What is Cybersecurity?

Published September 11, 2019 • 3 min read

Cybersecurity is the process of protecting computer systems, networks, devices, and sensitive data from cyberattacks, data breaches, and unauthorized access. Cybersecurity is also known as information security, data security, and information technology, or IT security.

Types of Cybersecurity

Types of cybersecurity include:

  • Application security: Making applications more secure by finding and patching any vulnerabilities. Hackers can exploit compromised applications to infiltrate computer networks and steal sensitive corporate data.
  • Network security: Securing corporate networks against unauthorized intrusions by using antivirus software, for instance, to monitor for cybersecurity threats,
  • Operational security: The risk management processes for dealing with and protecting data assets, including customer and employee personal information, product research, intellectual property, and financial statements. Operational security consists of identifying critical corporate data, determining the threats to that critical information, analyzing the vulnerabilities, assessing the threat level of those risks, and implementing a plan to mitigate the risks.
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity: Implementing a disaster recovery plan to determine how to restore normal operations. Also, implementing a plan to ensure processes can continue in the event of a cyberattack/data breach.

How Cybersecurity Works

Cybersecurity programs act to thwart all types of cyber threats and information security threats including

  • Malware: Malicious software installed by cybercriminals to damage a computer, server, system, or network.
  • Phishing attacks: The sending of messages containing phony links or files in email attachments that, when opened, install malware. “Smishing” attacks do the same using text or SMS messages; “vishing” attempts to get credit card data and other personal information on voice calls.
  • Ransomware: A type of malware that freezes or locks user access to systems, networks, devices, or data until the end-user pays a ransom (and, often, not even then)
  • Social engineering: Using social media to trick people into breaking normal security practices and giving up sensitive data.
  • Trojan horse: Malicious code that looks legitimate to help the cybercriminal gain access but, when executed, can take control of computers and mobile devices. Trojans are used in ransomware attacks.
  • Spyware: Malware that lives covertly in hard drives and transmits data to an outside location.
  • Advanced persistent threats (APT): A type of cybercrime, usually against high-value targets such as corporations and governments that takes place over time, in escalating stages.
  • Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks: Attempts to overwhelm and disrupt a system by flooding it with traffic.
  • Adware: A type of malware that downloads itself through phony advertisements
  • Rogue software: Software that purports to be anti-malware or another form of security software but that is actually malware. Victims voluntarily download rogue software after malicious actors have used “scareware” to falsely warn them that their computer contains a virus, and convinced them that the rogue software will protect them.

Cybersecurity and risk management should go hand-in-hand because cybercrime tactics continually change. Cybersecurity considers short-term dangers, while risk management weighs risks over time. A good risk management solution will enable both.

Because cybersecurity is a journey and not a destination, every organization needs a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. It should include cybersecurity measures and solutions such as:

  • Requiring strong passwords
  • Using multi-factor authentication
  • Restricting access to information on a “need-to-know” basis
  • Installing anti-virus software
  • Requiring security on internet-of-things devices
  • Using cloud security tools for data protection and preventing data loss in the cloud
  • Conducting regular, frequent security risk assessments and penetration tests
  • Staying in compliance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, cybersecurity framework
  • Using cybersecurity solutions to monitor, sound alerts, and block cyberattacks
  • Requiring security awareness training for employees and contractors before they may access the corporate network

Automation is an increasingly effective cybersecurity tool. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming faster and more effective at processing and analyzing data and responding nimbly for maximum protection from cybersecurity breaches. 

Cybersecurity software that works in tandem with governance, risk management, and compliance solution (such as ZenGRC) should be a part of every organization’s information security program.

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