What is Cybersecurity?
Many people consider cybersecurity to be a subdomain of information security. Cybersecurity in itself is a vast discipline that has been brought to the center stage thanks to our reliance on a safe and secure digital environment.
In this article we will be discussing cybersecurity and what cybersecurity is all about. We will go into detail about the different fields in cybersecurity along with cybersecurity threats and attacks that individuals and companies have to face.
What is Cybersecurity Definition?
Cybersecurity is the discipline of protecting computer systems, networks, devices and data from malicious attacks.
It covers identifying threats, isolating them, countering them with no or minimal data loss, and working towards threat prevention.
What Does Cybersecurity Do?
Cybersecurity helps prevent unauthorized access to data and organizational/personal assets.
The goal of cybersecurity is to ensure that a safe and secure environment is provided to individuals and organizations where they are not at risk from bad actors.
At the individual level, cybersecurity aims to protect the personal assets and information of the individual.
While at the organizational level, cybersecurity aims to protect computer systems, networks, information, trade secrets from unauthorized access and harm.
What are the Benefits of Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity has become a need given our dependencies on technology. If the general public feels unsafe about browsing the internet and having their devices infected or data stolen, then it’ll be a huge problem.Cybersecurity professionals help prevent this. There are several benefits of cybersecurity. Here are some of the most important benefits:
1. Protection from data theft: Data is probably the most precious commodity there is today. From corporate espionage to mass hacking incidents, preventing data theft is essential. Cybersecurity helps put in place the barriers that prevent data from being stolen and put into the wrong hands.
2. Improved privacy: Over the years, privacy has become a major concern for individuals and businesses alike. Ordinary people want privacy as it makes them safer. While businesses want privacy in order to have a competitive advantage over their adversaries. Cybersecurity protects user and organizational privacy by ensuring malicious actors are kept at bay.
3. Reduced hacking incidents: If individual and business systems are better protected, hackers will have a harder time finding an entry point and then executing an attack.
4. Better system performance: Cyber attacks can come in many forms. When systems are better protected from these threats, system performance is improved as it is clean from malicious scripts and software.
Figure 1. What are the benefits of Cybersecurity
What is the Importance of Cybersecurity?
The importance of cybersecurity cannot be understated. Our growing dependence on technology as a society, or rather a species, has prompted us to secure our means of communication, trade, and connection.Cybersecurity helps to deny unauthorized access to data and personal or organizational assets.
Why is cybersecurity or protecting our private data against unauthorized access important?
Well, because information privacy and security are critical to the way we live now. Not only that, but physical or intangible assets are also of great importance to ordinary people and enterprises alike.
There are always going to be people who have bad intentions and those who intend to cause harm. Cybersecurity as a discipline works towards preventing these miscreants from succeeding.
How Cybersecurity Works?
Cybersecurity aims to provide protection by establishing several layers of security in front of any hackers.
To ensure that cybersecurity is impenetrable and any attacks can be thwarted, employees, cybersecurity experts, company assets, processes, and the business as a whole must be on the same page.
Cybersecurity is based on the three core principles. First principle is risk management. Effective risk management is critical if cyber attacks are to be prevented and a comprehensive cybersecurity policy is to be established. Second one is managing the personnel and educating them. Educating organizational personnel is vital as a lot of hackers target unwary individuals. Managing staff and monitoring for any suspicious behavior is also key to cybersecurity success. Last one is the threat prevention and countermeasures. Preventing threats and attacks from happening is ideal. But in the case of an attack underway, cybersecurity experts should be able to use the tools and techniques to counter cyber attacks.
What are the Cybersecurity Fields?
As you can imagine, cybersecurity is a vast and growing field. Cybersecurity professionals have a lot of options to pick their speciality or if they want to become a jack of all trades.
Here are some cybersecurity fields that you should definitely know about:
1. Critical infrastructure security
Critical infrastructure security is an area where the primary focus is to ensure that key information and assets that are of importance at a national level are protected from leaks, breaches, and harms.
CIS is essential as any harm to these systems can have a seriously negative impact on a nation’s capabilities including defence and economic prowess.
