Ever wondered how many people use the internet?
In the current era, more than 50% of the world’s population is connected to the internet. It roughly estimates to 4.4 billion people connected all together. The global use of the internet is accelerating as we speak.
However, is the internet secure enough to handle data transmitted by billions of people?
Unfortunately, no. The Internet comes with its flaws, and most of them consist of dangers that could cost your business millions of dollars.
To help you understand just how severely these flaws can affect your business, let’s consider Equifax. It was one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the States. However, in 2017, it was the victim of a huge data breach. As a result, user data of 148 million people got leaked.
Here’s the thing:
People with malicious intent can exploit these small flaws and that could turn out to be a game-changer for your company. This can disrupt your reputation, causing irreparable damage. Surely, no company would like to lose consumers.
However, businesses around the world are going digital and there’s no way one can avoid this change. But is the Internet secure for conducting business?
This is where cybersecurity comes in. What is cybersecurity? What is its importance? Hold on to your questions as we’ll be answering each of these and many more thoroughly.
This in-depth cybersecurity guide contains everything you’ll ever need to safely conduct business on the Internet without having to worry about cyber threats.
What is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the practice of defending computers, electronic systems, servers, smartphones, networks, and data from hackers and digital attacks. Such attacks are conspired to target a business’s normal operations, extort money, or acquire personal data for nefarious purposes.
Online security is a serious concern with more and more attacks showing up with every passing month. A successfully implemented cybersecurity strategy acts as a stronghold against all such attacks, ultimately rendering them useless.
Here’s the thing:
Cybersecurity isn’t just securing the computers against external devices, sketchy networks, or insecure websites. Cybersecurity is also concerned with all the people, processes, and technology an organization utilizes to operate.
Here’s a more detailed view of how each of these three impact your organization’s cybersecurity plans:
- People – Employees of an organization should follow basic data security principles
- Processes – Organization-wide processes should ensure secure practices. Employees should be trained on what to do in case of a cyberattack.
- Technology – cybersecurity suites should be provided to defend against attacks and provide online security. Such suites ensure safer systems, secure networks, and protected cloud connections.
Practical solutions and defense mechanisms strengthen each of these three parts to offer maximum protection.
But, how was the need for this security realized? When was the term mainstreamed? Let’s find out with a brief overview of the history of cybersecurity.
History of Cybersecurity
The first instance of cybersecurity dates back to the 1970s. Robert Thomas, a researcher, is responsible for the development of the first-ever computer virus. The program was able to pass through networks without leaving a trail or being detected.
The program was commonly known as Creeper. It was designed to travel between devices on the internet, displaying the message “I’M THE CREEPER: CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.”
Soon after, Ray Tomlinson, also known as the inventor of email, developed a similar program that self-replicated. In this day and age, they’re called worms. To counter Creeper, he developed an antivirus as well.
With new developments in programs, the chances of security breaches and vulnerabilities found in the database increased. To counter this pandemic, several different solutions, tactics, and strategies were developed.
This eventually led to a vast field that had to be named appropriately. The term cyber is derived from cybernetics and refers to a culture of computers. This was joined by the word security to identify flaws, problems, and security issues with computers specifically.
Since the 1970s, cybersecurity has gained a lot of momentum due to the increase in research and continues to soar in popularity. From a message-based virus in the ’70s to the devastating attacks of 2019, the field is quite important to understand now!
Important Cybersecurity Terms
For digital nomads, it is easier to understand the jargon and technical terms thrown around in the IT world. But, for a beginner into cybersecurity, online security might seem mystifying.
Often, this confusion in understanding the terms leads to mistakes and errors by employees. Therefore, it is essential for you and others to understand each technical term, so they don’t hurt you in the long run.
To help you get started, we’ve curated a list of the most common terms used in the technological world. Here they are:
Cloud refers to a wide array of computers with considerable computing powers that host all our data on the internet.
2. Data Breach
As a result of an exploit or vulnerability, a hacker might gain access to the organization’s databases. Data breach results in theft or transmissions of confidential information.
3. DDoS Attack
With a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, a hacker can render a server or network unavailable. Usually, it hits the servers with so many requests that the server can’t respond to legitimate data requests.
Software or websites which mimic popular sites or services to trick users into giving in the information. Emails, attachments, or links on the internet are the most common sources.
Ransomware is malicious software that can encrypt a system’s data and shifting their access to external entities. The hacker usually unlocks the file once the victim pays the ransom. However, there’s no guarantee they will be unlocked.
Spyware includes software that can be used to spy on you to steal your information, data, or something valuable.
Malicious software is used to halt a system’s operations or occupy system resources. It can cause critical damage to a system or the user’s data. Most viruses, trojans, worms, and ransomware, fall under the category of malware.
A malicious botnet is a network of computers that are created for several purposes like spreading viruses, crashing web servers carrying out Denial of Service (DoS) attack, or sending email spam.
A Malware that can replicate itself to infect a computer, its resources, and all systems connected to it.
