CyberSecurity: A Detailed Guide on Its Importance, Types and Measures
Just like how our security matters in the real world, our digital safety is of paramount importance. Cybersecurity is the practice of staying safe when connected to the internet and when protecting internet-reliant devices, such as databases, hardware, and even software.
This protection is against hackers and malicious actors. In this day and age, we use the internet on a daily basis, and we do all sorts of things online. We work from home via an internet connection, we shop online, and we even share personal moments with our loved ones. All of this comes under our Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
There’s a cyberattack every 39 seconds, and the victim can be anyone. Just last year (2021), around 1,862 data breach cases were reported, which was the highest ever number of data breaches ever. This is a clear indication that cyberthreats are growing at an exponential pace. Every day millions of cyberattacks are carried out globally and the ones that aren’t prepared for it face a great loss.
Hackers, malicious third parties, and even general trackers on certain websites may collect user information for a variety of reasons. Most unwanted third parties may sell this information to advertisers, and some hackers may also sell it on the dark web for nefarious reasons.
Some of this data may also be collected for political reasons, such as by government-sponsored hackers who may wish to further impose embargos and censorship upon activists or whistleblowers.
The Goal of Cybersecurity
Safety and security is a basic human right. As such, the goal of cybersecurity is to minimize such digital attacks from encroaching the privacy of internet users. Since cyberattacks can be enacted upon all sorts of assets, digital and physical, cybersecurity is a growing concern for any security-conscious internet user.
According to a report by Accenture that was published in 2019, around 68% of business leaders feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing. Another thing to notice in their report is that from the year 2018 to 2013, there was an increase in the security breaches by 11 percent. This shows how vulnerable the internet has become because the number of internet users is growing and with that, the threats are also increasing.
The goal of cybersecurity is to minimize the risks of cyber-threats like data breaches, phishing and hacking, as much as possible. For that to be successful, the masses, especially the large and small ecommerce businesses will have to take cybersecurity very seriously.
Why is cybersecurity important?
Personally Identifiable Information (PII) includes, but isn’t limited to, your phone number, your email address, your financial information, and all sorts of other personal information that is best kept private.
Since most banking and personal apps require two-factor authentication, if your phone number isn’t in your control, you may face a lot of problems as your phone can be hacked. Your 2FA codes could be stolen from you, and a hacker could have a direct way to hack any account or device that is linked to your number. This could, then, lead to further problems, since our smartphones have a large amount of personal data.
Also, configuring your online data storage properly is also important. Check Point reported that in 2021, personal data of more than 100 million Android users were leaked online due to misconfigured cloud services.
Additionally, if a cybercriminal or a hacker is able to gain access to your baking credentials, they can not only collect data on your transactions but can also make transactions for themselves. This can usually be done through phishing and malware applications, or even devices that make use of card-skimming software.
All of this, together, can allow a hacker to gain access to not only your personal data but also interfere in your offline life. They can commit identity theft, sell your personal information on the dark web, or even create clone cards which can cause greater loss of your financial assets.
According to PurpleSec, the most reported 5 cyber crimes in 2021 were:
- Identity theft
- Personal data breach
- Phishing attacks
According to a study by Comparitech, Netherlands was the most Cyber-secure country in the world.
Global Cyber-Attacks Stats at a Glance
- Between 2022 and 2023, approximately 32% of businesses in the UK reported experiencing an attack or breach.
- As of January 2023, Greece tops the National Cyber Security Index (NCSI) with an impressive score of 96.10. The countries with the highest NCSI scores are Greece (96.10), Lithuania (93.51), Belgium (93.51), Estonia (93.51), and the Czech Republic (92.21).
- The retail sector is anticipated to face a staggering global cost of $48 billion in 2023 due to eCommerce fraud.
- From 2023 to 2027, businesses will incur a massive financial loss of $343 billion due to online payment fraud.
Some Key Cybersecurity Facts
- Around 1.76 billion corporate records were leaked In January 2019.
- More than 50% of cyber attacks are directed at small businesses.(Cybersecurity Ventures, 2021)
- 4% of malware sent to small businesses is delivered via email.
- There were 20 million records breached in March 2021.
- Identity theft costs Americans $15 billion each year.
- A business is hit by a ransomware attack every 11 seconds (Arcserve, 2020).
