Cyber Security: an Introductory Guide

In 2020, people, governments and businesses are trying to keep up with the pace of change. The emergence of COVID-19 has reshaped our culture and changed many aspects of how people do business. Cybersecurity is a critical aspect of the «new normal» that we are all learning to come to terms with. 
There is every indication that remote working is becoming an accepted aspect of modern office life. Companies everywhere must develop comprehensive, scalable and sustainable plans to protect their digital assets from malware attacks — far beyond the expected COVID-19 trajectory.
In this guide, you'll learn what cybersecurity is, what cybersecurity threats look like, what types of threats they pose, and — most importantly — we'll give you some helpful tips to help you avoid these threats and keep your company's digital assets safe. 
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the methods and processes that keep the information you store electronically safe. This information may include sensitive business data in a cloud database or networked hard drives. It can also refer to data stored on portable devices such as smartphones or tablets. 
People usually think of cybersecurity in relation to sensitive customer data or financial data. They certainly make up the bulk of cybersecurity. However, the term also encompasses softer items such as political documents, reports, and personal data. 
Exactly what methods and processes are used depends largely on what kinds of data are being protected. For example, cybersecurity for individuals may focus primarily on keeping their personal data private and ensuring that outsiders cannot use their passwords and personal data. Cybersecurity at the government level can be much broader and include a complete system of policies, processes, and technology to secure large amounts of information. 
What someone means by the term «cybersecurity» depends on the context, what you are trying to secure, and the nature of the threat you are dealing with.
Why Is Cybersecurity Critical?
Cybersecurity is critical because our data is essential. We live in an age where our personal and professional lives revolve around data. These vital assets' confidentiality, integrity, and availability are essential to most people's personal and professional lives. 
Protecting Against Financial Harm
Malware attacks are often based either on stealing electronic data (an unauthorized transaction using your credit card information is a common example) or on ransomware stealing your data. Cybersecurity is important because it protects you from financially motivated malware attacks. There are also indirect financial consequences: the cost of recovering from a malware attack is usually high. 
Your Privacy 
Privacy is a fundamental right, and violating it by third parties is traumatic and threatening. Stolen data can cause deep embarrassment. It can jeopardize a relationship. A breach of privacy can cause lasting emotional damage. One of the most important parts of cybersecurity is maintaining a barrier between your personal data and prying eyes. 
Protecting Business Profitability
Businesses also need privacy, whether it's protection from competitors or simply respecting the privacy of their employees. More and more businesses are being attacked by malware. Cybersecurity is an essential defense against hacking attempts.
What Does a Cybersecurity Analyst Do?
The expertise of a cybersecurity analyst can be critical to keeping your business safe from cyber threats. This section will look at what a cybersecurity analyst does and the skills and qualities to look out for.
The cybersecurity analyst (an information security analyst) protects a company's computer networks, systems, and digital data. To do this, the analyst configures software and hardware, monitors network activity, responds to potential breaches, and trains employees on safe computer practices. 
In addition to these processes, the cybersecurity analyst:
  • Performs security assessments and vulnerability testing
  • Monitors network access and identifies suspicious network activity
  • Conducts regular audits of the company's security practic
  • Trains staff on safe computer practices
  • Develops security policies and guidelines and maintains an up-to-date and comprehensive disaster recovery plan
  • Ensures that their company meets regulatory requirements for privacy and cybersecurity standards
  • Responds quickly to cyber-attacks, helping the company recover compromised data in the event of a successful intrusion.
A good cybersecurity analyst understands both the importance and limitations of proper processes. 

They will strive to create a consistent and detailed threat management system. At the same time, they will constantly look for weaknesses and gaps in their plan. This requires both critical thinking and creativity. 
Most cybersecurity analysts are by nature protective people, driven by a desire to create and maintain a secure environment. However, they also tend to be relentless, driven by the idea of stopping hacker attempts and identifying potential threats before they become a problem.
A good cybersecurity analyst is technically savvy, but they also have a good sense of human nature. They approach cybersecurity not so much as a «computer problem» but as a human problem. Therefore, they will be as comfortable communicating, educating, and asking questions as they are sitting at a computer analyzing network data. 
Ultimately, cybersecurity analysts are an exciting mix of deep technical knowledge and instincts. They must be analytical yet instinctive, well-informed about current cybersecurity practices, but flexible enough to apply that knowledge to the unique context of their company.
Cybersecurity Objectives
The goal of cybersecurity is to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data, also referred to as the CIA triad, an acronym that stands for the three core components of digital security: ©confidentiality, (I)integrity, and (A)availability. 
We'll look at each idea in turn.
Privacy is an idea you're probably already familiar with, at least in general terms. The term refers to the privacy of your data. When your information is private, it is not disclosed or accessible to unauthorized individuals or organizations. Confidential data is private data. You control who sees them. 