2. Application security
Application security is a popular field as there is a growing number of apps that are being published to different play stores every single day.
Application security primarily deals with ensuring that a user’s or the app’s information is not disclosed to any unauthorized parties.
Risk analysis is regularly conducted and for highly used apps, constant monitoring is key to ensuring safety.
3. Network security
Unlike cybersecurity that looks at all vectors of attack, network security is primarily concerned with ensuring the security of computer networks, usually at an organizational level.
Data transferred internally and externally is done via networks. Any attack on these networks can then possibly damage the data being transferred.
Network security is a specialized area where professionals have to monitor the network, implement safeguards, identify potential risks, suggest improvements to management, among other tasks.
4. Information security
Information security is a broader field that covers all things that have to do with cybersecurity and more.
[Information security] (/docs/network-security-tutorials/what-is-infosec) as a discipline revolves around three principles that are as follows:
Data must not be disclosed or leaked to unauthorized entities.
Data must be accurate, and not tampered with in any unauthorized way.
Systems and information needs to be made available to a legitimate user when requested access.
5. End-user education
Humans are often responsible for a lot of vulnerabilities that a cybersecurity analyst or professional has to deal with.
Educating users on how they can secure their personal information and prevent vulnerabilities is a great opportunity for professionals that want to take a less active approach to cybersecurity.
Having a higher degree will be more advantageous if you want to educate end users and for them to take you seriously.
6. Disaster recovery / business continuity planning
Disaster recovery is an essential field in cybersecurity.
What happens when a natural disaster happens or a cyber attack takes place? Businesses need to be ready and have a contingency plan for when that happens.
Cybersecurity experts and business leaders will often come together with a comprehensive disaster recovery program that ensures that data and assets required by the organization are available even during perilous events.
7. Cloud security
Cloud security is a further subset of cybersecurity that deals with the protection and safeguarding of data that is stored on cloud computing platforms and service providers.
Cloud security primarily used firewalls, VPNs, penetration testing, along with other methods to ensure data safety on the cloud.
What is a Cyber Attack?
Cyber attacks are attempts to gain unauthorized access to system, networks and data, and cause harm to the party being attacked.
Generally, cyber attacks are done for financial gain, social or political motivations, notoriety, etc.
Cyber attacks can target devices, computer systems and even the network itself. In a lot of cases, careful usage of these devices is the best way to deny hackers access.
A cyber attack can be done for a number of reasons. Preventing access to data, sabotage, espionage, social engineering, system and network harm are all reasons why a cyber attack may be carried out.
What are Cybersecurity Threats?
Cybersecurity threats are the chances of malicious intention negatively impacting a computer system or network.
There are different kinds of cybersecurity threats that professionals need to be aware of. Not only do cybersecurity experts need to be aware of these threats, they should also be in a position to prevent them and counter them.
Not all cybersecurity threats are of the same priority. Some out rank others and given the circumstances, it might be beneficial to boost a particular defense in response to recent attacks.
Here are some cybersecurity threats that you should be aware of:
Figure 2. Cybersecurity Threats
Malware comes in all shapes and sizes. It is software that is designed with a malicious intent to cause harm to people or organizations.
Some malware like worms can cause your computer system to slow down. They can also impact your OS and cause physical damage to your system.
Having anti-malware software from a reputable vendor is the best way to protect your system and network from malware. Ensuring that your software is up to date is also key to avoiding malware.
2. Phishing / social engineering
Phishing is a fairly common cyber attack that affects people all around the world. This attack takes place by persuading a legitimate user to give their personal information to hackers.
Phishing itself cannot physically harm a computer system, but the consequences of phishing can include harassment, demands of ransom, identity sabotage, etc.
Avoiding opening spammy links, websites, emails and entering personal data is the best way to avoid this attack. When visiting a website, make sure that it is at least HTTPS and not HTTP.
3. Insider threats
These threats are caused by individuals within an organization that have been compromised.
Using physical devices like a USB device is a common way to infect computer systems. Data can also be passed on or leaked in an unauthorized manner by these individuals.
