Cyber security is the practise of defending against malicious attacks or unauthorized access to computers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks, and data. Cyber security can also be referred to as security for information technology.
Importance of Cyber security
Cyber security is critical since vast quantities of data on computers and other devices are collected, processed, and stored by government, military, corporate, financial, and medical organizations. This data is rising day by day and there is an unprecedented amount of data storage.
Sensitive information, including intellectual property, financial data, personal information or other forms of data for which unauthorized access or disclosure may have detrimental implications, can make up a large portion of that data. In the course of doing business, companies transfer confidential data through networks and other devices, and cyber security determines the discipline dedicated to protecting that information and the systems used to process or store it. As the volume and sophistication of cyber attacks increases, businesses and organizations need to take measures to protect their confidential business and personal information, especially those entrusted with safeguarding information related to national security, health, or financial records. The nation’s top intelligence officials warned as early as March 2013 that cyber threats and digital surveillance were the greatest threat to national security, eclipsing even terrorism.
Why is cybercrime increasing
The most costly and fastest rising cybercrime category is identity theft. Largely driven by the growing exposure via cloud services of identity information to the web. It is not the only goal, however. It is possible to interrupt or destroy industrial controls that regulate power grids and other infrastructure. And identity theft is not the only objective, cyber attacks can be aimed at undermining the integrity of information (destroying or altering data) to create mistrust in an agency or government.
Cybercriminals are becoming more advanced, changing what they are targeting, how they effect organisations and their attack tactics for various security systems.
The simplest method of cyber attack remains social engineering, with the easiest form of entry being malware, phishing, and spyware. Another popular attack vector is third-party and fourth-party vendors that process your information and have bad cybersecurity practises, making vendor risk management and third-party risk management all the more essential.
Financial information such as credit card numbers or bank account details, confidential health information (PHI), personally identifiable information (PII), trade secrets, intellectual property and other industrial espionage targets may be involved in data breaches. Unintentional disclosure of information, data leak, cloud leak, information leakage or data spill are other words for data breaches.
What is the impact of cybercrime?
A lack of cybersecurity attention can harm your business in a number of ways, including:
- Economic costs: intellectual property theft, corporate records, trade disruption and the expense of restoring damaged systems
- Reputational costs: loss of consumer confidence, loss to rivals of current and potential consumers and poor media coverage
- Regulatory costs: GDPR and other data breach laws mean that as a result of cyber breaches, the company may suffer from regulatory fines or penalties.
All businesses must ensure that all workers recognize cybersecurity risks and how to mitigate them, regardless of scale. In order to minimize the possibility of data leakage or data breaches, this should include regular training and a framework to work with.
Examples of damages to companies affected by cyber attacks and data breaches
The amount of cyber attacks and data breaches in the recent years is staggering and it’s easy to produce a laundry list of companies who are household names that have been affected.
Yohoo: Yahoo announced that a breach by a group of hackers in August 2013 had compromised 1 billion accounts. Security questions and answers were also compromised in this case, increasing the risk of identity theft. On December 14, 2016, Yahoo first announced the infringement and forced all affected users to change passwords and re-enter any unencrypted security questions and responses to make them encrypted in the future. Yahoo, however, altered the forecast to 3 billion user accounts by October of 2017. An investigation found that the passwords of users in plain text, payment card information and bank data were not stolen. This, however, remains one of the biggest data breaches of this kind.
eBay: eBay was the victim of a leak of encrypted passwords between February and March 2014, forcing all of its 145 million users to reset their passwords. To access this trove of user data, attackers used a limited collection of employee credentials. Encrypted passwords and other personal details, including names, e-mail addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth, were included in the stolen information. In May 2014, after a month-long investigation by eBay, the violation was revealed.
Equifax: Approximately 145,5 million U.S. customers were affected by the Equifax cybercrime identity theft case, along with 400,000-44 million British citizens and 19,000 Canadian residents. The day after the hack, Equifax shares fell 13 percent in early trading and several lawsuits were brought against Equifax as a consequence of the breach. Not to mention the reputational harm incurred by Equifax. Equifax agreed on July 22, 2019, to a settlement with the FTC that included a $300 million fund for victim compensation, $175 million in the deal for states and territories, and $100 million in penalties.
