Cyber Security is the practice of defending your networks, systems, and applications from cyber threats.
Digital data and operations are already at the core of most modern organizations, and this trend is only increasing. But with this reliance on computerized systems comes a variety of cyberthreats. These risks may be internal, originating with employees and contractors. They may be external, the result of activity by cybercriminals or even your own customers. They may be deliberate acts of data theft or disruption, or they may simply be caused by human error and negligence.
No matter where or why a cyberthreat originates, it has the potential to be devastating to companies, their employees, and their customers. That’s why it’s important to understand cyber security practices and tactics for effectively defending against hazards in the digital world.
The importance of cyber security
Today’s organizations face critical challenges with respect to cyber security. Data creation, processing, and storage is increasingly done at the edge, growing operational complexity and making data flows harder to track. Meanwhile, ever-greater computing power and AI are widely accessible, allowing cybercriminals to target businesses more effectively than ever before. And these criminals are highly-motivated, driven by the prospect of multi-million-dollar rewards from businesses that often can’t afford not to pay for the restoration of services or the recovery of lost data.
Any organization that uses modern technology must contend with the risk of cyberthreats. Taking steps to address this risk is crucial for the health and operational security of businesses. Data breaches and cyber attacks against business services have the potential to cause catastrophic financial and reputational damage, and the unauthorized access of PII(Protect sensitive data and personally identifiable information) can have severe impacts on the lives of employees and customers.
Different types of cyber security
While cyber security often involves digital protective measures, such as antivirus software and user privilege limitations, there are also physical and offline components that can help ensure complete protection against a variety of threats.
Some of the primary types of cyber security include:
- Application security — preventing data and code in business-critical security software (both in use and in development) from being stolen or hijacked, such as with penetration testing and encryption
- Information security — protecting physical and digital data from unauthorized access and manipulation, both on-site and through remote systems
- Infrastructure security — ensuring that the structures and facilities you rely on, such as electrical grids and data centers, are access-controlled and guarded against physical harm or disruption
- Network security — securing internal computer networks against unauthorized access, with tools like remote access management and two-factor authentication (2FA)
- User education — teaching employees and customers best practices for recognizing and avoiding cyberthreats, such as malware and phishing attacks
Benefits of cyber security
By implementing the right cyber security solution, an organization can achieve the following 11 benefits:
- Protect your business and your brand. A data breach can bring your operations to its knees and damage your company’s reputation.
- Improve business continuity by stopping attacks and eliminating downtime.
- Protect your systems, network, and data from malware, ransomware, and phishing, DDoS, SQL injection and social engineering attacks.
- Protect sensitive data and personally identifiable information (PII) from unauthorized access, theft, and data leakage.
- Meet the security requirements of compliance regulations, such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and ISO 27001.
- Keep your website up and running. This is especially important for B-to-C companies that realize significant revenues from e-commerce sites.
- Protect your employees’ privacy and confidential employee information.
- Gain the confidence of your customers, partners, and suppliers by demonstrating your commitment to security.
- Achieve optimum productivity by eliminating unplanned downtime and ensuring the best possible system performance.
- Eliminate the costs associated with a breach, including remediation costs and potential compliance fines.
- Recover faster when a breach happens by getting visibility into how a data breach occurs.
Cyber security automation and implementation
Cyber security automation is an important trend that is impacting the security landscape. Cybercriminals are incorporating automation and artificial intelligence (AI) to scale their attacks, while leading cyber security providers are quickly incorporating automation and AI into their solutions to improve efficiencies and improve response times. Cyber security automation eliminates the need for your IT team to manually sift through every alert to identify, triage, and act on a threat because the machine can automatically execute security actions – detection, investigation, analysis, and remediation – without human intervention – and do so in a matter of a few seconds.
Cyber security software that automates a response to a threat also eliminates errors and ensures that every threat is immediately detected and acted on. With the volume of alerts that come in, security analysts do not have the time or resources to manually analyze every threat, making it impossible to respond in real time.
Automating security decreases the total cost of data breaches almost three times, but only 40% of organizations have partially deployed it and 35% of organizations have not even started implementing it.
Cyber security automation provides advantages to organizations looking to do more with less resources and reduce response times with automatic threat prevention capabilities.
Challenges of cyber security
The following describes the cybersecurity challenges that a business faces, some of which can be addressed by using the right cybersecurity solution. Other challenges are outside the realm of technology but are important to consider and address where possible.
