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What is IT Security? A Guide to IT Security

In cutting-edge technology, IT security has emerged as a matter of great concern. It is about the protection of the binary assets and resources of a person or company. Moreover, when the resources are tied with economic value, it makes perfect sense to detect, prevent, and react against security threats.

As a person, you store, share, and access data in day-to-day activities. For example, you keep your friends' contacts on your smartphone and use them for calling or messaging. In this particular case, the smartphone is the medium of technology, and contact details are the information. Your phone security system permits the authorized person to access the information.

However, companies and organizations are now largely dependent on information technology components. Almost all of them deal with different types of data and multiple layers of information in regular work. IT security protects data and information from being compromised and determines the distribution role for users in a computer system, server, or network.

The word security in the information technology domain is often used to describe the protection of computers, networks, and stored data against viruses, hackers, and other malicious threats. However, the term IT security is a bit broader than that.

When you want to visit a website, your request goes through a complex process and delivers your expected information for valid requests. However, data, information, and even applications are increasingly moving to the cloud for connecting directly to the internet. So, security for cloud computing comes forward as another burning question.

What is IT Security?​

IT security is the practice and activity of protecting computers, servers, networks, and data from unauthorized digital access. It is more about ensuring the use of digital assets for the intended purposes only.

However, IT security deals with different authorization levels, data distribution policies and prevents unauthorized threats. For example- Home IT securities block harmful content with parental control and ensure risk-free uses of your digital devices.

There are many aspects to IT security. Initially, make sure that your computer is protected against viruses. It would help if you also assure that data stored on your computer is kept private and secure. Lastly, confirm that the system you are using is safe enough to deal with threats.

Often individuals’ afford for security may not be sufficient. Especially for businesses, the exposure is far larger than personal. Professionals like IT security, cybersecurity, and network security experts help businesses from cyber attacks. Further, there are plenty of cyber security firms that provide enterprise-grade security for any business. Nevertheless, companies offer IT security jobs. The business that handles large quantities of data daily needs to maintain a system or process that keeps the data safe.

For instance, your company may process, collect and store users' identification credentials, credit card information, bank details for fair use. But all these remain at risk without secure IT interfaces. To protect unauthorized data access, you will need to put your system into a security framework that handles how and to whom the data would be distributed.

Here are three significant characteristics of IT security:

  • Prevention- that prevents your assets or resources from being damaged and compromised by installing security components and utilities.
  • Detection- that detects when, how, and by who an asset has been accessed or stolen.
  • Reactions- that helps to take immediate action to prevent unauthorized data compromisation.

Why is IT Security So Important?​

IT security is essential for reducing the risk of data compromisation and protecting your computer or network from exploitation by outsiders. And generally, it is the combination of network, internet, cloud, application, and end-point security.

Here are five reasons why IT security is so important:

  1. It ensures uninterrupted hardware, software, and network component functionalities.
  2. IT security pays attention to new and upgraded hardware, software, and solutions.
  3. It secures technology interfaces and saves your data from being compromised with untrusted sources.
  4. It allows the application to operate safely in an IT system.
  5. Allows the users to keep their digital data and communication secure.

What Is The Difference Between IT Security and Cyber Security?​

Both IT and cyber security are very fundamental and interchangeable parts of data security. IT Security saves data exploitation from the computer or network server, where cybersecurity helps protecting data compromisation over the internet. Cyber security is often considered a subset of IT Security, though similarities and dissimilarities depend on its definition.

What is Cyber Security?​

The National Institute of Standard and Technology defines cybersecurity as the ability to protect internet data against cyber-attacks. To summarize, cybersecurity is a group behavior, technology, practice, and processes that shield the computer or network from unauthorized access when connected to the internet. It protects against data compromisation over the internet.

A Ponemon Institute LLC report on 2018 State of Cybersecurity in Small & Medium Size Businesses say that most small businesses would devote more cyber security resources. The proportion is 67% who are willing to increase the security of their digital data. As it is a growing concern among the business, IT cyber security salary for professionals increases equal to the demands.

Difference Between IT Security and Cyber Security​

The idea of IT and Cyber Security are almost similar; even then, there are some differences in characteristics and functionalities. However, cybersecurity characteristics are specific where IT security deals with a comprehensive approach to functionalities.

