Effective cyber security is vital to any business in the 21st century and its importance is increasing rapidly due to cloud computing, digitalization, and remote working environments in companies all over the world. These transitions in the IT industry are exposing the IT infrastructure and the related data to cybersecurity threats which in turn can cause monetary loss to a business along with compromising the organization’s reputation.
The people behind these cyber security threats tend to target web apps and internet-powered systems with weak security measures. The pandemic and the ensuing work from home culture has increased the risks faced by individuals working on their internet connected devices from home. They are not being protected by the same security measures as they were used to when working in the corporate offices.
The obvious result of these increased risks is that companies are now investing more in cyber security to strengthen the security measures against these cyber threats. The important thing here is to make sure that your investment is actually helping your cyber security strategy. In this comprehensive guide, we introduce you to the world of cyber security, different types of cyber security tools, its benefits for your organization, different kinds of cyber threats, and different strategies you can implement to counter such threats.
There could be many different reasons behind these cyber attacks. Most of the time, these attacks are done for monetary gains. The attackers compromise a system’s security and demand money from the owners for restoring it. The data stored in these systems is so important for individuals and businesses that they are left with no option other than bowing to their demands. Ransomware is a perfect example of such cyber security attacks where one has to pay the attackers to regain access to the system. Moreover, these attackers often sell the private information of individuals on the dark web.
What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security or information technology security can be defined as the application of technologies and techniques to protect IT infrastructure including systems, programs, networks, and vital data from the cyber threats.
Although no system is impenetrable, cyber security tends to decrease the risk of such unauthorized intrusions into the system and the related data. These cyber attacks mostly originate from external interference, however, some attacks do involve the authorized people who breach the security measures due to malafide intentions. Therefore effective cyber security means protecting the system against internal and external attackers.
The cyber security programs include different tools and strategies to counter cyber threats. These programs are continuously monitored and executed by senior officials from a cyber security company. Employee awareness about cyber security and different threats is also crucial for a successful cyber security strategy.
Why is cyber security gaining so much importance?
There are many reasons why cyber security is becoming more important with each passing day. We have mentioned some of the important factors down below:
Financial outcomes for organizations due to security breaches
One of the main reasons behind the increasing importance of cyber security is the financial burden it puts on the companies with security breaches. Countries around the globe are imposing hefty fines on organizations which cannot protect the users’ data due to such intrusions.
Cyber attacks are getting complex
Cyber attacks happen only because the attackers are able to penetrate the counter measures implemented by the organization. Ransomwares, Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and malwares are becoming increasingly difficult to deter for the cyber security companies. This is the reason antimalware companies keep rolling out software updates to deter new attacks every other day.
Investors are demanding assurance against cyber threats
Investors around the world are asking the management to ensure fool-proof security against cyber attacks. The management of organizations is under huge pressure to win investor confidence by implementing effective strategies against cyber threats. All of this makes sense as a security breach of a company’s data shakes the confidence of its customers and thereby negatively affects the company in the stock market as well.
Attackers are making some serious money from cyber crimes
In a recent study conducted by McAfee and the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies), it has been revealed that cyber criminals are making an annual profit of more than $1 trillion through these attacks.
There are political consequences attached with cyber attacks
It is no secret that cyber attacks into government organizations can bring a serious political crisis in countries. There is enough evidence available to conclude that cyber security is essential to maintain political stability in the countries as leaked information is often used to attack political opponents.
Cyber security challenges faced by organizations today
As we have already discussed that these cyber attacks are not easily deterred, organizations are facing different challenges today. As they say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a cyber security strategy is as good as its weakest point. Moreover, cybersecurity professionals need to deter every single attack to keep the system safe. This is not the case for cyber attackers who need only one successful entry to compromise the entire system. To prevent such breaches, cybersecurity professionals are facing the following challenges:
- As the data has been scaling and more people are working from home, cyber criminals have more opportunities than they had even a few years ago.
- Since the industry has adopted new technologies like Cloud and Internet of Things, cyber security needs are expanding.
- It is no secret that some states are also involved in conducting cyber attacks to get their hands on vital information with these sensitive data breaches.
- The cyber threats and intrusion strategies are constantly evolving and it is difficult to keep track of these evolving methodologies.
- There is a growing need to spread awareness regarding cyber security, especially among government institutions.
- Cyber security companies have limited resources to repel these attacks whereas the attackers are sometimes being sponsored by influential circles.
- Attackers have recently started using bots and Artificial intelligence techniques to breach the security measures.
