What is cyber security?
We live in unprecedented times. A significant volume of our confidential data is stored on internet-connected devices such as personal computers, mobile phones, or servers.
Different entities want a peek at this data, whether a curious roommate, marketer, online troll, ex-partner, stalker, hacker, or some type of malicious cybercriminal. Likewise, some entities, such as state-sponsored agents, online extortionists, and others, seek to harm or manipulate electronic systems, networks, and programs.
The practice that secures electronic data or systems is called cyber security. It can vary in sophistication. Installing cutting-edge antivirus software is an example of basic but essential cyber security for individuals.
Modern organizations adopt a multi-layered approach that involves different technologies, controls, and processes to mitigate the risk of cyberattacks. Read this in-depth guide to learn more about:
- What is cyber security? Cyber security definition
- Cyber security tools and technologies
- Cyber security best practices
- The future of cyber security
Definition of cyber security: cyber security is the process of leveraging technologies and practices to defend electronic data, systems, networks, and programs from unauthorized or criminal use. Typical goals of cyber security are data protection, digital privacy, and disaster mitigation.
Good cyber security practices shield people and organizations from cybercrimes like fraud, blackmail, identity theft, and cyberterrorism.
Entities that benefit from cyber security include:
- Small to medium-sized businesses
- Large organizations
The most effective cyber security practices take a holistic approach to the process because cyberthreats are increasingly complex and the attack surface is broader than ever before. Threat actors can use malware, exploits, social engineering, Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks, DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, brute force attacks, insider threats, and much more to commit cybercrimes.
Moreover, they can target endpoints, cloud data, applications, networks, and infrastructures. In other words, they can use various sophisticated tools to attack individuals or organizations on different fronts.
Empowering end-users with education is a critical aspect of a sound cyber security strategy. Awareness amongst users can stop social engineering attacks such as phishing, spear-phishing, baiting, and pretexting.
cyber security also relies on disaster recovery solutions and procedures to respond to undesirable events. Finally, cyber security utilizes a number of tools and technologies to thwart ransomware attacks, phishing attacks, and known and emerging malware infections.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) is a collection of data loss prevention solutions to prevent data loss leakage. DLP solutions include DLP monitoring systems, AI-powered DLP systems, endpoint security, employee training, and much more.
Threat actors are increasingly attacking vulnerable endpoints in organizations, such as laptops, desktops, mobile phones, tablets, virtual machines, and servers. An endpoint protection solution boosts productivity by securing these devices and reducing the risk of downtime. Some endpoint tools offer specialized security. For example, this server antivirus protection shields workstations from evolving threats like malware while simplifying workstation security.
A ransomware attack can have grave consequences, negatively impacting an organization on multiple levels. Some businesses are proactive about their cyber security by investing in Endpoint Detection and Response solutions that are guaranteed to stop ransomware attacks.
A firewall is a basic but important tool that functions as a network barrier, policing traffic based on predetermined rules. Computer users should enable the firewall on their computer operating systems and their routers to stop malicious traffic. Businesses should consider investing in a next-generation firewall (NGFW) that uses advanced technology to stop more complex attacks.
While computer viruses can be destructive, corrupting essential files and folders, they’re more of a legacy threat today. Modern computers and devices should use anti-malware software to stop viruses, worms, Trojans, adware, spyware, ransomware, and other types of malware.
An IDS is a key defense mechanism against trespassers inside your network. While a firewall tries to stop malicious elements from breaching your network, an intrusion detection system monitors your network for malicious activity.
SIEM systems provide real-time analysis of security alerts from your apps and network to help with cyber security. Businesses proactive about their cyber security opt for Managed Detection and Response (MDR) solutions that provide 24x7 monitoring and investigations and threat detection and remediation.
In a nutshell, encryption tools convert your data into code that appears unreadable. Individuals and businesses can take advantage of encryption technology to protect their security and privacy.
Regularly using a top vulnerability scanner is an excellent cyber security practice. With frequent scans, you can find and patch vulnerabilities in your network, servers, and applications that threat actors may utilize to breach your security.
VPNs create a private and secure tunnel across the Internet. They mask the location of a user by assigning a virtual IP address and boost user security by encrypting data.
VPN usage is rising with the increasing popularity of remote working and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Businesses should invest in reputable VPNs, though, and avoid free ones that may pose security risks. Read up on “what is VPN technology” for deeper insights into Virtual Private Networks.
In modern office environments, workloads include physical servers, virtual machines (VMs), containers, and more. A CWPP is a security solution that shields these workloads.
Organizations are rapidly shifting to the cloud to improve security and productivity and reduce costs. Many of them are using cloud service providers. A CASB solution functions as an intermediary between business and their cloud service providers, filling security gaps.