Types of cyberattacks
We already know that cybersecurity measures are always developing, but we must also be mindful of how cyberattacks are also becoming more sophisticated. Here are some types of cyberattacks to keep in mind so that you may best protect yourself against them.
Malware is short for Malicious Software, which refers to software or applications that have unwanted features. This may include access to personal or proprietary information, such as user details or passwords, and excessive control permissions, such as those pertaining to internal systems. This may also include invasive advertisements in the form of pop-ups or spam.
According to a report by Trend Micro published in 2020, there were 15,513 malware files associated with COVID-19 that were discovered in the third-quarter of 2020. And during the same year, around 34% of organizations reported being victims of malware.
In short, this is software on your device that performs actions you have not consented to. This can include spyware or adware, but also keyloggers which keep track of which keys you’ve pressed on your keyboard to track your data inputs, and also ransomware, which holds your data hostage until you meet the hackers demands. This method is extremely popular for extortion and tracking user activities, which is a serious breach of privacy and safety.
A screenshot of live Phishing attacks happening globally. [2:10 pm – 15th August 2022]
Phishing attacks are a little different from malware as they involve trickery that loops the users into revealing confidential information. A hacker or malicious third party may impersonate a bank and contact the user to gain details about their financial log-ins, such as their username or password, 2FA passwords, and other such information.
These types of threats can cause trouble even in the most impressive cybersecurity details are set up, which is why it’s important for users to also remain vigilant about their own personal safety.
In a study published by Verizon in 2020, which focused on around 4000 confirmed breaches, phishing was stated as the second greatest risk. It accounted for almost 33% of data breaches.
Advanced persistent threats
These types of cyberattacks are the most sophisticated ones. Advanced persistent threats (APT) may first present as a type of malware or virus to get inside a network, but once they have gained access to the inside of the network, they become undetected. This allows them to steal the largest amount of data possible, which it does so quietly and without much disruption so that the cybersecurity defense isn’t alerted to the theft.
During this time, it also tracks the growth of the cybersecurity software so that it can change itself to remain undetected. Due to how detailed and complex these attacks are, they are often conducted on a very large scale, such as by national organizations or by large criminal syndicates who have the financial means to resource this type of technical work.
In contrast to malware, which targets a wide range of devices and users, APTs are often targeted at a specific, usually singular high-value target. It is for this very reason that they are constantly developing themselves so that they can get past the defenses of a particular, specific organization.
Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks
DoS attacks aim to overwhelm a targeted system or network, rendering it unavailable to legitimate users. Attackers flood the target with an overwhelming traffic volume or exploit vulnerabilities to consume system resources, causing a service disruption.
Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks involve multiple compromised systems attacking a target simultaneously. Organizations can implement network traffic monitoring and filtering to mitigate DoS attacks, use load-balancing techniques, and employ firewalls and intrusion prevention systems.
Insider threats refer to security risks posed by individuals with authorized access to an organization’s systems or data. These threats can be accidental or intentional and may arise from employees, contractors, or partners. Insider threats can lead to data breaches, intellectual property theft, or sabotage.
Organizations can mitigate insider threats by implementing access controls, monitoring user activities, conducting regular security awareness training, and maintaining a culture of security and accountability.
Ransomware is malware that encrypts files or restricts access to a victim’s system until a ransom is paid. It is typically delivered through malicious email attachments, compromised websites, or software vulnerabilities. Ransomware attacks can have severe consequences, causing data loss, financial losses, and operational disruptions.
Prevention measures include regularly backing up critical data, updating software and operating systems, implementing strong security practices, and educating users about potential threats.
Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks
MitM attacks occur when an attacker intercepts communication between two parties without their knowledge. The attacker can eavesdrop, alter, or inject malicious content into the communication flow. MitM attacks commonly target unsecured public Wi-Fi networks or compromised routers.
These attacks can lead to the theft of sensitive information like login credentials or financial data. Implementing encryption protocols, using trusted networks, and employing secure communication channels (e.g., HTTPS) can help prevent MitM attacks.
SQL Injection Attacks
SQL Injection attacks target web applications that rely on a database backend. Attackers exploit vulnerabilities in the application’s input fields to inject malicious SQL code, allowing them to manipulate the database or gain unauthorized access.