- The industry is witnessing a supply deficit when it comes to cybersecurity professionals.
To cope with these challenges, there is a dire need for investment to develop cyber security resources. Cyber security experts believe it to be an existential risk unless governments channel enough resources to tackle current & future threats.
Many organizations and governments have been considering the strategy to outsource the cyber security to managed security service providers (MSS). This strategy decreases the burden on organizations as they don’t need to invest in cyber security tools any more. The outsourcing strategy does come with its problems which the cyber teams are looking to overcome in the coming years.
Cybersecurity tools and systems
Organizations should invest in cyber security resources to prevent security breaches. Some of the systems and tools organizations should invest in are:
- Tokenization technique to safeguard important data in case of data breaches
- Systems for endpoint security, user behavior monitoring, and data loss protection.
- Zero-trust security framework to implement strict authentication procedure for all users and connected devices
- Programming languages widely used in cyber security environments
- Multi Factor authentication for providing safe user access to protect systems. Two-factor authorization is most commonly adopted by organizations today.
- Commonly used technologies include firewalls, antivirus & anti malware software, virtual private network (VPN) and tools supporting email filtering, network security control, access control, data encryption, intrusion protection, vulnerability checks, and penetration testing.
What Is a Cyber Security Threat?
A cyber security threat can be defined as an unauthorized attempt to access data, modify digital operations or damage the stored information. There could be many actors behind these cyber security threats including hostile state agencies, hackers, spies, terrorist organizations, criminal groups, or employees with malafide intentions.
Cyber attacks are executed to steal sensitive data from companies or even individuals. For instance, financial information can be used to access bank accounts and steal money. There are many real world examples where cyber attacks were done to steal sensitive data from different organizations. In 2017, an Equifax attack stole the personal data of millions of consumers. Likewise, in 2018, servers of Marriott International were hacked to steal the personal information of half a billion customers. These cyber attacks were successful due to the negligence of management in terms of implementing the cyber security best practices including multi factor authentication, data encryption, and firewalls.
Types of cyber threats
Although cyber security experts try their best to implement the aforementioned tools and systems, security measures do fall short and breaches do happen. Cyber criminals are always keen to find loopholes in the security systems. With an increase in remote work culture and cloud computing, cyber threats continue evolving to dodge the security apparatus put in place to detect such threats. Understanding these cyber threats is essential for the safety of any organization. Some of these threats are discussed below:
1. Denial of Service (DOS)
A Denial of Service (DOS) attack is a cyber attack wherein the attacker tries to crash a server by flooding it with loads of requests. Likewise, a distributed denial of service (DDos) attack tries to flood the server by sending requests from a computer network. The attackers utilize the time the network is disabled for further attacks with other techniques. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is used by DDos attacks to overcome the target network.
A botnet is a perfect example of a DDos attack wherein a malware infects hundreds of thousands of systems. Botnets are deployed by hackers and are also called zombie systems. Since botnets are spread in multiple geographical locations, it is really difficult to trace these malwares, and stop them from crashing the attacked server.
A malware is a software which corrupts your system when you click on an infected link or attachment. Spyware, viruses, ransomware, trojans, and worms are some common examples of malwares. An interesting feature of some malwares is that these are “fileless”. So, a normal antivirus fails to detect these malwares since these are not attached to any single file. Malwares try to install dangerous software in your system without your permission which can:
- Disable individual parts of the system
- Steal data from your system and transmit it to any other network (in case of spyware)
- Stop you from accessing other network components (in case of ransomware)
- install other harmful software in your system
Ransomware is a special type of malware which infects your system and locks down your files or other data. The files and data are not recovered unless you pay the ransom cyber criminals demand from you. Government organizations are also prone to such a cyber crime where organizations are forced to pay ransom. Otherwise, the people behind this cyber crime threaten to damage information systems and applications providing essential services to the public. In this way, governments are forced to pay in order to secure personally identifiable information of the public.
3. Man in the Middle
A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack is a cyber attack wherein cyber criminals break into a two-party transaction. Once the breach is done, the hackers steal the desired data. These types of attacks commonly occur when a user joins a public Wi-Fi network. The attackers aim to insert themselves between the network and the user. Once this is done, they use the user’s data by installing malicious software in the system.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) defines Emotet as an advanced, modular banking Trojan which can be considered as a dropper or downloader for importing other banking Trojans into the system. It is one of the most expensive and effective malware.