IAM tools help organizations grant permissions to employees based on their roles. IAM improves security and productivity too.
Although cyber security is essential for anyone who values their privacy, some users don’t understand the value of cyber security because they believe they have nothing to hide. However, cyber security protects more than your Internet activity — it shields your usernames, passwords, addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, credit card information, financial data, and other confidential data.
A threat actor can use this electronic data to steal from you, impersonate you, blackmail you, or even attack your friends and family online.
Experts say that it can take anywhere from several months to years to recover from identity theft. With poor cyber security, you may also lose access to your devices, impacting your ability to work, consume entertainment, or communicate. Staying proactive by investing in personal cyber security mechanisms is the most practical way to avoid long-term stress.
Cyber security is essential for businesses because a data breach can be expensive. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach in the United States was over $9M. Globally, it was over $4M. While larger businesses may manage the expense of a data breach, many small to medium-sized companies do not recover.
In addition to the financial cost of a cyber security attack, businesses can lose operational capacity, intellectual property, and reputation. Compliance laws mean that businesses may be open to legal ramifications after a data breach.
Businesses simply can’t afford to ignore cyber security nowadays. Threat actors are using advanced strategies and tools, and there’s far too much at stake.
Any attack that can access, control, or corrupt your data, devices, applications, systems, or networks is a cyber security threat. Bad actors utilize a number of cyber security threats to breach networks. Some of these threats are malicious tools like malware, while others utilize psychology. The most prolific cyber security threats today use both.
A social engineering attack is a type of cyber security attack that exploits human emotions, such as greed, fear, or anxiety, to manipulate a target. For example, a romance scammer targets a computer user’s loneliness to trick them, or a scareware attacker may try to frighten a computer user into making a bad decision.
Ransomware is a type of malware that holds systems for ransom by encrypting data. Extortionists that use ransomware will usually demand a fee, typically in the shape of a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, in exchange for a decryption key. There are many different strains of ransomware in the wild. Some, like DarkSide Ransomware, are tools for targeted attacks, while others, like WannaCry ransomware, spread more randomly.
Bad actors send billions of phishing emails every day, hoping to catch a few users. Phishing emails are fake messages that may look like they’re from a retailer, bank, government organization, friend, or celebrity. Phishing emails may use malicious attachments and links to gain your sensitive information or your money.
Spear-phishing is a more targeted form of phishing designed to attack a single target, a small group of people, or a specific organization. Spear-phishing is more dangerous than regular phishing because it’s customized to trick a user. For example, a spear-phishing email from your vendor that carries all your relevant details and requests a payment will appear more authentic than a random phishing message.
Malware is any malicious software that seeks to harm computers, computer systems, networks, tablets, and mobile devices. Computer viruses are the most basic types of malware, while ransomware is a more sophisticated example of malware.
An SQL injection (SQLI) attack exploits software flaws in web applications so cybercriminals can steal, corrupt, or modify data or gain administrative control over the systems running the affected applications. The attack is commonplace and has hit several prominent organizations, including:
- Sony Pictures
- Epic Games
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is a type of malicious network attack that overwhelms a website with traffic to crash it or slow it down. How do hackers gain the resources for a DDoS attack? Well, attackers typically hijack devices with malware, turning them into bots for a botnet, to devastating effect. For example, the Mirai botnet left much of the East Coast’s Internet inaccessible in the 2016 DDoS attack.
An Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) is a prolonged and targeted attack against a person, organization, or business. The objective of an APT is to gain information or compromise systems.
During a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM), an attacker intercepts and sometimes manipulates traffic between two entities without either party noticing. A MitM attacker may try to gain intelligence, steal data, drop malware, or alter communication between two parties for personal gain. A simple example of a MitM attack is between a WiFi hotspot and an Internet user.
The most obvious advantage of cyber security is protection. Individuals and organizations use cyber security to ensure that their electronic devices are running optimally without disruption from digital attacks. States use cyber security to ensure that their resources, such as electrical grids, nuclear facilities, and more, are protected from threat actors such as cyber terrorists.
cyber security tools like VPNs, anti-spyware software, and privacy browsers can protect your privacy from snoopers. Protecting your privacy is a good idea at a time when dangerous activities like doxxing and swatting are putting lives at risk.
Governments in the United States, Canada, and Europe are rolling out strict guidelines to protect user privacy. Top cyber security solutions can help businesses comply with privacy laws and reduce their risk.
cyber security recovery solutions allow businesses to get back on their feet after an attack as quickly as possible. For example, Malwarebytes Endpoint Detection and Response tools offer Ransomware Rollback so organizations can remediate the damage done to their Windows endpoints by ransomware.