Firstly, IT security works for hardware, software, local and internet networks, but cybersecurity primarily focuses on protecting data available on the internet. Additionally, it stops spreading malicious activity through the internet.

For local networks, IT security enables data protection from unauthorized access by hackers. So, it is more about the place where the data is stored.

In contrast, cybersecurity protects your web data and application. IT security enables protection through software and technologies when the data is in the local network, whether personal or shared. However, cybersecurity is about protecting technologies for handling potential security threats.

Furthermore, IT and cybersecurity are different in their work process. Both seem to be similar but function differently. IT security focuses on confidentiality, integrity, and availability for protecting information. But, Cyber Security is concerned about identifying critical information and potential security threats from hackers.

Additionally, IT Security specialists are responsible for the security and administration of an organization's IT infrastructure. Nonetheless, A cybersecurity specialist has expertise in cybersecurity and helps organizations protect their information technology infrastructure and digital assets from cyberattacks.

Finally, they both have different priority levels. IT security controls software, hardware, and technologies and fixes security errors where cybersecurity monitors the control over data and keeps it secure from threats.

What Is The Difference Between IT Security and Network Security?​

IT Security and Network Security both have a broad scope of work. It's time to break down the main differences between the two to ensure you know what to do if you are ever faced with a security breach. As they are different in terms of work scopes, the role of a network security professional contrasts with an IT Security analyst.

What is Network Security?​

Network security is a set of rules and configurations designed to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of computer networks and data using software and hardware technologies.

Mainly network security has three different control phases, and they are:

  • Physical Network Security protects unauthorized physical access of network components such as a router, physical firewall.
  • Technical Network Security enables data protection that is stored in a network. It controls in and out transmission of data throughout the network.
  • Finally, Administrative Network Security allows defining network access policies, including new user authentication and user role management.

Network security is used to prevent malicious and unauthorized users from accessing your data inside the network. Network security has become challenging as the end-points of business have increased day by day. However, internet security fights against malware and similar security threats from stealing data from your devices. Further, from the business security perspective, the IT security analyst salary is justified not only for small businesses but also for companies and corporate organizations. However, the wages of network security engineers vary from company to company, person to person.

Difference Between IT Security and Network Security​

IT security is considered as the superset of network security. However, there are visible differences between them. Both have different perspectives, characteristics, and functionalities. In a broad aspect, often network and IT security work parallel. However, their workflows distinguish them clearly.

From earlier discussion, IT security aims to prevent, detect and react against threats. On the contrary, the goal of network security is the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data in computer networks.

Moreover, network security jobs deal with firewalls, switches, port functions with a bit more focus on security. Although an IT security consultant takes care of firewalls, ports but more in a service-based like malware analysis, defense mechanism against different reversing techniques.

Additionally, the core responsibility of network security is maintaining LAN, WAN, server architecture, and network monitoring. But an IT security consultant is widely responsible for hardware, software, server security, and data protection.

An IT security consultant takes care of both IT and network security initially. But many companies employ additional network engineers for better network management.

What Kind of Threats Are There for IT Security?​

IT Security threats are relentlessly inventive, and somehow it finds a new way of falling into security dangers. These threats interrupt workflow, steal data, and do harmful activities in the system. In today's computing system, there are several ways that hackers can exploit your information through vulnerabilities. Businesses should have it's own IT security policy to fight against threats.

1. Cybercrime​

Cybercrime is criminal activity such as data theft, fraud, and distribution of child pornography. It is often a planned attack by individuals or groups intended to illegally access, transmit, or manipulate data.

However, cybercriminals mostly target specific devices to damage or disable them. They also spread malware, illegal information, or other malicious material after accessing the computer.

Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reports that cybercrime approximately costs the global economy $600 billion a year. In 2014, it was $445bn.

Whenever someone is accessing your computer or network without your concern bypassing the security layer, the person is committing cybercrime. Preventing threatful cybercrimes, IT security services could ensure your computer and network security.

2. Cyber-attack​

The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines the term cyberattack as 'an attack, via cyberspace, targeting an enterprise's use of cyberspace to disrupt, disable, destroying, or maliciously controlling a computing environment/infrastructure; or destroying the integrity of the data or stealing controlled information.'

Security vulnerabilities are widespread nowadays. A cyber-attack begins when a set of exploitations are exercised to penetrate your computer or server.

