Cybersecurity is the practice of defending computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks, and data from malicious attacks. It’s also known as information technology security or electronic information security. The term applies in various contexts, from business to mobile computing, and can be divided into a few common categories.
- Network security is the practice of securing a computer network from intruders, whether targeted attackers or opportunistic malware.
- Application security focuses on keeping software and devices free of threats. A compromised application could provide access to the data its designed to protect. Successful security begins in the design stage, well before a program or device is deployed.
- Information security protects the integrity and privacy of data, both in storage and in transit.
- Operational security includes the processes and decisions for handling and protecting data assets. The permissions users have when accessing a network and the procedures that determine how and where data may be stored or shared all fall under this umbrella.
- Disaster recovery and business continuity define how an organisation responds to a cybersecurity incident or any other event that causes the loss of operations or data. Disaster recovery policies dictate how the organisation restores its operations and information to return to the same operating capacity as before the event. Business continuity is the plan the organisation falls back on while trying to operate without certain resources.
- End-user education addresses the most unpredictable cybersecurity 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 organisation.
The scale of the cyberthreat
The global cyberthreat continues to evolve at a rapid pace, with a rising number of data breaches each year. A report by RiskBased Security revealed that a shocking 7.9 billion records have been exposed by data breaches in the first nine months of 2019 alone. This figure is more than double (112%) the number of records exposed in the same period in 2018.
Medical services, retailers and public entities experienced the most breaches, with malicious criminals responsible for most incidents. Some of these sectors are more appealing to cybercriminals because they collect financial and medical data, but all businesses that use networks can be targeted for customer data, corporate espionage, or customer attacks.
Types of cyberthreats
The threats countered by cybersecurity are three-fold:
1. Cybercrime includes single actors or groups targeting systems for financial gain or to cause disruption.
2. Cyberattacks often involve politically motivated information gathering.
3. 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 cybersecurity:
Malware means malicious software. One of the most common cyberthreats, 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-appearing download, malware may be used by cybercriminals to make money or in politically motivated cyberattacks.
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 online tasks without the user’s permission.
An SQL (structured language query) injection is a type of cyberattack used to take control of and steal data from a database. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in data-driven applications to insert malicious code into a database via a malicious SQL statement. This gives them access to the sensitive information contained in the database.
This 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 cyberthreat where a cybercriminal intercepts communication between two individuals in order to steal data. For example, on an unsecure Wi-Fi 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 organisation from carrying out vital functions.
DigiSure cyber insurance offers you online insurance to protect your personal and financial data, the same way as you’d protect your physical assets. For more information on how a trusted cyber-protection company like Digimune can help you utilise the internet safely, please contact us.