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What is Cybersecurity and Why is it Important?

Understanding cybersecurity and cyberattacks

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a set of processes, tools and frameworks to protect networks, devices, programs and data from cyberattacks. Cybercriminals launch such attacks to gain unauthorized access to IT systems, interrupt business operations, modify, manipulate or steal data, engage in corporate espionage, or extort money from victims.

Cyberattacks now affect one in three Americans every year, with one attack taking place every 39 seconds. These attacks often cause financial or reputational damage, harm IT infrastructure, and result in regulatory fines. To protect their valuable assets and data from attackers, organizations and individuals need strong cybersecurity.

Why Do We Need Cybersecurity?

In 2021, cybercrime cost the world $6 trillion. By 2025, these costs will increase to $10.5 trillion. Cybercrime is an increasingly serious problem, and to address it, strong cybersecurity is critical.

Individuals, governments, for-profit companies, not-for-profit organizations, and educational institutions are all at risk of cyberattacks and data breaches. In the future, the number of attacks will grow as digital technologies evolve, the number of devices and users increase, global supply chains become more complex, and data becomes more critical in the digital economy. To minimize the risk of an attack and to secure systems and data, strong cybersecurity will be vital.

What is Enterprise Cybersecurity?

According to IBM, 77% of organizations don’t have a Security Incident Response plan, and some companies take over 6 months to even detect a breach. During this period, attackers can do everything from steal data and conduct surveillance, to damage systems and ask for ransom.

Enterprise cybersecurity is a more complex approach than traditional cybersecurity, and involves protecting all enterprise assets, both on-premise and in the cloud. It also involves:

  • Vetting third-party providers and their security controls
  • Understanding the risk environment
  • Implementing strong access controls across the enterprise
  • Assessing existing vulnerabilities and threats
  • Taking regular data backups
  • Protecting assets from unauthorized access or data leaks
  • Implementing a remediation plan

Difference Between Cybersecurity and Information Security

Although the terms cybersecurity and information security (IS) are often used interchangeably, they’re not the same since they each address different kinds of security. The terms IT security and cybersecurity are also frequently confused.

IT security is the practice of protecting IT assets, such as endpoints, databases, servers, networks, and data from unauthorized access in order to prevent misuse or theft. It is an overarching process that is concerned with how enterprise data is handled on a day-to-day basis. These attacks may come from inside or outside an organization. Information security refers to protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data by preventing unauthorized access, modification, manipulation, or destruction.

Cybersecurity is a “subset” of IT security. It deals with protecting assets from hacks or cyberattacks, i.e. threats originating from or via the Internet.

How is Cyber Risk Measured?

Cybersecurity risk refers to the potential for loss or harm resulting from damage to an IT asset, which may lead to intellectual property theft, financial loss, reputational harm, and regulatory or legal fines. Measuring risk enables enterprises to optimize actions to manage risks better, and ensure that business objectives are not hindered.

Cyber risk measurement usually involves all the following steps:

  • Identify and prioritize assets. Cybersecurity risk measurement starts with understanding and prioritizing the organization’s assets whose loss, exposure or damage could have an impact on operations.
  • Identify vulnerabilities. Any vulnerabilities that could enable a threat to cause harm are identified with automated vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, or by looking at a vulnerability database like the NIST National Vulnerability Database.
  • Assess the probability of a security incident. The probability that a vulnerability may be exploited is assessed, and the vulnerability is then categorized as high, medium, or low.
  • Calculate threat impact. The likely impact or harm that a threat may cause to an asset is calculated and categorized as high, medium, or low.
  • Calculate risk. Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Asset. Based on this risk equation, the organization can measure each risk.
  • Create a risk matrix for remediation planning. Finally, the risk matrix is drawn up, with likelihood on one axis and impact on another.
  • Risk = Likelihood x Impact. Based on this value, each risk is categorized as high-, medium- or low-risk, following which appropriate mitigation strategies are implemented.
Risk Matrix

How is AI Used in Cybersecurity?