Historical Cybersecurity Attacks
Now that you’re a little equipped with the nitty-gritty details of the field let’s see a few of those in action. The purpose of this section is to help you analyze how critical a cybersecurity attack can be and what outcomes it holds.
Other than Equifax, here’s a list of some of the most prominent cybersecurity attacks from the 21st century:
In 2016, Yahoo admitted to one of the most severe data breaches ever recorded. Personal information, telephone numbers, email addresses, and names of more than 3 million users were part of this breach.
Yahoo suffered a massive loss in terms of its sale to Verizon. In the final deal, Yahoo reported a loss of $350 million as a result of this data breach.
2. Marriott Group
In 2018, Marriott Group reported a similar data breach, which resulted in a theft of 500 million user’s data from 2014 to 2018. Personal information, as well as credit card information, was part of the user’s data. The premier multinational company paid a fine of $123 million.
In 2013, Target suffered from a data breach as well. The breach contained the personal information as well as credit or debit card information of 110 million users.
Although the breach started before Thanksgiving in 2013, it was detected weeks later. Hackers had managed to gain access to the Point of Sales (POS) system of the company and stole a large amount of data. Ultimately, the breach cost the company $162 million.
If you’ve noticed the trend, all these companies are large enterprises operating in many different places. However, no one’s secure from the consequences of lousy security measures, security flaws, and vulnerabilities.
Hackers might find it easier to break into systems that are defended poorly rather than full-fledged security systems. Next, let’s take how we can develop awareness for cybersecurity in the masses.
Cybersecurity Guide – Awareness of Cybersecurity
By now, you must be well aware of how critical cybersecurity is. Humans are bound to make mistakes and mess up, but those related to technological aspects can cause colossal loss. This is true, both for individuals and organizations, small and large alike.
To stray further away from such security breaches, it is essential to spread cybersecurity awareness among all employees.
Here’s a shocking fact:
According to the data breach investigation report released by Verizon, phishing or other forms of social engineering cause 93% of all data breaches. Often, employees, out of ignorance, enter insecure websites or click links that allow the malware to seep into their systems. Even more shockingly, according to statistics, 2,244 cyberattacks take place everyday.
Again, the importance of training the employees in this regard is of paramount importance. Small businesses, with zero to no cybersecurity experts, are prone to such attacks the most. Although the attack might not be large-scale, it can still be devastating for the performance and reputation in public.
Although training might sound hectic and costly, it isn’t. The sole purpose of this training purpose is to explain the jargon that we’ve just guided you with, to the employees. This way, they are well aware of:
- Picking apart phishing emails from regular emails
- Rules to download email attachments or website content
- Checking the security standpoint of a website
- Rules regarding data sharing, confidential or not
Small steps to securing your system and managing how you conduct business will eventually bear fruit. Asking your employees to engage in these formal training sessions will strengthen your organization’s security standpoint.
Not only is it practical, but it is also the cheapest possible method of reducing the risk of cyberattacks and doesn’t require an individual team. Training sessions could be formal or informal.
Formal sessions are more inclined towards an organization’s processes and specific incident response training. For informal training, organizations can consider periodic e-blasts to employees. These will ensure detailing current threats and simulated phishing attacks with follow-up feedback.
Here’s a list of some of the most important topics that you can cover in a cybersecurity awareness session:
- Current threats
- Red flags
- Defensive procedures
- Threat reaction plans
For example, e-blasts can include phishing emails that purport to be from UPS or FedEx. They usually require a user to click a link related to a package and then ask for confidential information. If well trained, employees will never provide log-in credentials when requested via email even if it appears to be legitimate.
These steps will ensure some semblance of safety from cyberattacks. Overall, these types of reminders are a great way to ensure that cybersecurity stays at the forefront of your employees’ minds in between more formal training sessions.
Best Practices to Secure Data
No one’s immune to cyberattacks; be it a growing organization, an individual, or a digital nomad with tons of security systems installed. Securing your data by following the best practices is the most significant step in maintaining cybersecurity.
You might be wondering:
Why would someone hit a smaller organization with lesser data?
Well, the problem lies within your security installations. Insecure data if far easier to steal than protected data with dozens of protection schemes.
As an individual or an organization, you should always follow the best practices to secure your data. Through extensive research and reviews, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most important steps to follow.
Without further ado, here’s the list:
- Using Firewalls or VPNs
- Avoid Opening Popups or Links
- Connect to Secure Networks
- Develop Cybersecurity Policies
- Safe Passwords
- Regular Backups of Data
- Security Updates and Anti-malware Software
1. Using Firewalls or VPNs
Firewalls, software or hardware, should be your system’s first line of defense. They are used to block connections to illegitimate websites or stop packets from flowing if deemed insecure.
If you’re still willing to enter that website, you can use VPNs. VPNs can mask your identity to hide your data and remove all trackers so you can browse freely. Some of the best VPN services on the internet include:
2. Avoid Opening Popups or Links
You should always be aware of phishing. Never click links that are sent from unknown addresses as they might cause malware breaches. Phishing links are designed to mimic popular services, so you give confidential information in.