Washington, DC-based think tank The Center for Strategic and International Studies publish significant cyberattacks timelines that record remarkable cyber incidents since 2006. In June 2021, Hackers made a ransomware attack targeting iConstituent. Similarly, on May 24, Fujitsu's systems experienced a cyber-attack, and the hackers stole many vital data, including Japanese government confidential entities.

3. Cyberterrorism​

The proposition of terrorism is quite similar in both physical and virtual. Cyberterrorism is terrorist activities using computer networks and communication to damage computer systems and disrupts activities. Often it is politically motivated. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation defines it as a 'premeditated, politically motivated attack against computer systems.'

In common idea, cyberterrorism stands for coordinated cyberattacks to a target by individuals, independent groups, or organizations.

On November 24, 2014, confidential data from Sony Pictures were leaked and released publicly. Employee information, emails, copy of unreleased films, scripts were in the compromised data.

US Securities and Exchange Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar stated in a public statement that 60% of small businesses fall on the cyberattack at the very beginning of their journey. Within the first six months, they suffer from cyberterrorism.

Types of Cyber Attacks​

Keeping the business IT ecosystem risk-free, an IT security audit could help find the possible lackings and be aware before compromising any data. Attackers use various methods to exploit a computer, network, or server. They keep trying different ways to find security holes and vulnerabilities to steal or destroy digital data.

Most Common Cyber Attacks

Figure 1. Most Common Cyber Attacks Here go the three most common types of cyberattacks:

Malware​

Malware is an inclusive category of malicious software that invades, damages, or disables the systems and networks. Some malware can gather information from your computer like keystrokes, steal cookies, and other sensitive information. Different types of malware might have your computer participate in a much larger botnet or hold your system hostile and require you to pay before re-accessing your computer.

Spyware is another type of malware that is very popular among hackers. When your computer is under attack by spyware, the hacker could monitor what you are doing. It can be caused by clicking on any untrusted links or installing any malicious software. Usually, this type of malware runs quietly in the background, watches everything you do, and sends information to the hackers' database.

Lastly, a worm/virus is another type of malware that replicates itself from system to system. It doesn't require installing any individual program. No command is necessary to activate the worm. Instead, the virus is programmed for self-driven operation. When you spot any worm in your system attempting to neutralize it, it quickly replicates and spreads into other parts. As the threat increases simultaneously, this could be a significant security concern.

Phishing​

Phishing is an increasingly sophisticated method of stealing personal information using deceptive emails and websites. Perhaps, it is the most common form of cyberattack. The attackers trapped the email recipients into believing the message is something they want or need. When the victim shares sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, assuming a trusted source, s/he sends the information to the attackers' database.

One of the most consequential phishing attacks in history happened in March 2016. Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta receives a phishing email that says to reset Gmail password for security reasons in the US presidential election. He forwards the email to another staff member for verification. That staff identifies the email as a phishing attempt. But he mistypes- 'This is a legitimate email.' instead of writing 'This is an illegitimate email.' Podesta follows the instruction and allows the hackers to access his emails.

In April 2020, the American daily The Boston Globe reported that 'As cyber-attacks grow, doctors and hospitals struggle to update security measures.' However, updating healthcare IT security is the only solution against cyber attacks.

DDoS Attacks​

The Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) is a cyberattack on a specific computer network or server. A DDoS attack does this by overflowing the target with a constant flood of traffic. It overwhelms the system causing a disruption or denial of service. When the intended disruption continues, that network or server goes down and stops functioning.

The inclusion of Botnets in DDoS attacks has added a new dimension to hackers. It allows a vast network of computers to send fragile requests to the targeted server. The spell of attack lasts longer than before and keeps the target server down for a long time. Attackers compile previously compromised computers, servers, physical IT infrastructures like a router, modem in a central server, and command to act together against the specific host. The attacking process seems sophisticated, but a responsible IT security manager knows how to deal with such cyber attacks.

In February 2020, Amazon Web Services (AWS) claimed that they defended against a 2.3 -terabit-per-second (Tbps) DDoS attack. And the Largest packet rate (Mpps) was 293.1 in the first quarter of the 2020 fiscal year. Perhaps, it is the most significant DDoS attack in history.