SQL Injection attacks can result in unauthorized data disclosure, data manipulation, or even complete system compromise. To prevent SQL Injection attacks, developers should follow secure coding practices, use parameterized queries or prepared statements, and perform regular security testing and code reviews.
According to a report by BakerHostetler, the following cybercrimes are most faced by the US companies:
The most targeted industries by Phishing attacks as per the report by APWG:
Here are a few more statistics by Cybertalk.org:
The Phishing Activity Trends Report for Q4 2022 by APWG sheds light on a concerning development: phishing attacks reached an unprecedented peak last year. Over 4.7 million attacks took place in 2022, surpassing all previous records, with a significant portion of 1.35 million occurring in Q4 alone. This data reflects a consistent growth rate of 150 percent per year since 2019, underscoring the escalating threat of phishing attacks.
According to the 2023 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, malware experienced a reversal in its downward trend after three consecutive years of decline. In 2022, there was a 2% year-over-year increase, resulting in 5.5 billion malware hits. While this increase may seem modest, it is driven by substantial growth in two specific areas. Cryptojacking saw a significant rise of 43%, while IoT malware witnessed a staggering jump of 87%. The combined impact of these increases outweighed a 21% decrease in global ransomware volume, thereby propelling the overall malware figures.
In 2022, the number of intrusion attempts continued to surge, reaching an unprecedented peak of 6.3 trillion. This represents a significant 19% increase compared to the total in 2021 and is approximately six times higher than the overall attempts observed in 2013.
However, while the number of intrusions has risen, most of this increase stems from low-severity hits, typically harmless actions like pings. Conversely, the count of moderate- or high-severity intrusion attempts, known as malicious intrusion attempts, decreased in 2022. A notable 10% year-over-year drop brought the figure down to 10.6 billion.
Types of Cybersecurity
As the types of threats to our security grows, so do our defenses. It’s important to know about the different measures of cybersecurity so you can remain vigilant about what best fits your needs.
This method of security is geared at strengthening an app’s internal defenses in order to minimise and prevent attacks. Most of this is established when the app itself is being built, such as in the initial stages of development.
However, as technology advances and our apps grow with our needs, these security updates may be distributed to users through patches and updates to give pre-existing defenses a boost.
Because of this, the apps are never 100% perfect or secure, unless the users are keeping up-to-date with all new patches. Cyberthreats tend to evolve and advance quickly so, realistically, it’s never possible to have a foolproof defense mechanism built into the app itself.
Intrusion detection systems (IDS) are built to scan and identify the activities running on a network, just to single out unusual activities which can turn hostile or malicious. This type of software mainly monitors behaviour that seems uncommon from users, and keeps logs of suspicious activities.
Each system has its own special method of functioning to cover all ends. Some raise alarms and some directly respond to attacks, either by isolating or trapping them or by launching a counter-attack. Generally, there are two types of tools that an IDS can use to single out and trap threats: one based on signatures, and another based on anomalies.
Systems that analyse incoming traffic for suspicious activities are network intrusion detections systems (NIDS), and system that monitor confidential files to see if there’s any incoming attack are known as Host-based intrusion detection systems (HIDS). There are also some types of IDS which can do monitor for threats and also come up with a counter-attack if needed, which are called Intrusion prevention systems (IPS).
Data loss prevention
Some methods are geared for limited losses, such as Data loss prevention (DLP) systems which ensure that data can’t be accessed by unauthorised parties. DLP systems also ensure that the data is uploaded in a secure, encrypted manner outside of the company’s servers as well.
Due to how it most frequently deals with sensitive information, this type of software is highly regulated. It maintains the security of all information whilst acting in compliance with regulatory mandates, such as HIPAA, GDPR, and others. As such, it also serves multiple purposes at the same time: monitoring, controlling, and reporting.
It monitors and controls data streams, incoming and outgoing, to ensure all data is being dealt with security and there aren’t any irregularities in the flow. As it does this, it allso gives reports to confirm compliance with the rules and obligations set up by regulatory bodies.
Cloud security protects data, applications, and infrastructure deployed in cloud environments. It involves securing cloud-based services, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS).
Cloud security measures include access controls, encryption, data segregation, vulnerability management, and cloud service provider security standards compliance. Properly configuring and monitoring cloud resources is essential for maintaining the security and privacy of cloud-based assets.
