The rise of cyberattacks has been evident in the years 2020 and 2021. With companies such as Solarwind and the U.S. Colonial pipeline losing millions to hackers, one area that has spiked the interest of individuals has been the field of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity plays a core role in today’s technological world. Cybersecurity has to do with using specific techniques to protect the data stored on systems or transmitted through networks from unauthorized access, unauthorized modification, or unauthorized deletion. Cyberattacks are digital attacks aimed at compromising systems and networks to extract data, destroy data or prevent access to that network or system.
Cybersecurity can also refer to information security, network security, systems security, and information assurance. There are quite a variety of names that mean the same thing, and in this post, we will tell you everything you need to know about cybersecurity.
The importance of Cybersecurity
With cyberattacks aimed at businesses’ increasing from 38% to 43%, it has become paramount for every business and individual to put measures in place to prevent these attacks. Below are a few reasons why a business should consider cybersecurity:
1) The Rise Of Cyberattacks
There are about 2,200 cyberattacks per day and one cyber attack every 39 seconds. Cyberattack is one of the cheapest and quickest forms of crime, which is why such rates are feasible. With such high rates, anyone’s system or data can be vulnerable to attacks by cybercriminals if the proper measures aren’t kept in place
With the average person spending about 145 minutes online each day, it is evident that we spend most of our day online. As a result, we must have some layer to protect us and keep our information private. Cybersecurity isn’t meant for only businesses but individuals as well. I mean, we have all had the instance where someone close has had their social media account hacked or their email hacked. Well, these are all forms of cyberattacks, which is why individuals and businesses must implement some security measures to keep their personal information private and secure.
2) The Price For Cybercrimes Is Expensive
The price companies pay to recover from cyberattacks can be in millions. In 2020, a cyberattack on SolarWind cost them a hefty amount of $18 million. Similarly, in 2019, Baltimore also paid $18 million to recover from a ransomware attack. Finally, in May of 2021, Colonial Pipeline paid hackers $5 million in ransom for a ransomware attack. The list goes on and on, which shows you how vulnerable big companies are to cyberattacks.
Small businesses aren’t left out either. It is estimated that small businesses pay about $7.68 billion to recover from cyberattacks. The list goes on and on to show how vulnerable both small and big companies are to cyberattacks.
3) It Can Compromise A Company's Reputation
Some cyberattacks are aimed at exposing the details of the customers of companies. When this happens, customers tend to lose trust in the company since they do not feel safe that their information is kept private and secure. Such situations can lead to churn and potential loss of profit. In 2013, Target had to pay $18.5 million as settlement to 47 states for a data breach that affected 41 million customers. That year, Target lost close to $300 million in revenue.
Categories of cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity can be classified into four main groups. These include:
- Application security.
- Network security.
- Critical Infrastructure.
- Cloud security.
In this section, we will dive into what these have to offer.
1) Application Security
Application security, also known as APPSec, involves implementing measures to ensure that the software and programs you create are secure. With 43% of all breaches being web application breaches, hackers tend to exploit an application’s security more often, making it one of the targeted and most vulnerable points of attack in cybersecurity. This is why you must run a series of secure source code review exercises and penetration tests to ensure that you have little to no vulnerabilities and that your security controls are written correctly and well defined.
With applications, we mean everything that has to do with software, including web applications, mobile applications, computer applications, and what have you. Application security involves using firewalls, encryptions programs, and antiviruses to ensure that all these applications are safe from unauthorized access.
Suppose you have no idea how to do these. In that case, you may hire a security accessor to test out the vulnerabilities in your software. Also, ensure that you are constantly updated. Sometimes, the frameworks you use can be exploited by hackers, causing the framework to be insecure. In cases like this, you will need to upgrade or even change your framework.
2) Network Security
Network security involves using specific algorithms and protocols to protect the network’s availability, integrity, and confidentiality by inhibiting unauthorized outside access and inhibiting malicious internal intrusion into the network. Every network has its vulnerabilities, and hackers are always trying to exploit these vulnerabilities to access networks.
Network security involves using access controls such as passwords, two-factor authentication, extra logins, and application security measures to prevent unauthorized access. Availability of a network is an essential aspect of network security. However, there is a trade-off between availability and access control.
The data generated by network security tools can be many, making it hard for network security experts to detect some valid threats and alerts. So, most security teams use machine learning to track and flag down abnormal traffic in real-time to monitor and secure networks effectively. For example, most hackers use botnets to invade networks, and in cases like this, you can use machine learning to detect and flag these bots in real-time.
3) Critical Infrastructure
This cybersecurity area aims to protect the cyber-physical infrastructure and systems businesses, and governments use from hackers. Early 2021, we experienced the most recent critical infrastructure attacks involving the U.S. Colonial pipeline, and another being the Ukraine power plant attack back in 2015. So, critical infrastructure cybersecurity ensures that structures like these are protected from hackers.