3. Connect to Secure Networks
Office Wi-Fi networks are secure, encrypted and hidden, which helps in removing the threat of cyberattack. It is crucial to be connected to a reliable Wi-Fi because public Wi-Fi can lead to hackers gaining access to your system via the network.
4. Develop Cybersecurity Policies
As an organization, there should be clear policies regarding cybersecurity attacks and the data of the company. Dealing with all such vulnerabilities should be an organization-wide activity, not just employers.
5. Safe Passwords
Passwords should always comprise of a right mix of numbers and characters. Alphanumeric combinations are way hard to guess for hackers and breaking them is nearly impossible. This way, all your accounts are secure and safe from attacks.
6. Regular Backups of Data
Regular backups are necessary for an organization’s core databases. In case of a mishap or an unknown breach, backups will be your first stop in the route to recovery.
7. Security Updates and Anti-malware Software
When was the last time you updated your antivirus software and virus definitions? They’re annoying, we know. But, they’re your system’s only defense after firewalls and protect your data at all costs.
As more and more viruses get detected, these software’s are updated as well. Updating your security software and installing anti-malware software is very critical.
Preventing Cybersecurity Attacks
As the complete guide to developing a cybersecurity and risk mitigation plan, it is crucial to analyze the reason behind these attacks here. Although we’ve discussed this before, enterprises are not the only businesses that can be hit by cyber-attacks.
According to a study by Symantec, organizations with 500 employees or fewer are more prone to such attacks. Often small companies have a family-like atmosphere where they trust their employees too much.
This leads to incompetency in following the guidelines, and these insiders allowing external entities to gain access. Ultimately, these mistakes cost some people their jobs.
But, here’s the thing:
Reactive approaches are not as effective as proactive ones. Firing someone for a data breach or a systems failure is ineffective as it can’t undo the damage. To get this right in the first place, you should be aiming to prevent these risks.
Here’s a list of a few steps your organization should take to move in the right direction:
- Risk Assessment and Mitigation: An organization should always be aware of cyber threats and take a headfirst approach. The organization should identify the risks and calculate their occurrence. Only then, can a mitigation plan be devised.
- Don’t Forget Physical Security: Often, it is the cloud security or our databases that we’re too concerned with. Don’t leave your door unlocked, or your keys lying around, or confidential information stapled to your desks. Any member of the organization or staff and use this information and exploit it.
- Encrypt Data: In case of a leak, if the data is encrypted, there’s no chance a hacker can gain access to it.
- Controlled Access: Unauthorized personnel should never have access to core operations or databases. This will effectively reduce the chances of the data going into the wrong hands.
- Protect Outbound Data: The data or the devices containing the data should never leave the premises. It is of prime importance that no personnel trusted or otherwise, should be allowed to operate on the data or gain or provide access to it.
Working in Cybersecurity
As a relatively new field finding its way through respected industries, cybersecurity has achieved a lot of momentum due to the need of the hour.
Recruiters all over the world are fishing for the top cybersecurity companies to get the best candidate for their company’s secure future. These companies, in turn, hire the best information security or cybersecurity experts to understand their problems.
As a beginner, you might be wondering:
What should I learn for cybersecurity? Or, what do cybersecurity experts feel confident in?
The answer to this question lies in learning and understanding programming languages. According to Hackernoon, there are five programming languages to learn for cybersecurity:
- C and C++ language
These languages will make you a pro at understanding the depths of cybersecurity. Not only that, but they will help you develop a mindset a hacker follows when exploiting vulnerabilities.
Before employees manage to secure their front, security is the responsibility of the software or hardware at hand. If security is the primary concern, all vulnerabilities will automatically be resolved or have a minimal occurrence ratio.
Another question which is quite common amongst beginner is the scope and career statistics of cybersecurity. As these attacks increase, the demand for cybersecurity will increase as well. According to the Cybersecurity Jobs Report, approximately 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs will unfold by 2022. However, global cybercrime won’t back down either. It is expected to cost an unprecedented amount of $6 trillion, which is outrageous and subsequently increases the demand of professionals.
It is easier to imagine now that the cybersecurity industry is to remain here. It will flourish with time as businesses, both small and large, turn to professionals more often to secure their databases.
According to CyberSeek, entry-level positions in this field start as high as $78,000 on average. They are also said to be increasing due to the few qualified candidates and a number of top internet security companies looking to fill in positions.
In conclusion to this cybersecurity guide, we’d like to stress the importance of this field yet again. Although cybersecurity has gained much traction from digital nomads and non-specialists alike, there’s still room for more people to make use of it.
None of the businesses of this decade can function without reliable and robust support of cybersecurity. Employers must understand the dire need for security and take heed from past examples. Only through constant improvement and better security protocols will consumers trust a business and conduct operations in the future.
With the statistics in favor of a high rise in the employment of cybersecurity experts, the field is only going to grow more. It is only a matter of time as we see the world filled with more professionals in this field rather than just hackers surrounding it.