Cybersecurity is easily defined but involves many elements beyond that definition. At its base, cybersecurity is all processes involved in defending computer systems from all kinds of cyber threats and attacks, including everything from hackers and viruses to more advanced threats such as ransomware, phishing scams and even outright cyber terrorism.
While computer systems are still the primary focus, cybersecurity is involved in the defense of literally all types of devices with any kind of network connectivity. Increasingly, mobile devices, especially phones, are a focus of cybersecurity as that is the primary means by which most people connect with systems and applications.
Notably, cybersecurity is directly linked to a wide range of industries, businesses and practices, making it a business sector that is in constant demand. Similarly, it is related to other forms of security and defensive practices, including information security, general identity protection and data security.
What Is Information Security?
Information security, sometimes called InfoSec, is the process involved in protecting information for individuals and corporations. This involves the defense of all kinds of information and typically is done to prevent unauthorized access to private materials. As many companies store sensitive information, like credit card numbers and personal addresses, this kind of security is often prioritized by many organizations.
Information Security vs. Cybersecurity: What’s the Difference?
Information security and cybersecurity are often used interchangeably, but there is definitely a distinct difference. First and foremost, there is a distinct difference between the two. InfoSec includes many elements of cybersecurity, especially when it comes to the defense of digital information such as the previously noted credit card numbers.
However, information security usually extends well beyond the digital world. It can also include physical security for real world materials and can even reach into information assurance services— defending information from massive threats like natural disasters. You’re unlikely to need a vault or security guards for cybersecurity, but information security may need those physical defenses.
Cybersecurity maintains its foothold exclusively in digital spaces. Information security may employ elements of cybersecurity, however cyber defenses are typically just that— only digital. However, that singular defensive facet has multiple parts and must defend itself from numerous threats.
Common Cybersecurity Services
There are a wide range of services regularly provided by cybersecurity experts. Typically, these services are provided company-wide across an organization, though it may be siloed into specific parts of a business or could even provide specialized services for singular entities. The following are some of the most common kinds of cybersecurity:
With phones and mobile devices an increasing focus, many organizations need more help defending phones and their applications. This helps make sure that hackers and malicious software can’t damage the devices or gain access to sensitive info.
Storing, maintaining and successfully protecting digital assets is often the core of business operations. This form of cybersecurity focuses on making sure that only authorized users can access key data, all while keeping track of how data is stored.
Network security, as the name implies, involves protecting a computer network (or series of networks) from hackers, malware, viruses or other threats. This is the most common service typically provided by cybersecurity experts.
Continuity and Disaster Recovery
Cybersecurity is not infallible, even when the best in the industry are involved. If the worst happens, and data is lost, stolen or damaged, experts in disaster recovery help mitigate that damage. This helps a business return to the status quo and continue to operate despite such attacks, including being able to operate without access to some assets.
While the majority of the assets that cybersecurity teams work with are digital, one of the most important elements isn’t a computer at all: it’s the human beings that use these systems. A large part of successful cybersecurity efforts involve making sure that users don’t do any damage— this means helping them avoid malware, phishing attempts and questionable downloads that could contain viruses.
Malicious individuals are constantly working to do damage to organizations and their users, looking to find new security holes to exploit and profit off of. Threats are therefore constantly changing and need to be adapted to, however, by recognizing the most common threats a cybersecurity professional is able to roll with the punches and develop better security processes. The following are a few of the most regularly encountered threats:
The malicious actors working to do damage are regularly referred to as hackers. They can use any of the tools below, but can also develop other ways to do harm and are the biggest problem because they, like any human being, can be unpredictable.
A program that can have a wide range of negative effects on a computer or system. Typically, a virus infects a single program and then proceeds to replicate itself, spreading throughout the system and becoming a greater problem with time.
A variant on viruses, often employing the same kind of malicious, replicating code. Malware is sometimes differentiated by initially appearing as something positive, like a program that claims it will “speed up” your computer. It then proceeds to do the opposite, but by then it’s too late.
Ransomware is a still more specific variety of malware that locks down specific elements of a computer system, while offering a way to communicate with the attacker. These cybercriminals then claim they will remove the malicious program once they are paid, literally holding the user’s machine for ransom.
An often subtle form of cyber attack, phishing involves any kind of false communication between a cybercriminal and a user. They will often send out emails, texts or other forms of communication that seek to get users to click on malicious links, download files that contain viruses or try to get personal information from the user.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
An increasing problem for large organizations, a DDoS attack involves overloading a specific server or service with traffic. By sending an influx of communications to a server, they can then prevent the intended users from actually employing the service itself.
Key Cybersecurity Skills
Those involved in the industry must cultivate a variety of skills to succeed, though these are the most recommended skills for cybersecurity:
Understanding how to program, including how programming languages work, can be key to successfully building cybersecurity processes. Being able to program quickly and effectively is essential for responding to cyber threats.
Knowing how systems interact with the cloud is of growing importance, as when data is being transferred between cloud and device it may be vulnerable.
White Hat Hacking
Developing hacking techniques with the intent to combat malicious hackers is known as white hat hacking, and may be the most important skill for a cybersecurity expert to develop throughout their career.
Booting Up Your Career In Cybersecurity
Now for the real question, does all of this sound particularly interesting to you? Does understanding cybersecurity have you itching to see what kind of role you could play in the industry? The good news is that it isn’t hard to break into the industry with the right training and education, and today you can find all kinds of online resources to set you on that path.
The Cybersecurity Bootcamp with Stony Brook University can provide you with all the resources you need to prepare for a career in cybersecurity. Best of all, this kind of online program is tailor made to work with you, helping you learn all you need while still fitting into your schedule.