Some examples of how you can ensure privacy include:
Two-factor authentication: The process of entering a master password and an additional access key to gain access to private data.
Data Classification:Setting up access permissions by record type to ensure that sensitive data is only available to authorized individuals, usually within a company. 
While privacy refers to access to data, the idea of integrity has more to do with the accuracy of that data. Data integrity means that you have a guarantee that your data cannot be altered, augmented or deleted — whether by an unauthorized third party or as a result of a hardware or software failure. 
Here are some specific examples of how you can protect data integrity:

Cloud backup solutions:Cloud-based platforms that automatically back up file data, allowing users to recover files if they have been erased or corrupted.
File monitoring software:Software that monitors critical files to detect any attempted changes to both their contents and file locations. Any such changes may be password protected or accessible only to authorized individuals.
The concept of accessibility refers to an individual or organization's ability to access its data when needed. While some may consider accessibility to be a less important component of security, the ongoing shift to storing data online has made businesses and individuals vulnerable to direct attacks on data accessibility. This is known as a distributed denial-of-service (DoS) attack.
Here are some examples of how you can ensure data availability:
Regular network maintenance: Data availability is only as reliable as the hardware on which the data is stored. Regular hardware maintenance is an important aspect of acceptable data uptime.
Firewalls: Software designed to protect servers against distributed denial-of-service and other malware attacks.
Major cybersecurity issues
The biggest challenge is that cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving, so businesses need to implement an effective cybersecurity strategy to help coordinate company-wide efforts and information systems to always have the appropriate level of security, which includes:
  • Develop a framework for a cybersecurity plan: Create a plan that identifies your critical data and articulates processes for securing those assets. Develop a disaster mitigation plan.
  • Help employees understand risky behaviors: Train your employees on safe data management and repeat basic cybersecurity principles often. Incorporate cybersecurity training into your company's hiring process.
  • Protect information, computers, and networks from cyberattacks: Make sure every device in your company is protected with anti-virus software and your network is protected with network traffic analysis software.
  • Apply patches and updates as soon as they become available: Make sure you have systems in place to keep your operating systems and anti-virus software up to date. You should also regularly update the firmware of IoT devices and smart equipment, as these devices are increasingly targeted by attacks.
  • Create an action plan for mobile devices: Working with mobile devices poses unique risks. Make sure all employees are aware of the risks of accessing data from remote mobile devices, and that they are aware of safe ways to handle data while away from the office.
  • Back up all data on all computers on a regular basis: Implement a system to back up all of your data and develop a plan to quickly restore your data in the event of a successful cyberattack.
  • Prevent unauthorized persons from accessing or using work computers: Establish company-wide business data permissions and implement security software that controls internal and external network traffic.
  • Make sure your Wi-Fi network is secure, encrypted, and hidden: Wi-Fi provides added convenience, but it also increases the risk of unauthorized access to your network. Make sure your Wi-Fi network is encrypted, hidden, and that your IT team will be alerted in case of unusual activity.
  • Make sure to use the most reliable and trusted payment tools and anti-fraud services: Invest in anti-malware and anti-fraud services with a proven track record. If you're unsure about your choice of software, consult cybersecurity professional.
  • Limit employee access to data and information, limit the authority to install software: Provide strict controls on what software can be installed on your network. Each new software platform creates additional vulnerabilities. Consolidate your network architecture and software ecosystem to keep it as simple as possible. 
  • Implement multifactor authentication: If your accounts are set up to allow this, always enable multifactor authentication. This measure greatly reduces the risk that the wrong password will compromise your security.
  • Simplify your security management: The more straightforward your network, the easier it is to ensure cybersecurity. Review your processes and data assets regularly to eliminate unnecessary complexity.
Less than a decade ago, most people and businesses could safely treat cybersecurity as an investment in a decent anti-virus platform. But malware attack methods are constantly changing. As hacking strategies and technologies evolve, so must cybersecurity measures to keep up.
The truth is that no system is 100% secure. If an attacker is determined enough, he or she will find a way to get in and undermine the profitability of a business by destroying a customer database or erasing essential digital products.
According to insurance company Hiscox, the average cost to recover from a cyberattack on a small business is about $200,000. 
The cost of a data breach almost always far exceeds the cost of prevention, so if your business doesn't have dedicated staff, outsourcing cybersecurity management to security professionals is a financially viable option that will allow you to better manage your risks.
Types of Cybersecurity Threats
Here we look at the most common types of cybersecurity threats and attacks. It's worth repeating that cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving. Consult a cybersecurity professional for an up-to-date list of threats and strategies to address them. 