Elements of cyber security
For an effective cyber security, an organization needs to coordinate its efforts throughout its entire information system. Elements of cyber encompass all of the following:
Network security: The process of protecting the network from unwanted users, attacks and intrusions.
Application security: Apps require constant updates and testing to ensure these programs are secure from attacks.
Endpoint security: Remote access is a necessary part of business, but can also be a weak point for data. Endpoint security is the process of protecting remote access to a company’s network.
Data security: Inside of networks and applications is data. Protecting company and customer information is a separate layer of security.
Identity management: Essentially, this is a process of understanding the access every individual has in an organization.
Database and infrastructure security: Everything in a network involves databases and physical equipment. Protecting these devices is equally important.
Cloud security: Many files are in digital environments or “the cloud”. Protecting data in a 100% online environment presents a large amount of challenges.
Mobile security: Cell phones and tablets involve virtually every type of security challenge in and of themselves.
Disaster recovery/business continuity planning: In the event of a breach, natural disaster or other event data must be protected and business must go on. For this, you’ll need a plan.End-user education: Users may be employees accessing the network or customers logging on to a company app. Educating good habits (password changes, 2-factor authentication, etc.) is an important part of cybersecurity.
End-user education: It addresses the most unpredictable cyber-security factor: people. Anyone can accidentally introduce a virus to an otherwise secure system by failing to follow good security practices. Teaching users to delete suspicious email attachments, not plug in unidentified USB drives, and various other important lessons is vital for the security of any organization.
Types of cyber threats
The threats countered by cyber-security are three-fold:
- Cybercrime includes single actors or groups targeting systems for financial gain or to cause disruption.
- Cyber-attack often involves politically motivated information gathering.
- Cyberterrorism is intended to undermine electronic systems to cause panic or fear.
So, how do malicious actors gain control of computer systems? Here are some common methods used to threaten cyber-security:
Malware means malicious software. One of the most common cyber threats, malware is software that a cybercriminal or hacker has created to disrupt or damage a legitimate user’s computer. Often spread via an unsolicited email attachment or legitimate-looking download, malware may be used by cybercriminals to make money or in politically motivated cyber-attacks.
There are a number of different types of malware, including:
- Virus: A self-replicating program that attaches itself to clean file and spreads throughout a computer system, infecting files with malicious code.
- Trojans: A type of malware that is disguised as legitimate software. Cybercriminals trick users into uploading Trojans onto their computer where they cause damage or collect data.
- Spyware: A program that secretly records what a user does, so that cybercriminals can make use of this information. For example, spyware could capture credit card details.
- Ransomware: Malware which locks down a user’s files and data, with the threat of erasing it unless a ransom is paid.
- Adware: Advertising software which can be used to spread malware.
- Botnets: Networks of malware infected computers which cybercriminals use to perform tasks online without the user’s permission.
An SQL (structured language query) injection is a type of cyber-attack used to take control of and steal data from a database. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in data-driven applications to insert malicious code into a databased via a malicious SQL statement. This gives them access to the sensitive information contained in the database.
Phishing is when cybercriminals target victims with emails that appear to be from a legitimate company asking for sensitive information. Phishing attacks are often used to dupe people into handing over credit card data and other personal information.
A man-in-the-middle attack is a type of cyber threat where a cybercriminal intercepts communication between two individuals in order to steal data. For example, on an unsecure WiFi network, an attacker could intercept data being passed from the victim’s device and the network.
A denial-of-service attack is where cybercriminals prevent a computer system from fulfilling legitimate requests by overwhelming the networks and servers with traffic. This renders the system unusable, preventing an organization from carrying out vital functions.
Cyber safety tips – protect yourself against cyberattacks
How can businesses and individuals guard against cyber threats? Here are our top cyber safety tips:
- Update your software and operating system
- Use anti-virus software
- Use strong passwords
- Do not open email attachments from unknown senders
- Do not click on links in emails from unknown senders or unfamiliar websites
- Avoid using unsecure WiFi networks in public places