- Software supply chain attacks are on the rise and if a cybercriminal invests enough time and money on a given target, any organization can be breached.
- Malware gangs offer ransomware-as-a-service, allowing “distributors” to infect as many computers as possible with spam, phishing/account take-over/zero-day attacks, and spoofing.
- Use of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation antes up the game as cybercriminals are now using modern technologies to scale their attacks.
- Growing use of internet of things (IoT) devices means that a business may need multiple solutions to secure and protect different IoT devices. The security of IoT devices is still an immature market.
- Limited budgets can restrict small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) from making an investment in the right cybersecurity solution.
- Insider threats can be stopped by the right cybersecurity solution, but businesses must be diligent when it comes to managing disgruntled or exiting employees who have access to sensitive data or PII(Protect sensitive data and personally identifiable information).
- A cybersecurity talent gap exists across the globe, and it is not expected to improve. In the U.S. alone, there were 7,956,341 employed cybersecurity experts employed from April 2020 through March 2021. Over the same period, there were 7,464,420 open positions.
- Many businesses do not properly train IT staff and users on cybersecurity. Users need to know what attacks look like, what to do, and what not to do. Continuous training for IT staff and security professionals is just as important because the landscape changes fast and criminals are constantly introducing and perfecting new threat techniques.
- Many organizations are unprepared for an attack. They have not developed (and tested) incident response plans and trained their IT staff on how to respond when a breach happens. With supply chain attacks increasing, both enterprise organizations and SMBs are at greater risk than ever before.
- Not implementing a zero-trust approach puts an organization at risk. Zero trust means that you never trust anything or anyone inside or outside the network by default.
- Many SMBs inadvertently misconfigure their cloud service, making their organization even more vulnerable to attacks. SMBs should engage a managed service provider (MSP) to ensure proper configuration.
Examples of cyber security threats
There are many types of cyberthreats — malicious acts that threaten to damage or steal data, or to otherwise disrupt workloads and services. No matter the type or the origin, cyberthreats are a serious hazard to business health and operations. Some of the more common variations include:
Malware — shorthand for “malicious software” — is an application that’s intended to cause damage to systems, steal data, gain unauthorized access to networks, or otherwise wreak havoc. Malware infection is the most common type of cyberthreat. While it’s often employed for financial gain, malware is also used as a weapon by nation-states, as a form of protest by hacktivists, or to test the security posture of a system.
Malware is a collective term and refers to a number of types of malicious software variants, including:
- Viruses — the most common form of malware. Much like their biological namesake, viruses attach themselves to clean files, replicate, and spread to other files. They may delete files, force reboots, join machines to a botnet, or enable remote backdoor access to infected systems.
- Worms — similar to viruses, but without the need for a host file. Worms infect systems directly and reside in memory, where they self-replicate and spread to other systems on the network.
- Backdoors — a stealthy method of bypassing normal authentication or encryption. Backdoors are used by attackers to secure remote access to infected systems, or to obtain unauthorized access to privileged information. While many backdoors are strictly malicious, deliberate variants may be built into hardware or operating systems for legitimate purposes — such as restoring access to a user who has forgotten their password.
- Trojans — named for the famous wooden horse from the story of the Trojan War. Trojans may disguise themselves as a legitimate application, or simply hide within one. They discretely open backdoors to give attackers easy access to infected systems, often enabling the loading of other malware.
Ransomware is also a form of malware, though one that warrants special focus due to its ubiquity. Originally, ransomware was designed to encrypt data and lock victims out of their systems — that is, until they paid their attackers a ransom in order to restore access. Modern ransomware variants tend to take this a step further, with attackers exfiltrating copies of the victim’s data and threatening to release it publicly if their demands are not met. This usually increases the pressure on victims considerably, as stolen data often contains personally-identifiable information (PII) of customers and employees, sensitive financial details, or trade secrets.
Ransomware distribution campaigns often rely on social engineering techniques such as phishing, tricking users into downloading a dropper that retrieves and installs the payload. More aggressive ransomware variants, such as NotPetya, exploit gaps in security to infect systems without the need for trickery.
Once on the system, ransomware finds all files of a specific type locally and across the network, encrypting — and often stealing — them. The original files, recovery points, and backups are then deleted to prevent users from restoring the system on their own. Ransomware usually changes the file extension, (e.g. myFile.doc.encrypted) and adds a “help” file, explaining how victims can pay to recover their data.
Phishing is a common attack technique, and a form of social engineering: the strategy of manipulating people into taking unsafe actions or divulging sensitive information.