Ransomware: Malicious code encrypts important files and software. The hacker responsible for introducing the code to your computer usually demands a ransom in exchange for a password to unlock the data. Paying a ransom usually does not guarantee data recovery. Attacks are often repeated several times.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks:A coordinated network of devices floods the same network with a task — usually a website page download. As a result, the targeted online service becomes unavailable to employees or customers. DDoS is often used to disrupt a business's normal trading activity. 
Social Engineering Scam: A broad term describing an attack that uses social media channels to collect sensitive data of the target — usually personal or financial data. The stolen data is usually used to commit financial fraud against the victim.
Cryptojacking: The target computer's central processing unit (CPU) resources are used to execute complex cryptocurrency algorithms on behalf of the hacker. The hacker typically infects a large number of computers in order to secretly «mine» cryptocurrency. The victim computers experience significant performance degradation, and their owner may also end up on the receiving end of a huge power bill. 
Phishing: Phishing occurs when an attacker pretends to send an email from a trusted source, such as a bank or government agency. The goal is to steal victims' sensitive data, which can be used to commit financial or personal theft. 
Artificial Intelligence Attacks: We are starting to see more and more examples of malicious code aimed directly at artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. For example, a chatbot could be infected to send reputation-damaging information to customers, or to send customers away from a company website altogether.
IoT attacks: An increasing number of devices are being designed with built-in Internet connectivity. A wide range of devices can be hacked, from printers and communication devices to medical equipment. A hacker can steal information about a device or alter its operation.
Common Cybersecurity Threats Targeting Online Shoppers
Cybersecurity threats aimed at online shoppers are also steadily becoming more sophisticated. However, unlike other types of cybersecurity attacks, attacks specifically targeting shoppers typically focus on a few key aspects of buying behavior. Shopper-targeted fraud is best characterized by the point in the buying process at which it is targeted.
Order Scams:Probably the most common order scams are emails pretending to be from a major retailer and claiming to report a problem with the recipient's order. It is important to note that these emails are not actually directed at the people who placed the order. They are simply sent out as mass emails to random recipients. Scammers usually try to steal login and financial information.
Payment Method Scams:Similar to ordering scams, payment method scams are mass emails sent to random recipients. However, these scammers report some sort of problem with the victim's payment method. The hackers' calculation is that their email will reach people who may have recently made a purchase online, and they will click through to the malicious site without reading the details.
Account Fraud:Fake invoice emails double up on the fear factor and actually claim that the victim has made a payment through an invoice. The hacker hopes the victim will be fooled into thinking he or she has already been scammed and will click on the malicious link in a hasty attempt to cancel the fake payment.
False deals and offers:Finally, surprise offers and deals that are too good to be true will always be a favorite scam attempt. Victims may receive an e-mail or see an online ad with an offer they can't resist. The scam usually leads the victim to a fake Web site that downloads malicious software onto their computer or attempts to take possession of sensitive financial and personal information. 
Cybersecurity Tips and Best Practices
Every enterprise faces its own unique cybersecurity challenges. However, a few simple strategies will immediately strengthen your security and protect your enterprise from many cyber threats. 
Use the right passwords: Weak passwords are like leaving the door open to brute force attacks on your accounts. Passwords should be hard to predict and be at least 10 characters long. It is helpful to establish a policy in your workplace that regularly used passwords should be changed at least quarterly. Passwords should not be stored on paper in unencrypted entries on the device.
Activate multifactor authentication: Multifactor authentication is a process whereby you enter a temporary key along with your regular password. All major social media platforms and most financial services offer this feature. It provides a powerful extra layer of protection in case your password is compromised.
Use up-to-date security software: Security software is only effective if it is up-to-date. Malware attack methods are constantly changing. Make sure that you have a software support system in place to protect against malware on all devices in your organization, from laptops and desktops to handheld devices. 
Use secure Internet connections: If you have remote teams, implement policies that ensure they can only access the company's cloud resources through a secure Wi-Fi connection. Any data received over public Wi-Fi networks can be intercepted.
Hire a professional to address weaknesses: As mentioned, it's likely that your company has weaknesses related to critical data. Hiring a professional to protect these systems is a smart move. Similarly, if you encounter a cybersecurity attack, it is wise to hire a professional to analyze the incident and prevent similar attacks in the future.
The year 2020 has created many new challenges for businesses, and cybersecurity threats are chief among them. As our reliance on remote work and logistics grows, so do the number of ways in which a company's data and livelihood can be compromised. 
Cybersecurity attacks are becoming more common, and if you're not prepared, recovering from an attack can be time-consuming, reputationally damaging, and expensive.
While these issues are unlikely to go away anytime soon, you can take proactive and effective steps to stay on top of these emerging risks by taking full advantage of the interconnectivity tools that make doing business online easier.  
A well-developed cybersecurity plan, combined with the insight and expertise of a cybersecurity professional, can help your company proactively manage cybersecurity.