What Is Cybersecurity?
Of growing importance to many individuals, businesses, governments, and organizations is security on the internet. Cybersecurity is the method of defending servers, mobile devices, computer systems, networks, and data from improper access, malicious or not. Often, cybersecurity is referred to as information technology security. Cybersecurity jobs are those for individuals with insight into managing these risks, including preventing, monitoring, and managing them if they occur.
Cybersecurity can be broken down into a variety of types. Jobs for cybersecurity professionals often are specialized in these areas.
Network security focuses on protecting a specific computer network from threats, including intruders. This includes targeted attackers seeking to gather access to a specific organization or network, as well as those looking for just an opportunity to place malware. Jobs with cybersecurity tend to focus on the prevention of any type of access.
Application security is a subset of cybersecurity that has a specific focus on software and device protections. The goal in this area is to ensure that any software meant to protect computer networks and systems is not compromised. If it is compromised, it could allow for would-be thieves to gain access to the data the software is designed to protect. Those working in this field will specifically aim to minimize risks associated with application-related access to protected data.
Information security is focused on data specifically. The goal in this area is to protect the integrity and privacy of company, individual, or organizational data. There are various ways and times to do so, including when the data is in transit between two portals and when it is being stored.
Those working in operational security are more focused on the processes and decision-making for how data is handled to protect the specific assets necessary. This type of protection generally includes managing users’ permissions when they try to gain access to secured data in a network or cloud. This includes establishing and managing access. They also work to establish and manage procedures for how and where data will be stored. A key component to this area of cybersecurity is determining if and when data is shared, how this happens, and how data is maintained and secured when others access it.
What Are Cyber Attacks?
A cyber attack or cyber threat can happen in any area of the world and at any portal to the internet. This includes mobile devices, computer portals, and other areas. A threat or attack is any type of access to secured data or networks that is unwarranted, illegal, or done in some other malicious manner.
Types of Cyber Attacks
Data breaches occur every day in numerous ways. This includes efforts to try to access personal identification information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and contact information. It may consist of gathering medical record information, retailer data to reveal customer credit card information, and accessing other financial data.
Another type of threat can often plague businesses. Cyber threats are prevalent in terms of corporate- and business-level risks. Individuals or groups may try to access company data, including company secrets and files, and customer data. In other cases, corporate espionage has been linked to cyberattacks. Still, other risks include holding access to data and computer networks at bay in demand for payment. This is called ransomware and occurs within organizations around the world.
Those who hold cybersecurity certifications or a cybersecurity degree will work hand-in-hand with organizations to comprehensively prevent, monitor for, and then handle these types of threats in real-time. Doing so protects data but also protects company profits and national security.
It is possible to break down cyber threats into one of three areas:
Cyber Crime: This threat generally includes just a single person or a group. They are targeting systems often for the simple benefit of financial gain. Sometimes, they do this to cause disruption. These actions are still very damaging, especially when they put people or organizations at risk for significant loss.
Cyberattacks: A cyber attack is a larger-scale effort. It tends to be related to politically motivated reasons in some way, including simply problems with an organization or an organization’s policies.
Cyberterror: This type of act is much larger in terms of the ultimate goal. That goal is generally to use electronic systems to create fear or to induce panic.
The Importance of Education for Companies to Prevent Cybersecurity Issues
As noted, both cybersecurity degrees and cybersecurity certifications are two ways individuals can gather the skills and knowledge to provide high-level protection for organizations to reduce risks to individuals, companies, groups, and government offices. Because a cyberattack or threat can happen to anyone and any organization, it is an ongoing threat that must be mitigated on a consistent level.
Companies must invest in cybersecurity protections. Often, they do this by hiring professionals to work within their computer and technology areas whose job is to provide this type of protection. Other times, large organizations and companies will have a staff of professionals to provide these services.
Cybersecurity management is critical for many reasons. Organizations such as the National Cyber Security Alliance recommends that all corporations take a top-down approach to cybersecurity threats and crime. This indicates that companies must start with the education of risks and benefits of cybersecurity mitigation at the top – with management, and then educate mid-managers and other employees about the risks.
Prioritizing the education of best practices is critical to minimizing threats to the company’s operations, reputation management problems, liability risks, and to keep data and corporate insight protected from theft. If a cyber incident did occur, companies would be forced to spend a significant amount of money recouping from it, even with cybersecurity insurance in place. Restoring normal operations and ensuring that all data and networks are now protected takes time and money. Organizations could be forced to limit business operations until such improvements can be made.
As often noted, prevention is easier and more effective and dealing with a negative outcome. That is why an investment in cybersecurity professionals and paying even a high salary for cybersecurity skilled workers is well worth the investment even for mid-sized companies.