Other examples of critical infrastructure include:
- Traffic lights
- Water purification systems
- Power grids
The operations of most critical infrastructures are now being digitized and integrated into the internet to operate, which makes these vital infrastructures vulnerable to cyberattacks. Attacks on critical infrastructures are detrimental, and this is because countries depend on these essential infrastructures to run their economy.
With the help of cybersecurity, governments and businesses can protect their infrastructures from cyberattacks by using robust frameworks that can prevent and detect attacks. Cybersecurity also enables governments and businesses to explore all the possible options with which hackers can exploit their infrastructure; therefore, they can create a contingency plan should their infrastructures get compromised.
4) Cloud Security
Cloud security refers to putting in measures to protect your cloud-based applications, accounts, data, and infrastructure from cyberattacks. Cloud security is aimed at detecting who is running what in a cloud environment. With 94% of businesses using cloud services, it has become paramount for companies to protect the data, applications, accounts, and infrastructure they host on clouds.
Even though most cloud service providers provide businesses with some standard cybersecurity tools, these tools do not provide complete coverage for data within a customer’s internal cloud environment, which is why it is crucial for businesses and individuals that use cloud services to implement security measures to fill the loopholes by using cloud security services.
What are Cybersecurity Best Practices and Their Benefits?
1) Create A Strong Password Using A Password Manager.
We have all heard the famous saying, “create a strong password.” Even though we try to live by this rule, the probability of most people creating a weak password is high. Because most people end up using personally identifiable information to create their passwords, or their passwords don’t meet the standards of a strong password. The problem with weak passwords is that they can be breached easily.
Another security issue that arises when creating a password is using the same password for all accounts. Well, experts recommend that you use a unique password for each account you own or create. However, even though we try, it will be difficult for us to keep track of these unique passwords we create. So eventually, we end up using the same password for every account, which is risky.
One way to avoid creating a weak password and using the same password for every account is to use a password manager.
Password managers offer users better security hygiene. Many security experts have recommended password managers because they add an extra layer of security by storing and encrypting passwords stored on them, which makes them great for combating password reuse, and password retention.
Another reason you need a password manager is that it helps you automatically set up solid and unique passwords for each account you have. So, instead of wasting your time creating a weak password, which can be compromised easily through a brute force attack, a password manager helps you create a very strong password by randomly assigning digits and characters. Password managers also give you the flexibility to control the number of characters in your password.
Finally, when the password is created, the password manager stores it in a vault in an encrypted form. With password managers, you aren’t only limited to storing your passwords on a password manager. You can also store personal data such as your credit card numbers, CVVs, SSNs, and other records.
So, how do you get access to your passwords and details in your password manager? Well, it is pretty simple. A password manager allows you to create a single strong master password, which can be used to access all the details you have stored in the vault.
Other alternatives include using face I.D. and fingerprint password devices.
2) Use A VPN.
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) have become popular over the years, which is due to a good reason. A VPN offers users privacy and encryption. Because, with a VPN, you can change your computer’s I.P. address from one location to another without physically moving to that location. So, assuming you are in Texas, you can use a VPN to change your I.P. address to California.
Another reason why you need a VPN is to encrypt your data, primarily if you use public WiFi networks. With a VPN, you can encrypt every transmission to and from your computer, making it almost impossible for hackers to spy, snoop, and even eavesdrop on the data you transmit in plain text.
Generally, we highly recommend using a VPN when using a public WiFi network because hackers tend to position themselves between users and the connection points, making it easy for hackers to eavesdrop and distribute malicious software on those networks.
VPNs aren’t only recommended to individuals. They are highly recommended for businesses and enterprises as well. VPNs can act as access controls to authenticate and authorize users that log into your business’s network. It helps you ensure that the people trying to log into your network are who they claim to be.
Suppose your business has remote workers working from different parts of the world. In that case, these workers might not be able to access your company’s network if the country they work in is blocked from accessing your network. To bypass this, remote workers can use a VPN to access your company’s network with no hustle. Also, communication between these workers and your network will be encrypted and secured by the VPN.
There are two types of VPN, the paid version and the free version. We highly recommend you utilize a paid VPN because most of these free VPN cause your internet to be slow, and some free VPN companies tend to exploit your information as well.
3) Always Log Out When You Are Away
As simple as this may sound, you must log out of your computer whenever you are away from your computer. Not logging out of your computer while being away can give people easy access to your computer and its data. This is even more crucial for people working from home or in cooperative environments. Even if it is for a minute, it is essential that you still log out from your computer or desk, no matter the working environment.
