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What is Cybersecurity?

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Cybersecurity is the way in which systems, networks, and programs utilize technologies, processes, and practices to protect against digital attacks. Cyberattacks often target sensitive information and data, and by gaining access to this data, cyber criminals extort money from users and companies, interrupt normal processes, and take down entire sites.

Effective cybersecurity is a crucial component to any business, and even more is at stake for small- and medium-sized organizations, as they often lack the resources to recover from such attacks. In our modern data-driven world, protecting against cyber-attacks is becoming increasingly challenging due to the growing amount of data and devices available.

Why is Cybersecurity Important?

Cybersecurity is one of the most important aspects of any business today. This is because governments, financial corporations, medical companies, and virtually every other entity collects and stores massive amounts of data on computers and devices. Much of this data contains sensitive information about these companies or the public, such as intellectual property, financial data, personal details, and much more. This data is also often transferred across networks and through devices, meaning there are many opportunities for it to be compromised.

The world has witnessed many large-scale cyber-attacks, which have led to a constant increase in public mistrust for the handling of their data. These types of attacks also severely damage the companies’ reputations.

Here is a look at some of the biggest cyber-attacks in recent history:

  • Adobe: In October 2013, hackers hit Adobe and the original reporting said around 3 million encrypted customer credit card records and login data for other users was stolen. However, that estimate kept increasing with the impact reaching 153 million user records. The company settled for $1.1 million in legal fees and an undisclosed amount to users.
  • Equifax: In July 2017, Equifax suffered a major data breach that exposed around 147.9 million consumers. Information like Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and drivers’ license numbers were compromised, and as one of the largest credit bureaus in the US, the company faced severe scrutiny for security and response lapses.
  • Sina Weibo: In one of the more recent examples, China’s Sina Weibo, which is the nation’s alternative to Twitter, suffered a breach in March 2020. Around 172 million users’ real names, site usernames, gender, location, and phone numbers had been put up for sale on dark web markets.

An Effective Cybersecurity Strategy 

There are a few crucial components to an effective cybersecurity strategy that will allow any organization to protect all of its processes. It is especially vital for companies to keep up with the constantly evolving digital environments and the security risks within it, as new tools are being developed at a rapid pace, both for companies and cybercriminals.

Before this current environment, companies often focused on their most crucial systems, but now they must take a more proactive approach that involves continuous monitoring and upscaling.

Here is a look at some of the fundamental components of an effective cybersecurity strategy and what each one involves:

  • Network security: Protecting the network against attacks, breaches, and unwanted users.
  • Application security: Ensuring that all apps are up-to-date and tested to protect against security attacks.
  • Endpoint security: Protecting remote access to an organization’s network.
  • Data security: A separate layer for protecting company and customer data inside networks and applications.
  • Database and infrastructure security: Protecting databases and physical equipment.
  • Cloud security: One of the more challenging aspects of cybersecurity that involves protecting data in the fully digital environment.
  • Identity management: Controlling which individuals have access to an organization.
  • Mobile security: With the increase in mobile devices, security of cell phones, tablets, and other devices are an increased security challenge.
  • Recovery:Following a breach, natural disaster, or other data event, it is crucial for an organization to have a recovery plan.

Types of Cybersecurity Threats

There are a few main types of cybersecurity threats any individual and organization should be aware of:

  • Phishing: Phishing attacks involve fraudulent emails that look as if they come from reputable sources. The most common type of cyber-attack, phishing can steal sensitive information like credit card numbers and login credentials. Solutions include awareness training or a technology that filters these emails.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malicious software that aims to extort money by restricting access to files or the computer system until its paid. However, payment does not mean the system will be restored, or files will be recovered.
  • Malware: Malware is a type of software that aims to gain access to a computer and cause damage.
  • Social engineering: Social engineering is a tactic that aims to reveal sensitive information by soliciting monetary payments or gaining access to confidential data. Social engineering is often combined with other threats to increase effectiveness.

Cyber security is one of the most vital aspects of any business in today’s age, and it should be implemented top-down, with corporate management leading the way. There must be continuous adaptation as this area is constantly changing and becoming an increasing threat. Perhaps just as important as the actual cybersecurity technology are the employees, which through education, awareness, and a security-focused approach are the best defense against any attack. For small- to medium-sized companies, it is important to begin with the most critical business processes and scale up from there.

Alex McFarland is a historian and journalist covering the newest developments in artificial intelligence.