The digital world is constantly changing, and cybersecurity has become a main concern for individuals, businesses and governments alike.
The purpose of cybersecurity is to mitigate data breaches and encourage a safe environment for hardware failures. It protects information from random attacks from intruders, who can make your data unreachable unless a ransom payment is agreed using cryptocurrency. Individuals who can gain unauthorised access to the data on your system or networks can range from hackers who write scripts to try to compromise cybersecurity or organised criminal enterprises who will carry out technically advanced attacks, purely for illegal financial gain.
In order to remain secure, companies must undertake regular cybersecurity audits and implement the recommended cybersecurity solution or get advice from a cybersecurity expert.
Businesses rely on Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and Disaster Recovery Plans (DRP) for their security planning. Everyone must take cybersecurity seriously as ignoring this growing problem will eventually result in an IT disaster. Today, it forms an indispensable part of the risk management strategy for any organisation.
Cyber Security applies to everyone, no matter if it is an individual who must ensure that software updates and virus protection is up-to-date, without failing. It also applies to huge organisations, who rely on specialists to ensure their IT infrastructure is fully protected with suitable planning in place, to recover from data breaches. IT is becoming more advanced and complex, so higher-level management should ensure security, and that staff within the organisation is fully aware of the online risks.
No software is bug-free, and this makes it riskier. Bugs in software can create security issues, owing to this reason, companies like Microsoft are releasing updates for their products such as Windows and Word. These updates include bug fixes but typically address security risks that may have been identified.
Today, IT users are often the cause of cybersecurity issues. Each user has a purpose different from another when using a computer. While a few people have better knowledge about computer security, most do not. Every user must understand the cybersecurity risks and how they can work to reduce the risk of security breaches.
Some approaches that can help in cybersecurity planning and programs are as follows:
- Software developers must not only develop software, but they should code it using an approach that halts easy access to potential hackers. Any software developed should also be PEN (Penetration) tested – this is a key element of cybersecurity that identifies security flaws within the software.
- Individuals must be trained to understand how to ensure the best security such as ensuring business software and virus protection.
- End-users must be trained to be able to identify phishing emails and to not open attachments from unknown sources or social media.
No business can be protected 100% from cyber attacks, regardless of the commitment of an individual organisation. However, cyber attacks usually occur through the most vulnerable points of access. These weak points are quite easy to secure, and if businesses follow basic cybersecurity protocols, the risk can be minimised. These security procedures which are also known as cyber hygiene include elements such as.
- Ensure the latest software updates are installed.
- Ensure the latest virus software is installed.
- Ensuring strong authentication such as strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA) is implemented.
- Ensure that sensitive data is not stored in locations that can be easily accessed.
These are just the basics. Businesses must extend these practices much further to maximise their cybersecurity, as experienced hackers will find any weaknesses that may exist. With the advancement of technology, security risks are now increasing in business computers and across homes. There are now many physical systems that can be hacked, including:
- Automotive systems
- Airlines systems
- Internet-enabled electronic devices
- Automated systems such as traffic lights in a busy city
The Internet of Things (IoT), also brings new challenges for cybersecurity. With more reliance on these systems, cybersecurity has never been more critical. New regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), are adding further complications to cybersecurity. The GDPR, for example, has a clear security policy, with large GDPR fines for non-compliance. With cyber-attacks becoming more frequent and destructive, resulting in potentially huge financial losses for businesses as well as credibility issues, businesses are looking towards experienced cybersecurity professionals to ensure their organisations are fully protected.
The key elements of cybersecurity
The definition of cybersecurity needs to be understood more granularly. Businesses with cybersecurity strategies need to ensure that each of the subcategories is considered, overlooking any, potentially will leave organisations vulnerable.
- Critical infrastructure
Communities are relying on critical infrastructure for their day to day existence. These systems include hospitals, utility companies such as electric, gas or water, and automated systems used throughout cities such as traffic lights and railway crossings for example.
These critical infrastructure systems are linked to the internet, and anything having an internet connection is at risk of a cyber-attack. The organisations that manage the critical infrastructure must ensure the highest level of planning for cybersecurity and need to continually re-evaluate their planning, contingency plans, and risk analysis/prevention on an ongoing basis.
Protection of data and information on a network within an organisation can be controlled with different levels of login/user access. Such a move limits the access for individuals within an organisation and for malicious users from outside the organisation that may have gained access.
There are specialised tools that control traffic on a network; these tools will also highlight the potential risks. The issue with these tools is, they are continually generating data. Due to the thousands of logs that are created, genuine alerts may be missed in the process. With the continued advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, security software can identify and alert of imminent risks.
- Cloud security
More organisations are storing and sharing data on the Cloud, such as:
- GSuite for emails, storage, and productivity
- DropBox and One Drive for storage
- Xero for accounts
- Office365 for productivity
This creates further issues related to cybersecurity and also for new regulations like the GDPR. Poorly configured cloud solutions can result in cyberattacks, and it introduces a substantial risk. Cybersecurity is no longer under the control of your organisation. Businesses are relying on others to implement cybersecurity strategies. Organisations should carefully consider individual cloud solutions before leaping, perform due diligence to ensure these vendors also take cybersecurity seriously.