Identity and Access Management (IAM)
IAM focuses on managing and controlling user access to an organization’s systems, applications, and data. It includes processes for user authentication, authorization, and access control.
IAM solutions encompass technologies like multi-factor authentication (MFA), single sign-on (SSO), role-based access control (RBAC), and privileged access management (PAM). Effective IAM practices help prevent unauthorized access, mitigate insider threats, and enforce least privilege principles.
Incident Response and Recovery
Incident response and recovery involves establishing effective plans and processes to handle cybersecurity incidents. It includes identifying, responding to, and recovering from security breaches, data breaches, and other cyber incidents. Incident response plans outline incident detection, containment, eradication, and recovery procedures.
Regular testing, training, and post-incident analysis are crucial for refining incident response capabilities and minimizing the impact of cyber incidents.
- NIST Cybersecurity Framework
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework, developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the United States, provides a set of guidelines, best practices, and standards for managing and improving cybersecurity risk. It offers a flexible framework that organizations can use to assess, develop, and strengthen their cybersecurity posture. The framework consists of five core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. It serves as a roadmap for organizations to manage cybersecurity risks and enhance their resilience against cyber threats.
- ISO/IEC 27001:2013
ISO/IEC 27001:2013 is an international standard for information security management systems (ISMS). It provides a systematic approach for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an organization’s information security practices. The standard focuses on risk management, security controls, and establishing a robust information security governance framework. ISO/IEC 27001:2013 is widely recognized and helps organizations demonstrate their commitment to protecting sensitive information and managing security risks effectively.
- CIS Controls
The Center for Internet Security (CIS) Controls a set of best practices and guidelines to help organizations safeguard their systems and data against cyber threats. The CIS Controls provide a prioritized approach to cybersecurity by outlining specific actions organizations should take to mitigate common attack vectors. The controls are divided into three implementation levels, allowing organizations to adopt them according to their risk profile and available resources. The CIS Controls cover asset management, vulnerability management, secure configurations, access controls, and incident response.
- PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard)
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security requirements established by major credit card companies to protect cardholder data and ensure secure payment transactions. PCI DSS applies to organizations that handle, store, or transmit payment card data.
It outlines specific security controls and practices organizations must implement to protect cardholder data, including network security, access controls, encryption, and regular security testing. Compliance with PCI DSS is mandatory for organizations involved in payment card processing.
- GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive data protection regulation enforced in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA). It sets out rules and requirements for the processing, storage, and protection of personal data of EU residents.
GDPR emphasizes principles such as consent, data minimization, transparency, and individual rights regarding their data. Organizations that collect or process the personal data of EU residents must comply with GDPR, implement appropriate technical and organizational measures, and ensure the lawful and secure handling of personal data.
- HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
HIPAA is a U.S. federal law that sets privacy and security standards for protected health information (PHI) held by covered entities such as healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses. The law requires organizations to implement safeguards to protect PHI’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
HIPAA mandates security measures such as risk assessments, access controls, encryption, audit controls, and employee training to ensure the privacy and security of sensitive health information.
- FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act)
FISMA is a U.S. federal law that establishes requirements for securing federal government information systems. It outlines standards and guidelines for federal agencies to develop and maintain comprehensive information security programs.
FISMA requires federal agencies to implement risk-based approaches to cybersecurity, conduct regular security assessments, develop and maintain system security plans, and establish incident response capabilities. The law ensures federal information and systems’ confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Safety Tips and Recommendations
Even as cybersecurity measures are constantly being developed by our favourite softwares and applications, internet users must continue to remain vigilant. Here are our recommendations and tips to maintain your personal bubble of cybersecurity:
1. Use a VPN
Public networks, such as those in cafes or in the office, may seem generally secure but they are very prone to attacks by malicious third parties. Always connect to a premium VPN, such as Astrill, to ensure that all of your data remains safe under layers of encryption.
A VPN encrypts your traffic and passes it through a secure tunnel, making you safe and secure over the web. Also, it changes your IP and DNS, so that you can enjoy true privacy by staying anonymous over the web, stay safe from being tracked and have your online privacy intact and secure.
There are certain pros and cons of VPN, but in general, a VPN is the best option you have for protecting your digital privacy and your data. You can install a VPN on any device and secure your information easily.
