What Is Cybersecurity? Why Is It Important?
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting networks, systems, hardware and data from digital attacks. Our guide will bring you up-to-speed on the field of cybersecurity, including types of cyber attacks and it's growing global importance in a digital world.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the practice of securing networks, systems and any other digital infrastructure from malicious attacks. With cybercrime damages projected to exceed a staggering $6 trillion by 2021, it’s no wonder banks, tech companies, hospitals, government agencies and just about every other sector are investing in cybersecurity infrastructure to protect their business practices and the millions of customers that trust them with their data.
What’s the best cybersecurity strategy? A strong security infrastructure includes multiple layers of protection dispersed throughout a company’s computers, programs and networks. With cyber attacks occurring every 14 seconds, firewalls, antivirus software, anti-spyware software and password management tools must all work in harmony to outwit surprisingly creative cybercriminals. With so much at stake, it’s not hyperbolic to think that cybersecurity tools and experts act as the last line of defense between our most vital information and digital chaos.
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Types of Cyber Attacks
Cyber attacks come in all shapes and sizes. Some may be overt ransomware attacks (hijacking important business products or tools in exchange for money to release them), while some are covert operations by which criminals infiltrate a system to gain valuable data only to be discovered months after-the-fact, if at all. Criminals are getting craftier with their malicious deeds and here are some of the basic types of cyber attacks affecting thousands of people each day.
Malware is used to describe malicious software, including spyware, ransomware and viruses. It usually breaches networks through a vulnerability, like clicking on suspicious email links or installing a risky application. Once inside a network, malware can obtain sensitive information, further produce more harmful software throughout the system and can even block access to vital business network components (ransomware).
Phishing is the practice of sending malicious communications (usually emails) designed to appear from reputable, well-known sources. These emails use the same names, logos, wording, etc., as a CEO or company to dull suspicions and get victims to click on harmful links. Once a phishing link is clicked, cyber criminals have access to sensitive data like credit card, social security or login information.
Social engineering is the process of psychologically manipulating people into divulging personal information. Phishing is a form of social engineering, where criminals take advantage of people’s natural curiosity or trust. An example of more advanced social engineering is with voice manipulation. In this case, cyber criminals take an individual’s voice (from sources like a voicemail or social media post) and manipulate it to call friends or relatives and ask for credit card or other personal information.
Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks occur when criminals interrupt the traffic between a two-party transaction. For example, criminals can insert themselves between a public Wi-Fi and an individual’s device. Without a protected Wi-Fi connection, cyber criminals can sometimes view all of a victim’s information without ever being caught.
Zero-day attacks are becoming more-and-more common. Essentially, these attacks occur between a network vulnerability announcement and a patch solution. In the name of transparency and security, most companies will announce that they found a problem with their network safety, but some criminals will take this opportunity to unleash attacks before the company can come up with a security patch.
A multi-layer cybersecurity approach is the best way to thwart any serious cyber attack. A combination of firewalls, software and a variety of tools will help combat malware that can affect everything from mobile phones to Wi-Fi. Here are some of the ways cybersecurity experts fight the onslaught of digital attacks.
Securing Against Malware
Security against malware is certainly one of the most important issues today (and it will continue to be as malicious software evolves). An anti-virus software package is needed to combat any suspicious activity. These packages usually include tools that do everything from warning against suspicious websites to flagging potentially harmful emails.
Mobile phones are one of the most at-risk devices for cyber attacks and the threat is only growing. Device loss is the top concern among cybersecurity experts. Leaving our phones at a restaurant or in the back of a rideshare can prove dangerous. Luckily, there are tools that lock all use of mobile phones (or enact multi-factor passwords) if this incident occurs. Application security is also becoming another major issue. To combat mobile apps that request too many privileges, introduce Trojan viruses or leak personal information, experts turn to cybersecurity tools that will alert or altogether block suspicious activity.
Web Browser Security & the Cloud
Browser security is the application of protecting internet-connected, networked data from privacy breaches or malware. Anti-virus browser tools include pop-up blockers, which simply alert or block spammy, suspicious links and advertisements. More advanced tactics include two-factor authentication, using security-focused browser plug-ins and using encrypted browsers.
Using public Wi-Fi can leave you vulnerable to a variety of man-in-the-middle cyber attacks. To secure against these attacks, most cybersecurity experts suggest using the most up-to-date software and to avoid password-protected sites that contain personal information (banking, social media, email, etc.). Arguably, the most secure way to guard against a cyber attack on public Wi-Fi is to use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs create a secure network, where all data sent over a Wi-Fi connection is encrypted.