To determine the risks of a company, an information technology security or cybersecurity assessment should be conducted. This can pinpoint areas of concern, including what data requires protection, the best route to doing so, and what types of ongoing steps are necessary to maintain protection.
What are the Different Types of Cybersecurity Threats
Recognizing the range of cyber threats is critical to preventing threats from occurring. The question many people have is, how do cyber criminals gain access to computer systems to create these threats? More so, how can they take advantage of data to create outcomes that benefit them? There are numerous types of threats that can occur.
Phishing is one example of a cyber threat that happens to individuals and organizations. In this case, criminals target specific people to make victims. They use things like emails that seem to be from authentic organizations such as government offices or trusted companies. Sometimes they involve financial institutions.
Phishing attacks aim to gather sensitive information by tricking people into thinking they are talking to their bank, the IRS, or another trusted entity. They often lead to people sending money to thieves or handing over data or credit card information that can be used by these criminals in some way.
Ransomware is a type of threat often targeting corporations or government offices. The goal here is to gain access to computer systems and data to lock it down. In doing so, the criminal has managed to lock those who should have access to the system’s data. This is a type of malware attack that makes it impossible to access files or data. It may change passwords or otherwise remove the data so that it is no longer accessible.
Often, the goal is to demand a ransom to get this information back. Individuals may threaten to erase the data if the organization does not pay the demanded ransom.
The term malware represents several different efforts. The term itself means malicious software. It is the most common type of cybersecurity threat. In some way, a cybercriminal will create software that disrupts or damages the network or access to it. They then spread this malware around in a variety of ways, often through unsolicited email attachments. They may also do this by creating a download that looks very normal and legitimate. When downloaded, the malware is then used to take some action against the user.
There are various types of malware. This includes viruses, which self-replicate and spread throughout a computer system, and trojans, which are software programs disguised as legitimate software often used to collect data. Ransomware, spyware, adware, and botnets are all examples of malware.
Social engineering is a method known as human hacking. In short, scams are used to gain access to private information or valuables. Generally, it involves luring people into exposing their data. It is also a type of malware because it often includes some type of damaging software used to provide access to restricted areas. Social engineering can happen offline, but it is most likely to occur online. It is built on the use of scams.
Cybersecurity Best Practices
Many best practices exist for minimizing cybersecurity risks. Risk management has to be a customized, focused effort to address all of the organization’s needs in the proper format. Cybersecurity management must create a plan to do this. It may include various best practices for security programs.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST has a cybersecurity framework that works as a baseline for minimizing risks. It is designed to combat the use of malicious code by sharing that data with organizations. This is meant to stop the proliferation of such threats. The benefit here is that it may offer early detection for organizations that are trying to minimize risk. This cybersecurity framework recommends real-time monitoring continuously of all types of electronic resources and data points.
ICA or integrity, confidentiality, and availability are crucial areas of focus for cybersecurity best practices. It is a well-established model used for the development of security policies within an organization. As noted, this policy, which can also be called CIA or confidentiality, integrity, and availability, focuses on key concepts.
Confidentiality focuses on ensuring sensitive information is accessible only to those who are explicitly authorized to gain access. It is also kept away from those who are not permitted. This includes things like access control lists, encryption, passwords, and usernames.
Integrity focuses on ensuring information is in a format that is correct and accurate to its original goal. In this principle, the concept is to ensure that the person receiving the data has access to the data in the way the creator of it meant for them to and that the data cannot be edited by anyone not authorized to do so. Data encryption and hashing are two methods of this area.
The final component is availability. This ensures that the data and the resources are available to those who need them. Various tools are used to do this, such as software patching, network optimization, and hardware maintenance. RAID, redundancy, and other processes are used to ensure this is done correctly.
Elements of Cybersecurity Solutions
Cybersecurity solutions are an extensive, all-encompassing effort. They must be a systemic approach to protection. The following areas may be a part of that.
Network security: Network security focuses on the reliability and usability of data and networks. To determine risks, a network penetration test is done. This pinpoints areas of concern within the system. This area also deals with matters such as device, hosts, server, and network services risks.
Application security: In this area, the goal is to consider application risks. Organizations must focus on web application security to protect their interests and assets as well as their customers. The goal is to pinpoint areas of weakness that allow a cyber thief to access them.
Endpoint security: This term describes securing the endpoints or, sometimes called entry points, of devices such as laptops, desktops, and mobile devices from being at risk for malicious attacks.
Data security: Data security is the focus of protecting data from access that is unwarranted or malicious. This also includes preventing data corruption as the data moves through various life cycles. This is done in numerous ways, including tokenization, key management practices, data encryption, and hashing.
Identity management: Identity management is the process of protecting the identity and access to data by individuals. This allows only the right people to have access to data and ensures that there is a way to determine who accessed the information after a breach occurs. Passwords and usernames can be used, for example, to track down this insight.