5. SQL Injection
SQL stands for Structured Query Language and an SQL inject is a cyber attack where the attacker injects a harmful code into a server running on SQL. SQL injections are a simple query that results in information being released from the server. It is as simple as a search box on a malicious website.
6. Phishing attacks
In phishing attacks, attackers try to trick the user into entering a fake communication and following some steps contained inside an email or a text message. For instance, you might receive an email from a fake address posing as your bank. Such scammers ask you to enter your bank details like login information so that they can steal your money. Such cyber attacks are abundant on social media platforms as well.
7. Advanced persistent threats (APTs)
In these digital attacks, the cyber criminals breach a system and are left undetected for a long time. The system and related networks are not damaged and the activity of the user is continuously monitored. These digital attacks are effective as the system is infiltrated quietly without activating the defense measures of the system. Solar Winds breach of the US government systems is a relevant example here.
8. Password Attacks
In these digital attacks, the cyber criminals try to access the password of a user by tracking online activity. Once logged in to the system, the cyber attackers can sell this information for money. Another way of conducting password attacks is that the attacker hacks the entire password database and steals the data by logging in like a normal user. Multifactor authentication really comes handy here and acts as a life saver in these digital attacks.
9. Insider threats
The final cyber threat on our list is the insider threat where a former employee of the company or any partner exploits the access to the system. Such insider threats are really difficult to counter as traditional security systems keep working against external threats only.
Different domains in cyber security
A comprehensive cyber security strategy should be able to defend the network or system against all possible breaches. The breaches could be of any nature including the ones aimed at stealing data and disrupting the routine business work.
Some of the domains your cyber security strategy should address are:
Network security means that the computer network should remain protected from possible breaches into your operating systems, and network architecture. Network architecture here includes all the network protocols, firewalls, wireless access points, hosts, and servers.
Critical Infrastructure Security
Critical infrastructure of a country includes the networks that are responsible for public safety, national security, transport systems, digital infrastructure, economic stability, and health infrastructure. These systems are at a greater cyber risk since SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems are mostly run on older software. There is a dedicated risk assessment framework created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) which the organizations can use to streamline their cyber security strategies. Moreover, the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has its own set of instructions on how organizations should protect systems against security threats. Similarly, general data protection regulation (GDPR) has its own set of guidelines which organizations need to comply with. These regulations require the organizations to implement adequate cyber security strategies for data protection.
Since cloud technology is rapidly being adopted in every industry, it is important to protect the data stored in the cloud. Companies offering cloud services are always on the lookout to improve security measures of their cloud services.
This domain of cyber security demands that applications should have adequate security to protect them against security risks. Ideally, security controls should be included in the applications while they are the design stage. Special attention should be given to the processes that involve data transfers and user authentication to protect the application against common cyber threats.
A cyber security program should ensure that personal information of users and other such sensitive data remains safe at all times. Proper cyber security programs and tools should be in place to secure the information against all sorts of cyber intrusions.
IoT security is primarily concerned with safeguarding networks and smart devices powered with IoT. These smart devices operate without human intervention and remain connected with the internet. Smart fire alarms, lights, and robots are some relevant examples.
End user education
An important domain of cyber security most people ignore is end user education where the focus is on giving security awareness training to each employee to protect computer systems. This ensures that cyber attackers cannot gain access to the company’s sensitive data easily. For instance, the employees can be trained to scan attachments before downloading them from the email inbox.
Mobile Devices Security
Mobile security involves securing the mobile phones and the included apps against any malicious code that can compromise the mobile device security.
Common cybersecurity myths
Since cyber security breaches are at an all time high, it is need of the hour to debunk some of the common myths prevalent among organizations and individuals regarding cyber security.
Risk assessment is reliable
One of the biggest misconceptions in cyberspace is that risks are well-known. However, the risk assessment against unauthorized access to most sensitive data is not reliable because of ever increasing vulnerabilities. Even after giving security training to employees, the possibility of a data breach due to human error is still present.
Cyber attacks originate from external sources only
Many organizations think that identity theft or data breach in a computer system is only due to cyber criminals outside the premises of the network. However, evidence suggests that most of these cyber attacks are the result of malicious insiders. This is why it is important to implement the Zero Trust framework to protect information from inside actors.
My industry is risk-free
Some organizations are of the view that their industry is safe from cyber attacks. Any business that uses wired or wireless connectivity faces a potential risk of data breach.
