What is Cybersecurity: Everything You Need to Know

Whether you’re a small-mid sized startup or a well-established corporate firm, the intricacies of cybersecurity have never been more crucial than before.

Ultimately, one critical vulnerability in a company’s networking infrastructure could lead to a chain reaction of open patches and unclosed security loopholes, costing you upwards of millions of dollars.

The United States Council of Economic Advisers spotlighted that cyber activity cost the U.S. economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016

Conceptualizing the types of cybersecurity into its smaller parts — such as IoT, network, application, cloud, and infrastructural security — can be daunting.

That is why this article will provide you with a comprehensive technical description of challenges and cybersecurity threats. Stay with us!

What is Cybersecurity?

When individuals and organizations jumble up images of cybersecurity and its best practices, they typically visualize purely digital/software-based protocols and methods that protect the whole network infrastructure.

However, cybersecurity includes all slices of both the hardware and digital pie when protecting interconnected systems.

Cybersecurity ultimately involves the multi-faceted protection of all Internet-connected systems, including hardware frameworks, software, and data from cyber-attacks.

Ultimately, whether you’re an organization or one individual, understanding that cybersecurity encompasses hardware, software, and data protection protocols is crucial. As they all have individual gateways and proxies that permit connection into one another.

In other words, if your hardware systems are vulnerable, your data and software infrastructure is left in the dust as well, no matter how many fancy digital protections and techniques are implemented.

 

 

The new role of Cyber Security

In a digital era where data breaches are transpiring by the second and consistently leaking individual and organization-level information, gauging the level of private data vulnerability is crucial.

More importantly, in a competitive economy, for black hat hackers, illicitly decrypting and mining data is akin to finding a gold mine.

In a final report drafted by McAfee, it’s estimated that cybercrime now stands at over $400 billion, while it was $250 billion nearly two years ago.

Once a cyberattack has actualized, businesses suffer the brunt of the damage with critical financial losses, and in the case of data breaches, irrevocable reputational damage.

As cyberattack strategies and tactics escalate against individuals and organizations (large and small), proactively protecting data with cybersecurity response plans that minimize long-term damage is crucial.

By understanding the foundations of cybersecurity and the essential key players involved in modern cyber threats, precise response plans can be effectively developed and reinforced.

More importantly, by analyzing emerging cyberthreats and malicious attack strategies in the 21st-century, you can proactively outline response plans and de-escalation tactics to minimize short-term and long-term business impacts.

The Elements of Cybersecurity

You know, more than two decades ago, organizations could get an easy slap on the wrist with bare-minimum unified cybersecurity systems in place.

However, modern cybersecurity systems require the maximal coordination of security efforts throughout the company-wide information system.

This continual optimization and assurance of security involve many moving parts, including:

  • Application security
  • Information security
  • Network security
  • Disaster recovery/business continuity planning
  • Operational security, and
  • End-user education (which we will elaborate upon later).

The conventional approach towards cyberattack prevention has been to concentrate resources on crucial system components, protecting against the most crucial threats. Ultimately leaving non-critical or minor components undefended and unprotected against less dangerous risks.

In the long-run, this leads to a wishy-washy cost-benefit system where smaller risks eventually accumulate for the organization, outweighing the advantage of targeting significant threats.

However, in order to continually manage these environments, advisory organizations are underlining a more proactive, rather than reactive approach towards adaptively suppressing threats.

Related read: 5 Ways To Protect Your Remote Employees From Cyber Risks

Modern Cybersecurity Challenges to Watch Out For

Unfortunately, cybersecurity risks and attack strategies have become overwhelmingly coordinated and synchronized.

In such a way to a point where new advancements in data, software, and hardware actually generate more loopholes and open patch risks for hackers and cybercriminals to exploit.

Whether it is the rising waves of machine learning, cloud-based architectures, new federal regulation, or IoT device vulnerabilities, below are the following modern cyber threats that should be on everyone’s radars.

1. Cyberattacks via Compromised IoT Devices

With the increasingly widespread deployment and integration of IoT devices, the risk of attacks in the previous 3-5 years has sharply increased.

In 2018, the cumulative frequency of attacks via compromised IoT systems expectedly increased.

Especially within industry sectors where IoT devices were actively used in their technology models, embedded within their preexisting computer security infrastructure.

The most notorious security penetrations in 2018 and onward include the following:

  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks: Once an interconnected IoT system has been compromised, they may be exploited as a proxy in performing massive DDoS attacks.