4) Stay Away From Malware
Staying away from malware is probably one of the best ways to stay away from hackers. Malware comes in various forms, and these include ransomware, spyware, spear phishing, etc.
The best way to stay away from any of these attacks is to:
- Avoid opening any email or clicking on any link attached to emails that do not look right to you.
- Avoid clicking on unexpected pop-ups.
- Avoid downloading apps and files from an untrusted website.
- Visit websites with HTTPS authentication
- Installing antiviruses and Adblockers.
Putting these measures in place is crucial because most hackers are trying everything in their power to make you click on certain links or click on pops up to enable them to get access and steal your information or probably hold them for ransom. However, when you are vigilant and you do not click on these pop-ups and links, you have assured safety from this malware.
Generally, the fundamental rule to avoiding malware is to think before clicking.
5) Backup Your Data.
Backing up your data is non-negotiable. Backing up your data becomes crucial when you get hit by a potential attack that could cause you to lose everything. Without any backup, you would have to start from scratch again. No matter how secure you think your network might be, you cannot underestimate the importance of backing up your data.
I highly recommend you use a physical computer backup drive, or you can check out the various data backup options provided by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team. After storing your details on a computer backup drive, ensure that you keep it in a safe physical location. Finally, we recommend you backup your data at least once or twice a month.
What are The Top Cybersecurity Challenges?
1) The Large Data That Needs To Be Secured.
One top challenge in the cybersecurity world has to do with managing and securing large amounts of data. People all over the world are constantly generating data. Some of which have an extraordinary value and belong to governments, individuals, and businesses. In 2020 alone, there were about 44 zettabytes of data created, and it is estimated to grow to 175 zettabytes by 2025. This sheer volume of data created needs to be managed and protected by cybersecurity expect. And this imposes a task on cybersecurity experts to protect these large volumes of digital assets from hackers. And managing large volumes of data can be challenging.
2) The Threat Landscape Is Becoming More Complex.
The threat landscape is ever-growing in complexity, making it quite challenging for cybersecurity experts to catch up. Threat actors can often purchase bots and attack kits on the black market for a couple of dollars. And with just a little investment in these attack kits, they can hurt an organization.
3) Utilization Of Social Media To Gather Information.
One of the ways threat actors infiltrate enterprise networks and the privacy of individuals is through social media. Hackers now patiently gather information about individuals and companies through various social media platforms. Social media serves as a gold mine where hackers can exploit the contact information and activities and then developed appropriate Ads, campaigns, and spear-phishing attacks to target these businesses and individuals.
Posting On social media becomes a challenge because cybersecurity experts cannot control what people post on their social media platforms. Hence, it makes it mitigate the risk that comes.
4) Movement To Cloud.
The movement to the cloud has revolutionized the way businesses can scale up their storage and speed without having to spend so much money. However, the migration to the cloud imposes a challenge in cybersecurity in terms of compliance breaches, insider threats, insecure APIs, and what have you. And it can be challenging to mitigate these cloud-related security issues.
How to Manage Cybersecurity?
1) Assessing Your Vulnerabilities.
The first step in cybersecurity management is detecting the various vulnerabilities of the system or network you manage.
Vulnerability assessment is a crucial part of cybersecurity management because it helps us understand the loopholes in an organization’s system, network, and software. Through vulnerability assessment, an organization can mitigate the rate at which hackers use attack vectors to exploit these vulnerabilities.
For enterprises with about 1000 computers, manually performing vulnerability assessments can be hectic. However, suppose you want to stay ahead of the changes in the network. In that case, you can utilize automated tools to help you detect these vulnerabilities and adequately manage the network. Automated vulnerability scanners reduce the risk of human error and improve the accuracy of detecting vulnerabilities.
Some security vulnerabilities include XSS, SQL injection, broken authentication, cross-site request forgery, etc.
2) Understanding Your Threats
Besides vulnerabilities, organizations must know the threats they are exposed to. The first process of understanding these threats has to do with understanding your business, the various functions your business runs on, and the I.T. systems that support all these functions. Because when an organization understands their business functions and the I.T. systems that support these functions, they can have a clear view of who the potential threat actors are and how they plan to target the organization.
By mapping out the various business functions they run and mapping out the I.T. systems that support these businesses functions, businesses can quantify the potential cyber attack they might be exposed to.
Each day, threat actors keep finding new ways to sophisticate their treats. As a result, it can be challenging for enterprises to get hold of the next threat.
So, how can an organization stay ahead of these threats? It is simple. All an organization has to do is constantly attack its network through penetration testing and red teaming. Doing this will help an organization evaluate its networks and understand the potential threats that it could encounter.
The world of cybersecurity and cyberattacks is ever-changing. However, with the research, investments, and education of people, cybersecurity can help mitigate any digital threat that may come their way.