The most vulnerable area for cybersecurity is web applications. With developers worldwide creating web applications, each development team has a different skillset and coding standards. Often developers have not created the systems with secure coding practices, leaving these systems vulnerable and prone to attack.
Web applications must be tested for security weaknesses by performing Penetration (PEN) testing. Software such as OWASP or Fortify will identify issues within web applications that can be addressed by the developers. PEN testing isn’t a one-off procedure; the process must repeat at regular intervals as new hacking techniques become known to ensure that the software is always secure.
- Internet of Things (IoT)
This can be related to any system that can be accessed via the internet, such as automated lighting and heating at home, fitness apps tracking your daily actions or a speed sensor in a motor vehicle for an insurance company.
IoT systems are installed, and the software or security updates are ignored. Such behaviour can risk the privacy of the users of the IoT systems and also others as often the IoT systems are part of a botnet.
What are the different types of cyber threats?
Cybersecurity is essential to protect against the three most common types of cyberattacks, as listed below.
- Confidentiality – this type of cyber attack is simply about gaining access to IT equipment to obtain personal information from an individual or a business. The data collected can be used for credit card fraud or identity theft to allow other documents such as passports to be produced. Certain countries may also use this approach to obtain personal information from governments for example.
- Integrity or sabotage – this cyber threat aims to corrupt information within online systems, making the systems unusable for the individuals relying on them. This type of attack can vary in size from just a minor corruption of data or substantial damage when criminals are typically looking to benefit from this type of cyber attack.
- Availability: Ransomware is becoming a major problem by making systems unavailable to users by encrypting files. Unless a proper recovery plan is in place by the cybersecurity team, often the only way to regain access to the encrypted systems is by making a ransom payment, typically with untraceable cryptocurrency. Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks are common by forcing large volumes of data across a network to make it inaccessible.
How are cyber attacks carried out?
- Social engineering – this approach is one of the oldest approaches used by criminals to gain access to valuable information. Viruses such as Trojan Horses can exist on websites, either intentionally or due to gross negligence. Visitors to the web site may open files, and this leads to the virus being downloaded on their equipment and gaining access to personal information. Although cybersecurity can help to protect against this type of access, the best form of protection is the education of the users. Accessing trusted sites and to carefully consider files that are downloaded, are vital considerations.
- Phishing – one of the most common approaches to gain useful and personal information is by phishing. A genuine email may be received from what appears to be your bank, for example, requesting you to log in to your bank account. Information such as your username and password is then captured and re-used to gain access to your accounts. To avoid falling prey to phishing attacks, two-factor authentication (2FA) is recommended, when logging into bank accounts for example, as not only is it necessary to log in to the website, but a second authentication can also be received via the mobile phone, ensuring additional protection.
- Out of date software – software developers consider cybersecurity seriously, and new updates are regularly released not to fix bugs only but also to make sure that their software continues to be as secure as possible against cyber attacks. It is critical that the software updates are installed by businesses, as software that is not kept up to date is more at risk of a cyber-attack.
Finding the best team to manage your organisation’s cybersecurity strategy is a difficult task. With forceful laws like GDPR taking effect in the European Union, the demand for cybersecurity sources is at its highest, and there is certainly a skill shortage.
Protecting an organisation’s data and infrastructure has never been more critical, with a cybersecurity team now requiring different skills than professionals such as:
- Security engineer
- Information security officer
- Data protection officer
- Penetration testers
Dedicated cybersecurity teams are now paramount and are in high demand with organisations ready to pay them hefty packages. The era has passed when cybersecurity may have been one of the tasks of one of the technical engineers. The cybersecurity roles are now specialist.
Cybersecurity is a 24/7 role that requires round the clockwork to ensure internal systems are well protected and when a potential attack is identified, reacting quickly to rectify the attack. A rapidly changing environment that relies on a proactive team to continually protect the business’s interests.
Following are key roles within the cybersecurity team:
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
This is the lead role in the cybersecurity team; the CISO oversees the cybersecurity department. The CISO defines the organisation’s security policies and procedures and ensures that all security planning is in place to protect the organisation in the case of a cyber-attack.
Cyber Security Analyst
The Cyber Security Analyst performs so many key responsibilities within an organisation:
- Ensures that there is a security plan in place that has been fully tested. The plan should not be stopped but kept updated and continue to evolve.
- Protection of data and files held within the organisation, ensuring that only the appropriate individuals can have access to these files.
- Monitor access, identifying any potential security breaches. Security breaches should be analyzed to identify vulnerability and rectified.
- Ongoing security audits both internally and externally. Accurate network systems should be present to prevent attacks. In the case of an intrusion, network tools should detect these intrusions and follow an incident response protocol.
- Define and manage the organisation’s corporate security policy.
The Security Architect stays in between the technical and management team. Their role is to ensure the organisation’s network and security infrastructure are configured to meet the business’s cybersecurity requirements. The Security Architect must have an excellent understanding of the business and technology to ensure that the solution implemented is the correct solution.
This role within the cybersecurity team requires the Security Engineer to be at the forefront of the organisation. The individual needs to be able to communicate well throughout the business and have excellent technical skills to fulfil this role.
The key purpose of this role is to ensure that the infrastructure, network, and data centres are fully secure with respect to the cybersecurity and to develop and evolve strategies that continue to protect the organisation’s infrastructure.