Oftentimes, cybercriminals will manipulate poor security settings and inherent patches in-home and workplace IoT devices, overloading their associated networks with enormous amounts of traffic volume.

  • Botnets: As pre-made malware solutions are on the surge, cybercriminals can now implement, deploy, and inject security infrastructure with ready-to-use botnet kits purchased from the dark web.
  • Ransomware: Although IoT device networks are not notorious for containing valuable data, cybercriminals can exploit critical IoT systems as a proxy.

Cybercriminals can resultantly shut down power grids, factory lines, smart cars, and hospital databases until the victim forwards money typically in the form of cryptocurrency.

 

DDoS attack illustration between the attacker and the target victim. Source: Cloudflare

2. Cloud Security Risks with Data and Applications

As cloud-based solutions leak into the cracks of data storage, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), and massive corporate use-cases, the risk of an insecure service pipeline is not that far from reality.

Although cloud providers have paved the way for more scalability in business data management, several security issues cannot be overlooked, including:

Cloud Misconfigurations

Ultimately, ensuring that security in both Software as a Business (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Business (IaaS) cloud configurations is held at the highest standard has become increasingly complex due to the modern intricacies of securing cloud data.

Businesses can expect even more future cybersecurity and general data breaches, as potential cloud misconfigurations pop up like weeds on a lawn.

Insecure APIs

Although businesses with technology stacks frequently centralize each facet of their business onto their IT department’s private IP address, cloud systems have emerged as a business’s only component in the domain of a public IP address.

Insecure APIs provide attackers with considerable access to cloud applications, leaving the entirety of the system’s infrastructure (data, financial, and application) vulnerable to additional compromises (e.g. DDoS, Botnet, and Ransomware).

3. Machine Learning and AI-Based Attacks

Perhaps the counteractive use of machine learning and AI in the cyberattack sphere perfectly encapsulates the old adage of “giving you a taste of your own medicine.”

Although machine learning algorithms have been integrated into the backend of many cutting-edge cybersecurity technologies for anomaly and suspicious pattern identification, black hat hackers have used it for counteractive malicious intent.

AI/ML tools can systematically learn and extract patterns in the consequences of past cyberattack events to inform hackers of more strategic and nuanced attack strategies.

4. Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Systems Cyberthreats

Cryptocurrency has become the pipedream and ‘be-all-end-all’ aspiration for companies looking to decentralize their infrastructure and consumer services.

Nevertheless, with new and rising solutions comes less-developed security methods.

Many companies that adopt or transition to cryptocurrency technology don’t implement essential security protocols, leading to deleterious financial losses.

There are three attack strategies organizations and individuals should look out for:

  • Eclipse Attack

Notorious as network-level attacks on blockchain systems, Eclipse attacks gain full control over all connections that are incoming and outgoing from the victim’s node.

This primary attack can be deployed to hide information about cryptocurrency usage within the network and perform double-spend attacks, culminating in financial damage and long-term losses.

  • Sybil Attack

This typically occurs when one node in the network acquires several identities, subverting the reputation system of a network service and gaining disproportionate influence.

  • DDoS Attacks

Although popularized cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have created long-developed, build-in protection against DDoS attacks, new cryptocurrencies are frequently left in the dust, vastly unprotected. Especially with a high amount of nodes and network connections.

5. Adopting and Scaling DevOps

As project management systems demand more scalability, an exponential number of emerging and already-established businesses are either adopting or rescaling their DevOps platforms.

However, integrating security controls that can adequately adapt to a DevOps transition has grown horridly difficult.

Resultantly, being prepared to deal with potential security problems and vulnerability risk will be decisive in minimizing the future likelihood of an attack.

These possible security problems include:

Security Group Misconfiguration

As DevOps environments progressively grow, they actively interconnect hundreds of security groups, leading to many permutations of potential attacks and vulnerability risks.

Ultimately, even the slightest misconfiguration in a security group could cause significant system damage.

  • Excess False Positives

Similar to security group misconfiguration, the ability to precisely detect false positives in anomaly detection becomes a serious challenge as environment dynamics change.

The result? Creating more false positives than the system can deal with.

Attackers can effectively use this rampant surge in false positives to their advantage, allowing them to hide their activities behind legitimate processes inside the victim’s DevOps environment.