In 2021, the average global cost of a data breach was $4.24 million. The best way to keep this cost low is to prevent cyberattacks by using strong cybersecurity. However, security systems can be complex,and require in-house experts – which many organizations lack. As a result, they fail to implement proper cybersecurity and remain vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help fight cyber threats more effectively and reduce their impact. These solutions collect and analyze large quantities of threat intelligence from multiple sources, enable security teams to respond quickly to threats, and minimize damage.

Some AI solutions can continuously “learn” from threat data to find threats faster. AI also automates risk identification and analysis, so security personnel can eliminate time-consuming or repetitive tasks, and quickly triage and remediate threats.

Defense-in-Depth (DiD) Cybersecurity

No single cybersecurity method or tool can protect against every single type of attack. That’s why Defense-in-Depth (DiD) cybersecurity is vital. With DiD – also known as the "castle approach" to cybersecurity – multiple defensive mechanisms are implemented to protect enterprise assets. This multi-layered approach increases overall security. Moreover, if one mechanism fails, the others still work to prevent or stop cyberattacks.

Common elements of a DiD cybersecurity strategy are:

  • Antivirus software. Antivirus solutions with heuristic features that scan for and flag suspicious activities provide stronger protection than traditional signature-based solutions.
  • Network security controls. Firewalls and intrusion protection systems can identify potential security threats, and block them based on security rules.
  • Data integrity solutions. These products check source IP addresses to confirm that incoming files are from known and trusted sources only.
  • Behavioral analysis. These systems analyze file and network behaviors based on pre-set “normals”. They then send alerts or take automatic action to block a breach, or prevent it from continuing.
  • Policies and procedures. Policies for risk management, supply chain management, incident response, etc. can strengthen cybersecurity.
DID

How to Implement Cybersecurity

The cyberthreat landscape is continuously evolving, so implementing strong cybersecurity can be challenging. However, it’s not impossible if enterprises follow a systematic approach consisting of the following elements:

  • Analyze and manage risks. A risk-based approach ensures that security teams are aware of the most critical risks to the enterprise, and can take the right action to minimize their possible impact.
  • Inventory and manage assets. Understanding enterprise assets is critical to understanding and addressing any risks to those assets.
  • Identify and address vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities should be found and fixed as soon as possible, especially if they are critical and can really harm the organization.
  • Deploy identity and access management. To prevent both insider and external attacks, it’s vital to protect and control access to services, systems, and data.
  • Data security. All organizational data must be protected from unauthorized access or use.
  • Incident management. Robust incident management can minimize the impact and damage of security incidents.
  • Supply chain security. It’s critical to identify and consistently address the risks and vulnerabilities on third-party networks.
  • Employee training. According to one IBM study, human error is responsible for 49% of breaches. Another study by Stanford University believes that human errors – in particular employee mistakes – cause 88% of breaches. Employees often use weak passwords, fall for phishing scams, or fail to install software security updates on their devices. Educating staff on good cybersecurity hygiene is vital to strong cybersecurity.

Risk identification, assessment and measurement are all important components of a cybersecurity program’s setup. Without these important steps, organizations may not be able to implement a robust program, much less improve their security posture.

Cybersecurity framework

Should Cybersecurity be Part of Your Business Continuity Plan?

A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) enables organizations to continue operations if an unexpected event, such as a cyberattack or data breach, occurs. But for this, a strong cybersecurity ecosystem is vital. When the right cybersecurity tools and technologies are in place, the enterprise can quickly react to any disruptive event, mitigate risks, and minimize damage.

Conclusion

In 2020, data theft and cyberattacks were the 6th and 7th largest global risks in terms of likelihood of occurrence. In 2021, hackers continue to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant shift to remote work. As a result, global cyber attacks have increased by 21%. To stay on top of such threats and threat actors, cybersecurity is critical.

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for a chink in the armor of enterprise IT systems. To avoid falling victim to cyberattacks, organizations must implement the right cybersecurity tools, technologies, and personnel.