecurity competency must be embraced by individuals and organizations. Cybersecurity education and training should be part of everyone’s educational development.
Without such efforts, we will not have enough experienced soldiers to fight this war.
4. Promoting the technology platform
Making cybersecurity work requires computing power. From now on, most products, devices, and infrastructure should have this additional computing power designed in.
Furthermore, the cybersecurity capabilities inside the devices must fit into an integrated platform that distributes workloads over the layers of a system.
An example of such a larger vision for cybersecurity where all parts of the network participate together is security-driven networking, which changes traditional assumptions of networking.
Instead of looking only for the fastest path, security-driven networking takes the risk of each path into account and moves traffic over the fastest safe path.
To make this work, the networking devices all need to share information about the speed and the risk of each network path.
The ability to offer robust security across the network with low latency and high performance is critical functionality that organizations are seeking, especially with the deployment of 5G networks. A centralized approach is no longer tenable.
How to Maintain Effective Cybersecurity?
Historically, organizations and governments have taken a reactive, point product approach to fighting cyberthreats, cobbling together individual security technologies to protect their networks and data.
However, this method is expensive as well as complex, and stories of devastating breaches continue to dominate headlines, indicating this approach is ineffective.
Enabling automation, machine learning and shared threat intelligence in their security architecture will help organizations keep pace with the growth of sophisticated cyberattacks.
Machine learning can help accurately identify variations of known threats, recognize patterns, predict the next steps of an attack, and inform automation tools to create and implement protections across the organization, all in near-real-time.
With shared threat intelligence, anything one user sees identifies or prevents the benefits of all other members of the shared community. More comprehensive prevention, attainable more quickly, reduces overall cybersecurity risk to something easier to manage.
New advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are being developed that help security professionals organize and manage log data. AI and machine learning can assist in areas with high-volume data streams, such as the following:
- correlating data by organizing it, identifying possible threats and predicting an attacker’s next step.
- detecting infections by implementing a security platform that can analyze data and recognize threats.
- generating protections without putting a strain on resources.
- continually auditing the effectiveness of protections in place to ensure they are working.
Careers in cybersecurity
As the cyber threat landscape continues to grow and new threats emerge — such as threats on the landscape of IoT — individuals are needed with skills and awareness in both security hardware and software.
IT professionals and other computer specialists are needed in security jobs, such as the following:
- Chief information security officer (CISO): This individual implements the security program across the organization and oversees the IT security department’s operations.
- Security engineer: This individual protects company assets from threats with a focus on quality control within the IT infrastructure.
- Security architect: This individual is responsible for planning, analyzing, designing, testing, maintaining and supporting an enterprise’s critical infrastructure.
- Security analyst: This individual has several responsibilities that include planning security measures and controls, protecting digital files, and conducting both internal and external security audits.