Types of Cybersecurity Threats

Although the emerging challenges of cybersecurity, such as IoT compromisation, DevOps, and cloud-based attacks, seem stressful enough, more broad levels of cybersecurity can be acknowledged in the following five scopes:

  1. IoT security
  2. Network security
  3. Application security
  4. Cloud security, and
  5. Infrastructure security.

Understanding the extensive scope of cybersecurity in these five lenses will help you identify anomalies in your systems and efficiently resolve them.

1. Internet of Things (IoT) Security

IoT typically refers to a broad range of critical and non-critical/casual cyber physician systems, including appliances, sensors, televisions, wifi routers, printers, and security cameras.

More importantly, IoT devices have dispersed into both corporate and non-corporate facilities, leaving secondary data that is transferred and relayed by the IoT device at risk.

In the case that IoT devices are shipped from 3rd party vendors or corporations, the consumer/business should effectively ensure that the device has been hard-tested against the finest security standards and read their security documentation accordingly.

2. Network Security

Now, for perhaps the most notorious facet of cybersecurity, the monster in its flesh—network security.

Network security holistically guards against unauthorized intrusion of internal or external networks due to malicious intent, whether via DDoS, ransomware, or Botnet deployments.

By protecting infrastructure and inhibiting insecure access to said infrastructure, network security ensures that all internal networks are accounted for.

Remember when I mentioned machine learning algorithms being used for the evil of black hat hacking and cyberattacks?

Well, those same algorithms are actively used to optimize anomaly detection and detection of suspicious internal network entries/hijacks.

Modern IT security systems can now use machine learning to proactively flag abnormal traffic in real-time, allowing network administrators to continually implement policies and procedures to prevent unauthorized access, modification, and eventual exploitation of the network.

Traditional network security implementations can include the following:

  • New passwords
  • Extra logins
  • Application security with the following tools
  • Antiviral software
  • Anti Spyware programs
  • Encryption
  • Firewalls
  • And monitored internet access

3. Application Security

Now is the time to listen up!—application security is a must-have in the context of your cybersecurity apparatus.

By deploying and optimizing your application security, all application security systems are protected, ensuring that the development stage of an application progresses is not interfered.

Unfortunately, applications are extremely accessible over networks, prompting developers and IT managers to adopt security measures during the development phase.

The most common types of application security break down into the following:

  • Antivirus programs
  • Firewalls
  • Encryption programs

4. Cloud Security

For the previous 2-3 decades, cloud security has emerged (in conjunction with cloud services) as a software-based security tool that actively protects and monitors data in your cloud resources in real-time.

Although there is a long-running myth that cloud security is more vulnerable than remotely storing data physically onsite due to the owner’s capacity to control the environment. It’s been found that accessibility matters more than control.

Alert’s Logic Cloud Security Report discovered that onsite users that physically contained data, suffered more than cloud service provider environments with onsite environment users, experiencing attacks at a rate nearly 3 times more than alternative service providers.

5. Infrastructure Security

Although infrastructure security is a relatively broad umbrella of components, it’s worth noting that critical infrastructure, including electrical grids, water purification systems, traffic lights, shopping centers, and hospitals are all included.

Twenty years ago, we would’ve been mind-boggled by the possibility of a cybersecurity breach into critical infrastructure.

However, at this very second, each and every moving part in modern infrastructure has a direct or indirect connection to the internet.

Organizations in industries that employ infrastructure to host or deliver their services must protect the networks and servers that their critical infrastructure is associated with.

By protecting the connection between infrastructure (physical) and its network component (non-physical), the organization ensures that the receivers of those services are optimally protected.

Conclusion

Consumers and organizations oftentimes illusion themselves into approaching cybersecurity as a strictly digital or network-based endeavor.

However, it has become evident that cybersecurity mutually interconnects all systems and interfaces, creating a long-term win-win situation for both the consumer and business: longer-running services with minimized financial/reputational costs.

Whether you're sitting at your desk chair scrolling through browser windows on a home PC, or managing the IT department at a large-scale corporation, it is essential that you consider the above information to inform future prevention, disaster, and recovery plans.

For these tasks, however, some specialized help will be needed. If you have a software project planned or about to start, you can count on Trio, to hire the best remote developers.

They will not only guarantee the quality of the software but also, the security of the project. Contact us today and let’s talk about your projects!

 

 

Daniel Fleury

About

Daniel is a machine learning researcher and engineer at Johns Hopkins University