How Can Companies Increase Their IT Security?​

Companies need to prioritize their security strategy against cybercriminals to get secure business data and communication. Increasing IT security has no last word even the most secure company could experience cyber attacks. It is like a cat and mouse game. But, a highly secure IT interface could stop most of the attacks.

How can companies can increase their IT security Figure 2. How can companies can increase their IT security

Here go six steps to increase companies IT security:

Step 1: Educate the Employees​

Starting with education is always a best practice for solving new issues. Especially when it is to keep yourself and the company secure from cyberattacks, educating the employees is fundamental. IT security training teaches employees cybersecurity essentials and makes them aware of common mistakes.

Educate your team about common ways cybercriminals can identify your system, such as:

  • Phishing emails
  • Weak Passwords
  • Fake wifi connections
  • Shoulder Surfing

Companies that have IT security managers can help other employees by educating the cybersecurity basics. Or, many other companies provide IT security training for businesses.

For example, healthcare businesses will educate their employees about health IT security where the tools and systems are different from other industries like automobile and consumer electronics companies.

Step 2: Install Antivirus Software​

A device without antivirus software is vulnerable to cyber attacks that can cost your business thousands of dollars and critical proprietary company data. CNBC reported in October 2019 that, Cyberattacks now cost companies $200,000 on average, putting many out of business.

It is essential to protect your device and network by installing a form of antiviruses like Kaspersky, Avast, or McAfee, to the devices using remotely or within the office. The program that automatically detects potential threats and gets rid of them is invaluable to keep the company productive.

IT security engineers suggest installing and updating the antivirus software immediately when new updates are available. Many companies use antivirus solutions but don't update them regularly. So, their system remains blank about the latest vulnerabilities. They can't detect more unknown viruses or malware as they don't have the updated information. Always keep the antivirus software up to date.

Step 3: Create Advanced Passwords​

Hackers and online threats grow stronger every day. It's better to stay ahead of their tactics, and one of the most efficient ways to stop attackers is by having advanced passwords. Attackers use the brute-force method to crack network, system, or server passwords. Advanced passwords are hard to break and comparatively secure than easy passwords.

Advanced Passwords tips:

  • Choose a combination of lowercase, uppercase, punctuation, number, and special characters.
  • Avoid keeping a physical or digital record of any online passwords.
  • Avoid using nicknames, birthdays, or pet names.
  • Don't use the same password for all or many purposes.

Step 4: Start Using a Firewall​

Whether remote working is a new reality, or if your business is slowly transiting back into the physical office, it is highly recommended to use a firewall. It provides high-performance intrusion prevention, malware blocking, content or URL filtering, and application control.

Firewalls also provide secure mobility so that employees can access files safely from anywhere, right from their devices.

There are different firewalls according to their uses and functionalities, such as business firewall, home firewall, router firewall, etc. For companies, the business firewall is designed to work for multiple purposes.

Businesses like health care have IT security compliance requirements to ensure their communications are secure and managed properly. They need to take extra care to verify they have got the right tools and firewalls at the office. The use of an IT security solution could save your business from unexpected data compromisation. Generally, IT security firms research, design, and develop such products for different companies.

Step 5: Backup the Data​

From cyberattacks to simple human mistakes, there are many ways your data could be compromised. Backing up your files and data gives you additional security in the chance that your files cannot be accessed.

Utilizing a hybrid-cloud solution for your company, with both cloud applications and servers, will allow you to reliably store company's online assets in a safe place, away from hackers. You can follow the 3-2-1 data backup principle for your company.

  • Keep a minimum of three copies of your company data.
  • Store the data in at least two different formats like disk, cloud, etc.
  • Keep one copy in an offsite location to remain safe from fire or any physical disaster.

Step 6: Set up a Virtual Private Network​

If your business is set up with a team to work remotely or a remote/in-office hybrid structure, having a Virtual Private Network is vital to keep your communication secure while individual employees access company files, email, and other programs.

A Virtual Private Network will encrypt your webs surfing, letting you work remotely without the threat of evil online forces. It's a very critical piece of a tool supported by the firewalls in many cases.

When employees work outside the office, they should use a business VPN connected to their office network through a firewall.

To conclude, now the question of what IT security hopefully has some better understanding. As technologies are updating, attackers are constantly trying new methods to find vulnerabilities to launch new expeditions. Ensuring high security is a must, whether you hire an IT security engineer or use an IT security solution covering your business.