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What you always wanted to know about cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting internet-connected networks, computers, mobile devices, software, applications – and the sensitive data stored on or transmitted through a network – from malicious attack.

The various technologies and procedures that make up the full range of cybersecurity measures are designed to close security gaps and block attackers who try to gain access to, alter, destroy or extort sensitive customer data. It is also an important means of protection to recover quickly and efficiently from attacks aimed at blocking, disrupting or disabling an organisation’s ability to operate its own systems.

Some industries are more vulnerable to cyber threats due to the nature of their business (e.g. healthcare, finance and education). However, all businesses should take steps to protect their networks and their customers’ confidential data.

Due to technological advancements, increased connectivity and criminal activity, cyber-attacks will continue to grow exponentially – and at a high cost. According to a recent study, cybercrime will cost the world more than $6 trillion by the end of 2021 and as much as $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.

With such a high price tag, it would be easy to believe that cyber criminals are primarily targeting large businesses and corporations. However, criminals have found that small businesses (SMBs) – especially those that are part of a supply chain to larger companies – are more vulnerable targets.

According to a report on the global state of security, 71% of SMBs worldwide have experienced at least one cyberattack since starting their business, and 66% have been attacked in the last year alone.

Since the first known computer virus bounced between a number of affected computers in 1971, a whole series of well-documented attacks over the last 50 years have caused trillions of dollars of damage to businesses around the world. They are all strong reminders that cybersecurity is a necessity today.

Now, after COVID-19, the expansion of remote working and the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) in our ever-changing digital environment have significantly increased the potential for cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are adapting their attack methods to focus on the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain: human error.

With a greater number of devices in more locations connected to more software, the need for advanced cybersecurity has never been greater for businesses of all sizes that need to protect sensitive customer data.

Whether it’s stealing data, disrupting network activity or damaging devices, cyberattacks often occur in several steps:

1) by scanning for vulnerabilities;

2) initiating the breach; and;

3) Execution of an attack.

While there is no way to completely protect against all attacks, knowing what your system is up against and the current threats can help you create a more comprehensive cyber security plan.

This term covers a wide range of malicious activities that aim to exploit human error to trick unsuspecting users into giving away data, spreading malware infections or granting access to protected platforms.

Phishing is a form of social engineering that is particularly effective because the message or email appears to come from a credible source. Attackers typically attempt to install malware or obtain sensitive information such as credit card details and login credentials

‘Malicious software’ includes spyware, viruses and ransomware that is installed on a system when a user clicks on a dangerous link or email. Once in the system, the virus can block access, damage systems or devices, and collect important data to extort money.

Cybercriminals use SQL to insert malicious codes into vulnerable servers and applications to gain access to sensitive data and execute commands or similar actions that the user has not requested.

Cyber criminals insert themselves between two legitimate communicating hosts to spread malware that gives the cybercriminal access to a user’s browser and the data they send. Once in control, the attacker can redirect users to a fake website that looks like the real one and steal or alter information there.

These attacks bombard servers or networks with simultaneous requests to create a high volume of traffic and prevent legitimate requests from being processed. When attacks compromise multiple devices to launch attacks on the target, this is known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS).

ATPs, also known as Domain Name System Tunnelling, use continuous, elaborate techniques to gain access to a system that allows the attacker to remain there for an extended period of time.

A Security Operations Centre (SOC) is a centralised function within an organisation that uses people, processes and technology to continuously monitor and improve an organisation’s security posture while preventing, detecting, analysing and responding to cybersecurity incidents.

A SOC acts as a hub or central command centre that captures telemetry data from across an organisation’s IT infrastructure, including networks, devices, applications and information repositories, regardless of where those resources are located. With the rise of advanced threats, gathering intelligence from multiple sources is critical. Essentially, the SOC is the connection point for every event that is logged and monitored within the organisation. For each of these events, the SOC must decide how to manage and respond to it.

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) refers to an outsourced cyber security service that protects your data and assets even when a threat escapes an organisation’s usual security controls.

An MDR security platform is considered an advanced 24/7 security control that often includes a range of basic security activities, including cloud-managed security for organisations that cannot maintain their own security operations centre. MDR services combine advanced analytics, threat intelligence and human expertise in investigating and responding to incidents at the host and network level.

Red Teaming is the process of testing the security of an organisation’s systems by mimicking an attacker and breaching secure systems or data.

A Red Team can be an externally appointed group of security testers or a team within your own organisation that hacks your system to prepare for a variety of cyber-attacks and security breaches before they occur. If your organisation has excellent intrusion testing tools and endpoint detection processes, Red Teams can, for example, attempt phishing or defeat physical access controls during a simulation.

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