Database and infrastructure security: This is the process of using controls, tools, and measurements to both establish and then preserve confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Cloud security: The cloud is a term used to represent a grouping of information accessible to only certain people but from any location. Cloud security, or cloud computing security, is a set of policies and procedures to protect the assets in the cloud from others accessing it.
Mobile security: This is security that is designed to manage mobile devices. It includes things like laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices. The goal is to minimize the risk of these portals becoming accessible to cybercriminals.
Disaster recovery/business continuity planning: There are instances when all cybersecurity efforts may fail, and risks come to light. Business continuity planning is preparing for this to occur and how the cyber threat will be dealt with and overcome. Organizations should identify threats, create plans for managing them, and then handle the necessary steps to analyze how operations are impacted when such losses occur. Disaster recovery is the process of going back to fix problems and shore up security after such an event happens.
End-user education: It is very common for errors to lead to data breaches. This falls on human error, and it is never possible to eliminate these risks. However, cybersecurity can play a role in minimizing these risks. Educating all users of risks, methods, and cyber threats can reduce the risk of downloading malicious malware or falling for phishing scams. End-user education is an essential investment for companies to make to ensure network security.
Data loss prevention: Also known as DLP, this is a set of tools and processes used to minimize access to, loss of, or misuse of sensitive data. It is a method of putting protections in place to limit who can access this info. There are also areas of data compliance in this component. Auditing requirements are common. It is also more enhanced beyond general data protection regulation. It may include forensics and incident response after some type of threat has occurred to determine how and why it happened.
Intrusion detection systems: Intrusion detection systems make up software and devices used for malware detection or any type of malicious activity. It also looks for specific policy violations. For example, it may monitor specific files or systems that, when accessed, a warning is created. This tool also is designed to monitor the traffic coming into the system. This works as a type of continuous monitoring method.
Risks of Having Poor Cybersecurity
Poor cybersecurity leads to countless risks for organizations. Because cybercriminals have ways to gather insight into organization networks with security risks or vulnerabilities, they can often collect data that should be inaccessible. If there is no cybersecurity in place, there is a high risk that something can happen.
Cybersecurity compromises can lead to reputation damage and a loss of customers who no longer trust the organization. This is often the case when sensitive customer data is exposed, which can create identity theft risks to customers or employees. It can compromise inventory management. It also is a costly problem, costing organizations millions of dollars to repair and overcome. In some cases, insurance products are available to provide some financial relief. Data losses like this can lead to companies shuttering their doors because they cannot overcome those losses.
More so, it puts companies at risk of losing sensitive data that is key to their operations. It may even lead to companies being unable to operate for some time, losing revenue.
Because there are so many risks to having poor cybersecurity, most organizations need to have best practices to minimize such outcomes. This is generally includes education, professionals who can mitigate risk, advanced security and technology, and ongoing, continuous malware monitoring for risks. A combined effort in all of these areas can prove to be critical to protecting organizations from loss.
Different Types of Attacks
Numerous types of attacks can impact organizations and individuals. What’s more, these are often changing and growing. Organizations must implement continuous monitoring of the industry to learn about new risks, so solutions and mitigation can be put into place.
Hacking is a term often used in the cybersecurity world. The word itself is not negative. White hat hacking or ethical hacking are effective ways that help organizations to combat the risk of cyber attacks. They can help companies to find vulnerabilities. This leads to methods for protecting organizations. It can work to minimize advanced persistent threats that continue to impact an organization.
Black hat hacking is the opposite. It is a term used to describe instances in which a person looks for vulnerabilities in a system to access the network or specific data. This can be considered a privacy invasion. Other times, it results in companies losing corporate data.
Cross-site scripting or XSS is a type of injection breach. In this situation, a cyber criminal will send a malicious script from what seems to be an average or safe website. It occurs when the criminal can attach its code to web applications. The code is often bundled with dynamic content. The code is then sent to the victim’s browser, where it can then be used in various ways. These tend to be executable scripts, including HTML, Java, or Flash, which can lead to devastating results.
DNS spoofing and DNS cache poisoning are also cybersecurity threats. It is a type of hacking in which the Domain Name System data is corrupted. In short, it works to redirect traffic to a different site. People may believe they are still on the website they tried to access and input passwords, usernames, or other sensitive data into these sites. This allows the cybercriminal to gain access to data that is protected. This is often done by replacing IP addresses stored with a DNS server that the cybercriminal controls.
Secure Socket Layer
A security socket layer, or SSL, is a type of security technology. It helps create a secure way to link between a server and a client using an encrypted link. It can be used for both good and bad reasons. It is designed to help improve security when sharing this type of sensitive data.