In phishing campaigns, attackers use deceptive communications — email, instant messages, SMS, and websites — to impersonate a trustworthy person or organization, such as a legitimate business or government institution. Taking advantage of users’ trust, attackers trick them into clicking malicious links, downloading malware-laden attachments, or disclosing sensitive personal information.
A more focused approach is “spear phishing”, in which attackers target a specific individual — or a small group of individuals, such as employees in a specific role at a specific company. These cyberthreats are generally tailored to their target based on insider knowledge or information available on the web (e.g. through social media). As an example, an attack might be directly addressed to the victim and disguised as an email from their direct manager or their company’s IT department. Though they require extra effort to create, spear phishing attacks tend to be quite convincing and are more likely to succeed.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks
Distributed denial of service attacks target servers, services, or networks in order to disrupt traffic flow, preventing users from accessing these resources. DDoS attacks are most commonly intended to cause financial or reputational damage to an organization or government body.
Such cyber attacks often use large networks of malware-infected systems — both computers and IoT devices — that the attacker controls. Individual devices in these security networks are commonly referred to as “bots” (or “zombies”), and a collection of them is known as a “botnet”.
Attackers use these botnets against servers or networks, having each bot send repeated requests to the target’s IP address. This ultimately causes the server or the network security to become overloaded and unavailable to normal traffic. Remediation is usually difficult, as the bots are legitimate Internet devices — making it hard to separate the attackers from innocuous users.
SQL injection (SQLI)
Structured Query Language (SQL) is a standard language for building and manipulating databases, often used in web and other servers. SQL injection attacks insert malicious SQL code into a server, manipulating it to display database information that the attacker shouldn’t be authorized to access. This information may include sensitive corporate data, user credentials, and employees’ and customers’ PII(Protect sensitive data and personally identifiable information).
While SQL injection can be used to attack any SQL-based database, such techniques mainly target websites. A malicious actor could carry out an attack simply by submitting an SQL command into a vulnerable website’s search box, potentially retrieving all of the web app’s user accounts.
Social engineering is the practice of duping an individual – in person, on the phone, or online – into doing something that makes them vulnerable to further attacks. In the digital world, it is easier to trick people into falling into online traps than it is in real life, making online social engineering a prevalent and dangerous practice.
Social engineering takes advantage of people’s emotions to make them do something so that a criminal can gain physical access to private offices and buildings and/or online access to a company’s systems. Here are some common social engineering techniques that these criminals use to dupe individuals, get the information to launch further attacks, extort credentials, and/or steal data or money.
How to manage cyber security?
Cyberthreats, then, are one of the biggest issues facing business and individuals alike. And cyber security is concerned with defending networks, systems, and applications against these threats. But it’s important to note that cyber security is not the same thing as data protection.
Data is now the world’s most valuable resource. It’s at the core of business operations, and data volumes in need of protection are growing at explosive rates. Cyber security helps protect the systems that make it possible to generate, manage, store, and transfer data. It doesn’t address data itself — backups, authentication, masking, or erasure. If data is encrypted, altered, or deleted, a standalone cyber security solution can’t do much to help you restore it in a timely fashion.
That’s why Acronis recommends solutions built with cyber protection — an integrated approach that combines cyber security with data protection — as the driving force:
- Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud — a platform that enables service providers to deliver cyber protection in an easy, efficient and secure way. With one solution, users gain access to cloud backup, cloud disaster recovery, ransomware protection, file sync and share, and blockchain-based file notarization and e-signature services, all managed from a single console.
- Acronis Cyber Protect — a single solution integrating backup with next-generation, AI-based antimalware and protection management. The integration of multiple protection technologies not only increases reliability — it also decreases the time required to learn, deploy, and maintain new capabilities. With Acronis Cyber Protect, users enjoy complete cyber protection against modern threats.
- Acronis True Image — the only personal solution that delivers easy, efficient, and secure cyber protection through with a unique integration of reliable backup and cutting-edge antimalware technologies — safeguarding data against all modern threats. Reduce the complexity and cost of safeguarding data, so you’ll never have to worry about disruptions to your digital life.
The cyberthreat landscape is vast and constantly evolving. Standalone cyber security and data protection solutions are helpful in securing workloads, but they leave gaps in your defenses. A multilayered approach incorporating the latest cyber security technology alongside data security and authentication is necessary to provide reliable protection for modern workloads across multiple domains.