A cyber security breach hurts consumer confidence, and it can also damage the relationships your business has carefully cultivated with its vendors. Investing in cyber security systems allows your business to shut the barn door because the horse has a chance to bolt.
Many students looking at a career path in technology consider computer science and cyber security as career options. While the degree choices appear similar, they’re quite different. Computer science teaches students about computers and programming languages. The study is for people who want to work as data scientists, software or web developers, system analysts, or database administrators.
cyber security is a more specialized field of study than computer science. It is a subfield of computer science that helps you learn how to protect computers and networks from cyber attackers. A student with a cyber security degree can work as a security analyst, auditor, or specialist. They can also work as penetration testers or cryptographers. Working in this field will certainly help you fill the cyber security skills gap in the country.
As mentioned, the cyber security profession is about shielding computers, devices, networks, and electronic data from online attacks. But information security is broader than cyber security. An information security specialist protects systems and creates policies to secure any information, whether digital or physical.
Here are some cyber security practices that individuals, employees, and organizations should utilize:
Don’t rely on your operating system’s baked-in antivirus solutions. Default security software consistently lags behind in security tests. Instead, download proactive cyber security software that uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to stop different types of emerging malware threats.
Update your software regularly to patch vulnerabilities that cybercriminals may exploit to breach your security. Examples of software you should keep updated include operating systems, antivirus, web browsers, and even our router firmware.
The cost of upgrading old hardware can be worthwhile for your security. Old hardware, such as an outdated router, may carry flaws that hackers can use to bypass your network security.
Learn to identify social engineering attacks that compel you into making unsafe decisions. For example, double-check that email from your supervisor that asks you to download a suspicious attachment, as it could be ransomware.
Cyberspace has many hazards that you must train yourself to avoid. Steer clear of unsafe websites, links, attachments, and downloads. If something appears too good to be true, it probably is — or it should be verified before engagement.
A vulnerable network can be an open invitation to a threat actor. Only use secured networks for sensitive work such as online shopping or accessing company databases. Avoid unsecured public WiFi as it can be vulnerable to different types of network attacks. Use a VPN and a firewall to stop malicious traffic, encrypt your data, and mask your location.
Hackers use different types of tools to guess passwords. With the right software, a hacker can crack a simple password in seconds. Protect yourself with long and complex passwords that use a mixture of letters, numbers, and symbols.
In addition to having complex passwords, leverage biometric security, multi-factor authentication, and other advanced login security tools to protect your accounts and your systems.
Your digital footprint is the trail of information you leave on the Internet. A threat actor can use your digital footprint to launch more compelling social engineering attacks, guess your secret questions and passwords, or invade your privacy. Minimize your digital footprint to reduce your attack surface. Please also read about how social media mistakes can impact cyber security today.
Back up your essential data regularly to avoid frustration after a cyber security issue. Your backups may also come in handy after data corruption due to power failure or hardware breakage.
In addition to these practices, businesses should invest in cyber security training for their employees and use more advanced cyber security solutions like endpoint security, corporate VPNs, and advanced firewalls. Security policies like a zero-trust architecture that continuously authenticates, authorizes, and validates may also be feasible for some organizations.
Why cyber security is important in 2023
Cyber security is critical right now because we’re growing increasingly dependent on devices for everyday tasks and data security. At the time of geo-political unrest in parts of the world, securing these devices and networks is more important than ever. Moreover, threat actors are finding ingenious ways to trick us and complex tools to bypass our rudimentary security measures.
A cyber security breach can result in grave consequences for our short-term and long-term quality of life. An online attack can threaten our identity, finances, reputation, legal standing, and even our physical security.
Although the fallout from cybercrime seems astronomical already, some experts say it could be the tip of the iceberg as we embrace the digital world more deeply and the online crime industry grows more sophisticated.
In the future, we expect to see governments and cyber security institutions play a more unified and organized role in protecting user security and privacy. At the very least, there will be more resources for victims of online crimes, just like there are for other types of crises. For instance, you may be able to dial a number for cyber security emergencies one day soon.
Cyber security is the practice of protecting devices, networks, and systems from digital attacks, theft, and damage. It involves the use of technologies, processes, and policies to secure systems, networks, and devices from cyber threats, such as malware, phishing attacks, ransomware, and unauthorized access.
Cyber security is important because it helps to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and systems. It is essential for businesses, organizations, and individuals to implement strong cybersecurity measures to protect against cyber threats and to secure sensitive information.
Ransomware, phishing, malware, hacking, viruses, trojans and other cyber attacks and threat can all be considered common cyber threats.