What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the protection of computer systems, networks, programs and data from digital attacks (“cyberattacks”) intended to access, alter or destroy digital information, extort money or otherwise interfere with computer and network operations.

Deploying effective cybersecurity strategies is a challenging and ongoing process that must accommodate a rapidly evolving operational landscape of computers, smartphones, tablets, smart devices and network infrastructure that frequently outnumber the people who use them, and often have vastly different capabilities, functions, behaviors and vulnerabilities.  This is further compounded by a dynamic threat landscape of increasingly sophisticated attacks perpetrated be highly innovative and motived individuals and groups.


Why is Cybersecurity Important?

Whether it’s going from Point A to Point B, getting an education, practicing a profession, producing or consuming goods or services, communicating with friends and family, enjoying a quiet night at home watching reruns of your favorite sitcom, or even just turning on the lights, almost everything we do involves computers, networks and the digital information that flows around them in some way.

At every level: from the personal – preventing identity theft, cyberextortion or preserving family photos; to the organizational – protecting valuable intellectual property from theft, preserving medical records or keeping the assembly line running; or even at the societal level – making sure the lights stay on, the skies are safe and markets can function; everyone has a vested interest in robust cybersecurity defenses against attempts to steal, change or destroy data or to disable or overwhelm computer and network systems.


The Key Ingredients of Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity incorporates a “defense in depth” methodology that implements multiple levels of protection spread across not only the computers, networks, programs and data of an organization, but also the users of those systems and the business processes they follow, in ways that complement one another to create an effective defense from cyberattacks.


Technology is the first line of defense against cyberattacks.  There are three classes of targets that attackers will typically focus on that can be defended with cybersecurity technologies: Endpoints, such as computers, smartphones, IoT devices and routers; Networks; and the “Cloud”.  Commonly used cybersecurity technologies include specialized security products and services, such as Next-Generation Firewalls, AntiVirus software and Spam-Filtering services for email.   Cybersecurity technology also includes configuring the built-in security features of a system or service so that it becomes less vulnerable to attack, in a process called “hardening”.


Organizations must develop and maintain processes and procedures for dealing with both attempted and successful cyberattacks and other disasters. This includes how to identify threats, how to protect various systems, how to detect and respond to attacks, and how to recover from a successful attack.  Fortunately, there is a widely respected and well organized framework that can be leveraged to help you and your cybersecurity team bootstrap the development, implementation and continual improvement of effective cybersecurity processes in your organization: the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.


The most important, and often weakest, link in the cybersecurity chain is the people that use the systems being defended against attack.  Users often have a limited understanding of cybersecurity principals or the nature of the threats they will face, and must be trained to:

o    Understand and comply with basic data security principles such as how to create strong passwords, using different passwords for different systems, not sharing passwords with anyone, being wary of links and attachments in email and how to spot a malicious link

o    How to comply with cybersecurity practices and processes defined by the organization

o    When and how to back up data

o    How to respond to notices from security tools, such as AntiVirus programs and Spam filters

o    How to detect and defend against social engineering attacks

o    What to do when a real or suspected attack is encountered

o    When and how to contact a security administrator


Best Practices in Cybersecurity

While there is no way to make your company completely impenetrable, there are some specific ways to use IT protection in your business to make it less likely that you will be hacked or infected with malware. Here are a few of the most common ways to protect your business.

About two-thirds of cyber-attacks target small to medium businesses, so it is imperative that smaller businesses safeguard their information. These tips will help small to medium business owners protect their cyber assets.


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