Depending on the kind of malicious software used, these attacks can certainly cause harm to hardware systems and assets.
Educating employees on these risks and raising awareness is one way to prevent these attacks. Better management and ensuring that suspicious activity is monitored and investigated is the best way to protect the organization from this particular threat.
4. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks
Distributed denial of service attacks are carried out to prevent legitimate users from accessing the network or resources present on the network.
DDoS attacks are generally carried out on high traffic websites and cause disruption for ordinary users and the website owners themselves.
While DDoS attacks might not be able to cause physical harm to the computer system or server, they can certainly cause people to lose faith in your business and refrain from interacting with your website or network again.
DDoS attacks are carried out on scale so as to overwhelm server capacity. Therefore change in traffic levels should be carefully observed. Using CDNs (Content Distribution Network) or load balancers is one way to limit access to your information. Having a robust firewall is also a great way to reduce your vulnerability to DDoS attacks.
5. Man-in-the-middle attacks
Man-in-the-middle is a cyber attack that takes place when a hacker intercepts messages between two parties undetected and is able to send unauthorized messages to either party.
Man-in-the-middle attacks in most cases would not harm the computer itself. But they can definitely impact both parties and their expectations of one another. Trust between parties is key in cybersecurity and digital communication.
To prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, the best course of action is to have mutual authentication by both the client and server. Tamper detection and forensic analysis can only be done afterwards and not while an attack might be in progress.
Suspected IPs and networks should be analyzed and blacklisted to prevent these sorts of attacks. Proper authentication should be done to ensure that a hacker is not able to insert themselves between legitimate users.
6. Advanced persistent threats (APTs)
Advanced persistent threats are different from other cyber attacks in the sense that most APTs are carried out or backed by a country or as large of an entity.
APTs are used to gain unauthorized access to systems and networks and while remaining undetected for unextended periods of time.
Since APTs can affect entire industries and leak the competitive advantage of organizations, it is safe to say that its damage is well beyond a computer system or network.
Mitigating APTs is a challenge. There are millions of malware that can access a computer network and cause harm. It is advised that cybersecurity professionals put in safeguards at the network layer and monitor incoming and outbound traffic to avoid and detect APTs.
Human negligence and mistakes are often the cause of APTs.
Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that generally encrypts the data of a user or blocks access to devices. The software is removed by the hacker if a ransom is paid to the hacker, often in the form of crypto currencies.
Since [ransomware] (/docs/network-security-tutorials/what-is-malware#9--ransomware) can affect the system, it is most definitely a cyber attack that you should be concerned about. Losing access to critical data or even an important device can be of great concern to the business as a whole depending on the part targeted.
Avoiding clicking on spammy links or visiting insecure websites is the first thing that you should do to avoid having your system infected with ransomware. Having data stored in a secured manner is another way you can mitigate the impact of a ransomware attack.
While ransom can be paid to recover the data or device, there are recovery tools like Apocalypse or BadBlock that can be used to unencrypt the data on a device.
What is Cybersecurity Analysis?
Cybersecurity analysis is the process of evaluating the current state of an organization’s cybersecurity capabilities.
This analysis has to do with assessing risks, impending threats, company protocols and safety procedures, among other details.
Conducting a cybersecurity analysis and risk assessment periodically is essential if you want to make sure that your organization’s data and assets are secure from a cyber attack.
Being aware of any vulnerabilities within your cybersecurity plan is vital if you want to preemptively address these issues. Taking a more proactive approach rather than a reactive one is important if you want to reduce the likelihood of attacks from happening in the first place.
Here are the steps you should take when conducting a cybersecurity analysis:
Identify your organization’s systems and resources.
Start by taking stock of all devices your organization has. From mobiles, to laptops, desktops, servers, everything.
Understand who uses them and how they connect with each other on the network. Also make note of your network resources.
You will also want to document how data is communicated with a department, between departments and even externally.
Find vulnerabilities and assess risks.
Once you have a list of your organization’s assets, you can then move on to identify their vulnerabilities.