2. Remain updated with all devices
Make sure all of your devices are kept up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates to its operating software. It is also good practice to update all applications and software as well, to minimize vulnerabilities.
It has been reported that In 2018, one out of every 36 smartphones contained high-risk applications. This number would have definitely increased by now and this means that it can happen to any of us, if we do not take the necessary measures.
3. Don’t click on suspicious links
Most phishing attacks are done through direct means of contact, such as emails and messages. It’s best to use antivirus software or to personally check the authenticity of the content that is being sent to you. It’s always in your best interest to not directly click any random link that you find in your inbox.
4. Create strong, unique passwords
Along with using Two-Factor Authentication, it’s best to make complicated passwords. The strongest passwords contain no references to your personal life, such as your name or your birthday, and are often long with many special characters. Make sure that your password is something that is not only secure but also hard to guess for someone who may know you personally.
Consider using a password manager to store all of your passwords. Some types also come with password generators, which take away all of the work of coming up with a clever password.
Along with all of these tips, it’s best to keep a safety-conscious point of view when surfing online. Cyberattacks are growing more advanced with each day, and when cybersecurity protocols may appear to be lacking, the users themselves can take charge and protect themselves.
Make sure to always be mindful of the content you post, and ensure that you don’t share anything that is personally identifiable on a public platform, or over an unencrypted connection.
Emerging Trends in Cybersecurity
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are increasingly used in cybersecurity to enhance threat detection, analysis, and response capabilities. AI and ML algorithms can quickly analyze vast amounts of data, identify patterns, and detect anomalies indicating cyber attacks or suspicious activities.
These technologies enable proactive threat hunting, automated incident response, and adaptive defense mechanisms. However, it’s important to note that as AI and ML evolve, so do the techniques used by cybercriminals to bypass detection systems, necessitating ongoing research and development to stay ahead.
Internet of Things (IoT) Security
The proliferation of IoT devices, such as smart home devices, industrial sensors, and medical devices, has introduced new security challenges. IoT devices often have limited computational resources and lack robust security measures, making them vulnerable to exploitation.
Securing the IoT ecosystem involves addressing device vulnerabilities, implementing strong authentication and encryption, ensuring secure communication protocols, and establishing centralized management and monitoring systems. As IoT expands, the security of connected devices and the protection of sensitive data become critical focus areas.
With the widespread adoption of cloud computing, ensuring robust cloud security has become imperative. Cloud security encompasses measures to protect data, applications, and infrastructure deployed in cloud environments. It involves implementing strong access controls, encryption, secure data storage and transfer, continuous monitoring, and incident response capabilities.
As organizations increasingly rely on cloud services, the shared responsibility model between cloud service providers and customers must be clearly defined and understood to address potential security risks effectively.
Mobile Device Security
Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets have become integral to personal and professional life, making them attractive targets for cyber attacks. Mobile device security focuses on protecting devices from malware, data breaches, and unauthorized access.
This includes implementing secure device configurations, enabling encryption, enforcing strong authentication, managing app permissions, and educating users about mobile security best practices. Mobile security will remain a significant concern as mobile devices continue to store sensitive data and access critical systems.
Blockchain Technology and Security
Blockchain technology, known for its decentralized and immutable nature, has potential applications in enhancing cybersecurity. It can provide secure and transparent transaction records, identity management, and data integrity verification.
Blockchain-based solutions can help prevent data tampering, enhance supply chain security, and facilitate secure peer-to-peer transactions. However, as blockchain technology evolves, it presents unique security challenges, such as smart contract vulnerabilities and the potential for 51% attacks.
Exploring robust security measures and standards for blockchain implementations is crucial to ensure its effectiveness in enhancing cybersecurity.
Businesses need to improve their cybersecurity structures to avoid being compromised as the cyber-threats and thefts of personal information are on the rise. A comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that addresses coverage of data, systems, network, and information security rules, including social engineering considerations, is essential.
Understanding the threats to which you are most vulnerable as an individual or company is equally crucial. You will be able to concentrate your preventative efforts on the most crucial aspects and better equip yourself if you do this.
Author: Arsalan Rathore
Arsalan Rathore is a tech geek who loves to pen down his thoughts and views on cybersecurity, technology innovation, entertainment, and social issues. He likes sharing his thoughts about the emerging tech trends in the market and also loves discussing online privacy issues.