Attack vectors are limited
Another myth popular among organizations is that cyber criminals have limited attack vectors. However, attackers are always finding new vulnerabilities and new attack vectors including cloud security, IoT, and operating systems.
Key technologies and best practices in cyber security
There are some key technologies and best practices in cyberspace which an organization must implement for an effective strategy to prevent anyone from stealing sensitive data from computer systems.
A comprehensive data security platform
Data security platforms safeguard sensitive information across different environments. Some of the best data security platforms are capable of showing real-time pictures of vulnerabilities. Moreover, these have an automated monitoring system that can alert a user on potential data risks before a cyber attack occurs. These data security platforms help in compliance with data privacy regulations set by the government agencies. Since the data is backed up and encrypted for maximum safety, these data security platforms are an ideal tool for cyber security organizations.
Identity and access management (IAM)
Identity and access management (IAM) assigns roles to different users and defines the access privileges for each user. IAM also contains the conditions under which these privileges are being assigned to that user. IAM techniques include single sign-on, multifactor authentication, privileged user accounts, and user lifecycle management. In a single sign-on, a user logs in to the system and doesn’t need to enter the credentials again for that particular session. Multifactor authentication, however, adds an extra layer of security and the user needs to enter the credentials in two steps to access the system. Privileged user accounts give administrative privileges to a select few users. Finally, user lifecycle management is used to manage the identity of every single user and assign privileges from the moment they sign up to the time of retirement. IAM also allows cyber security experts to inspect end-user devices in case of any suspicions. Therefore, IAM makes the inspection process a speedy one along with decreasing the response times in case of a breach.
Security information and event management (SIEM)
Security information and event management (SIEM) collects and inspects the security events data to find suspicious actions on user-end devices. SIEM employs artificial intelligence and user behavior analysis to detect such activities and triggers some countermeasures. Moreover, SIEM is capable of assigning priorities to cyber attack response according to the organization’s objectives. Moreover, organizations these days are combining SIEM with security orchestration automation and response (SOAR) platforms to speed up the automated response to any cyber security threats without any human interference.
Cyber security checklist
Up until now, we have discussed many types of cyber threats posed to networks, and different counter measures to handle such threats. Below is a checklist of some compulsory cyber security measures to keep your network safe from such attacks.
1. Staff awareness training
One of the main reasons for a compromised network is the carelessness of the employees. If you give adequate awareness to the employees, data breaches due to human error will reduce upto a great extent.
2. Network Security
Network security ensures that your network is safe from all types of possible attacks and the related data is not compromised. This is most commonly done by penetration testing of the network and any loopholes are then closed.
3. Application security
Almost every business has a web application to facilitate its customers. Cyber criminals are aware of this fact. So, they keep trying to compromise the system through web applications.
4. Leadership commitment
The reason behind every successful cyber defense strategy is the commitment and zeal of its leadership. The leadership has to wisely invest in cyber security tools along with arranging cyber awareness sessions.
5. Password inventory
Many individuals and employees of organizations still use very easy passwords like “qwerty” or “12345”. Management needs to ensure that there are certain guidelines for selecting passwords so that they cannot be compromised easily by guesswork.
Human Errors leading to Successful Cyber Attacks
To err is human and we learn from our mistakes. However, in cyber security human mistakes can become costly and compromise the security of an entire network. This is why special attention is given to minimize such errors. According to recent estimates, 95% of the successful cyber attacks were because of a human error. These breaches could have been avoided by improving human behavior .
To minimize security breaches due to human errors, it is important to know which behaviors lead to a human error in the context of cyber security. In the context of cyber security, a human error can be defined as unintentional action by an employee of the organization which creates an environment favorable for a security breach.
For instance, an employee might download an attachment containing malware that breaches the security of the system. Likewise, using a weak password also falls in this category.Since employees use a number of web applications, remembering a different password for each application is a tough task. So, employees tend to make their lives easy by selecting a single password for many such applications. However, this ease comes at the cost of compromising the network and creating a favorable environment for a security breach.
Secure your organization with Cyber Security Solutions
At Cyber Security Solutions, we believe in securing your organization with the most advanced cyber security tools and techniques in the market. We are providing cyber security solutions for a number of industries including medical, law enforcement, insurance, and compliance industries. When you secure your organization with Cyber Security Solutions, you get the following benefits:
- Full Compliance Dashboard
- Secure File Management System
- All-in-One Security Solution
- Industry Certified Practices
- 24/7 Monitoring
- Personal Onboarding Process
Contact us to secure your organization before it’s too late!