Is every device up to date with the latest software and security patches? Understanding industry security trends and case studies is pivotal to identifying organizational vulnerabilities.
You will also need to take into account that even if you make sure that your system is impenetrable, there is always a chance that human error on part of a regular user will put your company’s security at risk.
Accounting for this early on will give you a better game plan on how to assess risks and vulnerabilities.
Determine the damage in the case of an attack.
As much as cybersecurity professionals will like to keep their organization safe, attacks can still happen at any time.
It is important to understand the damage that a single or multiple cyber attacks can have on your company and it’s business operations.
Prioritizing data and information according to their importance to the staff and the organization is one way to figure out the extent of damage an attack might have.
Develop cybersecurity protocols.
Having strong cybersecurity protocols and procedures is vital to securing your company’s data and assets.
Setting up and configuring firewalls, optimizing networks, using antivirus and anti malware, ensuring that a password policy is in place, multi factor authentication for important business data and systems are all things that you should be doing as a cybersecurity expert.
Assess current effectiveness and improve.
Understanding your current security level is vital to preventing attacks and finding ways to improve your cybersecurity plan and policy.
What is Cybersecurity Software?
Cybersecurity software is a term used to describe any and all software that is used to help defend from cyber attacks.
A variety of tasks are performed by cybersecurity software to help ensure your system, application and data are safe from harm.
Antivirus and anti malware help prevent, identify and eliminate viruses and malware from your system. Most cybersecurity software provides some form of data encryption that helps keeping data safe even if bad actors get a hold of it. Putting up firewalls and providing monitoring capabilities is also something that security tools help do.
Complex cybersecurity software also helps organizations with data recovery and disaster recovery.
There are several tools available that can help you boost your cybersecurity. Here are some popular cybersecurity software that you should check out:
- JumpCloud DaaS.
What is Cybersecurity Architecture?
A robust cybersecurity architecture is essential for organizations as they want to protect themselves and their assets from cyber attacks.
Primarily, cybersecurity architecture only has to do with businesses and larger companies that are in the public eye and at the risk of malicious intent.
Cybersecurity architecture provides the protective infrastructure from internal and external threats. A consolidated cybersecurity architecture helps make cybersecurity management easier, reduces risks, provides improved security, and greater oversight on the company’s security infrastructure.
Environments covered by the cybersecurity architecture include networks, endpoints, cloud, IoT, mobile, to mention a few.
The biggest advantage of having a modern and comprehensive cybersecurity architecture is that a lot of organizational threats can be preempted before any damage is taken by the organization.
Predicting threats, dealing with cybersecurity attacks, better management of security protocols, security automation, becomes possible thanks to the cybersecurity architecture.
How to Become a Cybersecurity Expert?
Becoming a cybersecurity expert can be one of the best decisions you make if you have a genuine interest in this field.
Having a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology or equivalent is a minimum requirement in most cases. Can you become a cybersecurity professional without it? Sure, but you will definitely have a harder time proving your worth and skills.
Once you have completed your degree, you might even consider getting a masters degree specializing in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is definitely one of those fields that values your academic qualifications along with your technical skills.
Certifications play a key role in promotions and job success. Some popular and recognized certifications include CEH, CISSP, Security+, Network+, etc.
Having a professional network is also vital to getting your foot in the door and also helps you grow within the industry.
Cybersecurity is a growing discipline. Aspiring professionals should start by reading everything they can. Understanding what is cybersecurity, it’s benefits and importance are the fundamentals.
Reading about the different areas within cybersecurity will also help you find a subdomain that interests you the most. Being aware of cybersecurity threats and the different shapes they come in is also vital to becoming a well rounded cybersecurity professional.
What is the Salary of a Cybersecurity Specialist?
Cybersecurity specialists can certainly earn a decent living because of the huge demand of experts in the field.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a cybersecurity specialist in the US is just a little under $84,000 per year. This comes to around $53 per hour.
At the lower end, you can expect to make around $48,000 while the higher range is around $147,000.
The pay for cybersecurity professionals depends on their skill sets, years of experience and certifications that they have earned. Particular assignments and prior job roles are also considered by hiring managers.