What is Cybersecurity?
Throughout the world, organizations heavily rely on digital technologies, such as computers, networks, and other hardware solutions to store, share, collect, and process data as part of conducting normal business operations.
Much of the data may contain sensitive information, such as personal data, financial records, intellectual property, medical records, or other items which are critical to safeguard against unauthorized access. Cybersecurity encompasses technology, processes, and practices that are designed to keep both physical hardware, such as computer systems or networks, and the data they contain safe from cyberattacks.
Ensuring confidentiality and data integrity are central to cybersecurity efforts which usually take a multi-prong approach that includes hardware solutions, such as firewalls, software solutions, such as antivirus protection, and encouraging behavioural changes to increase cybersecurity awareness through employee training.
Hackers or other malicious actors are constantly on the lookout for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in cybersecurity. From outdated software to obsolete hardware to minimally protected IoT devices, most organizations and individuals have left themselves exposed to serious risk of theft or data loss without even realizing it.
A comprehensive security strategy at all IT levels coupled with personnel training and a thorough review of all business processes can effectively minimize exposure to cyberattacks.
Why is Cybersecurity Critically Important?
Cybercrime is the world's most expensive type of crime, costing the world $6 trillion USD in damages in 2021 and expected to reach a cost of $10.5 trillion USD by 2025. Although cybercrime can include direct monetary theft or embezzlement, it can also include less-tangible damages such as lost productivity, disruption to operations, and harm to a company's reputation.
Although an organization may think that a multi-million-dollar theft is a remote possibility, hackers and malicious actors are counting on the fact that cybersecurity efforts can be complicated, time consuming, or laborious. What's more, many small to medium sized organizations may not have access to resources to properly protect themselves, even though they are likely targets of cybersecurity crime.
Top Cybersecurity Concerns
Cybersecurity is a far-reaching topic and can be broken down into smaller areas of focus. Businesses looking to improve their cybersecurity may wish to focus their attention on these frequently-exploited vulnerabilities.
Internet of Things (IoT) Security
Devices which are part of the Internet of Things (IoT) can be found in homes, factories, transportation systems, cities, and businesses and may include things like sensors, smart devices, automated assistants, security cameras, appliances, or other electronics. By connecting these devices to each other and the internet, the data each one collects can be easily shared. Unfortunately, security vulnerabilities can make IoT devices a tempting entry point for criminals looking to gain access to a broader network. Weak IoT security is a prominent reason why these devices are prohibited by certain organizations or in critical environments.
Nearly all organizations utilize a local area network (LAN) comprised of servers, computers, routers, printers, or other network-connected devices. Network security involves protecting this important infrastructure from unlawful or inappropriate access to maintain data integrity.
Cloud storage is a convenient way to have anywhere access to important information or applications. However, without proper security, data stored on the cloud can be vulnerable to unauthorized access, compromising sensitive documents or intellectual property. Maintaining proper credentials, updating user roles, properly classifying data, and other tasks are all part of cloud security.
Many software applications have their own security rules to help protect user data from being stolen directly from the application. A critical step in application development, application security is essential to protecting user data throughout the lifecycle of the application and continuous product updates can be important to ongoing security.
Critical infrastructure, such those maintained by municipalities related to public health or services, are fundamental to a functioning society and its wellbeing. Disruption or loss of critical infrastructure can have a paralyzing impact on safety as well as the economy and it is essential to deploy the most stringent security measures.
Beyond protecting hardware and software, an often-overlooked component to cybersecurity is the human aspect. Behind each workstation or computer program is an individual responsible for making ongoing cybersecurity-related decisions. By increasing a person's cybersecurity awareness and technical knowledge, they are better able to identify potential threats, such as malicious attachments or phishing emails, and effectively protect themselves and company assets from cyberthreats.
Common Cybersecurity Threats
Cybersecurity threats can take many forms and malicious actors may use a variety of tactics to gain access to sensitive information. Some of the most common cyberthreats include:
By manipulating people and exploiting human errors, social engineering is a way that cybercriminals can trick people into giving up valuable information or money without the need for brute force. Often, attackers will infiltrate a company, pretend to be a trusted associate, and establish a relationship with an employee. Once trust is established, they will manipulate that person into giving up valuable information or even transferring funds. By the time the attack is discovered, it is often too late to correct the damage.
Short for “malicious software,” malware is engineered by cybercriminals to harm computers or computer systems and includes computer viruses, spyware, adware, worms, and ransomware. These unwelcome programs steal data, lockout users, cause system malfunctions, and cripple hardware. Cybercriminals can use malware to gain access to sensitive data, record keystrokes, and slow systems.
A type of malware, ransomware is designed to target sensitive information on a computer and encrypt it, effectively holding a user’s data hostage until a financial payment can be made. With the promise of unlocking the data after the payment, cybercriminals can profit from these scams by threatening to delete or publicly release private information.
Usually deployed on a broad scale with the goal of stealing personal information or passwords, a phishing attack relies on sending a fraudulent message, such as an email, which is designed to look like a reputable communication. A phishing email may appear to be from a well-known company or brand and will ask a user to confirm personal information or reset a password. Links in phishing emails often lead to websites that install malware or collect financial information.
Like phishing, spear phishing is also designed to steal personal data but is carefully crafted to target a single individual rather than a random list of email addresses. In essence, phishing casts a broad net in hopes of getting a few clicks out of thousands of attempts whereas spear phishing may use information found on social media or other public forums to target a single person. By collecting data on employment, hometown, school history, or other public information, cybercriminals can craft an email that appears legitimate but contains malicious links.
While most companies focus their attention on malicious individuals outside their organization, another serious threat to consider is that posed by those with legitimate access to company assets or systems. An insider is an employee or contractor who has been grated authorization and uses their position within an organization to harm systems, steal information, compromise networks, or destroy data. Detecting insider threats can be particularly difficult and often relies on careful observation of usage patterns or user behaviour.
The Future of Cybersecurity
Although the challenge to keep up with increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats is formidable, the tools to fight these cyberattacks are improving every year. From machine learning to artificial intelligence, companies will need to rely on smart technology to identify threats quickly and protect their most valued assets. As businesses in every sector continue to ramp up their security measures, cybersecurity jobs will be on pace to be one of the most in-demand career paths in the world.