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What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the state of being protected in cyberspace, including measures taken to protect computer systems against unauthorized access or attack. It refers to the policies, processes, and technologies to protect networks, devices, and data from cybercrime and data breaches. Today, at an enterprise level, cybersecurity is typically carried out through a security program, including continual risk assessment to see where an organization could be vulnerable.

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What Does Cybersecurity Mean for Your Business?

At a corporate level, cybersecurity is crucial in keeping an organization’s critical infrastructure, and the data within, safe in cyberspace. How businesses go about this changes as they move their systems to the cloud and work becomes more mobile.

Today, cybersecurity can be divided into a few categories, including:

  • IT security: Keeping your core information technology systems safe and intact
  • Data security: Ensuring the integrity of all of an organization’s data in a manner compliant with data protection regulations
  • Internet of things (IoT) security: Securing smart devices interconnected through the internet, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.
  • Operational technology (OT) security: Protecting people and assets in the monitoring of physical devices and processes

The thing that kept me awake at night (as NATO military commander) was cybersecurity. Cybersecurity proceeds from the highest levels of our national interest ... through our medical, our educational to our personal finance (systems).

Admiral James Stavridis, Ret. Former NATO Commander

Why Is Cybersecurity Important?

Today, as the scope, sophistication, and strategy of cyberthreats continually evolve, legacy security tools like firewalls and antivirus are insufficient to prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations adopted bring your own device (BYOD) policies for employees, partners, and other stakeholders. However, a large number of these organizations lacked malware protection or relied on legacy endpoint and network security solutions to protect BYOD. In failing to account for remote work in their cybersecurity risk management programs, many gambled with their sensitive information, and likely saw costs rise as a result.

Even now, as many organizations settle into hybrid work models, numerous factors—enabling secure remote access and connectivity, adopting technologies to maintain productivity and ensure security, enforcing remote security policies, and handling security issues such as shadow IT on home networks, to name a few—have become everyday headaches for security admins alongside the ongoing shortage of cybersecurity talent.

To this end, organizations can look to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which develops cybersecurity practices, standards, guidelines, and other resources to meet the needs of US industry, federal agencies, and the broader public.

Without an effective cybersecurity program, organizations can fall prey to cyberattacks that overtax budgets and harm the bottom line due to:

  • Loss of intellectual property and sensitive information
  • Downtime stemming from system failure or ransomware attacks
  • Data compromise resulting in legal trouble and/or lost business

What Is a Cyberattack?

Most cyberattacks involve one or more cybercriminals attempting to gain unauthorized access to an organization's data or systems. They might be looking to compromise end users to disable computers, disrupt services, monitor activity in a system, steal data, or use a breached computer to launch attacks against other systems.

In the next section, we’ll take a look at some of the most common threats facing today’s organizations.

Types of Cybersecurity Threats

There are many more varieties of cyberattack than we can address here in detail. Some of the most common types of cyberthreats include:

  • Malware: These attacks can take countless forms. A virus might actively attack systems, steal data or credit card information, plant spyware to monitor system activity (such as keystrokes), and much more.
  • Phishing: This is one of the most common types of attacks, in which criminals use social engineering to impersonate a trusted source such as a bank in an attempt to persuade you to hand over sensitive information. Phishing attacks often come via email, apps, SMS, or social media.
  • Ransomware: Cybercriminals launch malicious software onto information systems to lock or encrypt data, preventing access until a ransom has been paid. In some cases, criminals may also steal sensitive information and threaten to sell it or publish it unless the company pays a ransom.
  • Trojan horses: In this specialized type of malware attack, attackers plant malicious code in useful or trusted software. For example, in the infamous SolarWinds supply chain attack, an infected software update for the SolarWinds Orion platform compromised the information systems of nearly 18,000 organizations worldwide—including breaches of the national security systems of multiple agencies of the US government—allowing the threat actor to access privileged information.
  • Password attacks: Criminals attempt to access a system by using password cracking software to determine the correct password. Stringent access management policies, such as longer and more complicated passwords, make it exponentially more difficult for this type of attack to succeed.
  • Insider threats: Insider threats involve data breaches caused—sometimes unwittingly—by people inside an organization. Operating from inside an organization's security perimeter, such a person has easy access to sensitive data if tight least-privileged access controls aren’t in place.
  • Zero day attacks: When a vulnerability is discovered in commodity systems or software, regulations may require it to be publicly disclosed. Sometimes, attackers will devise a way to target such a vulnerability before cybersecurity professionals can develop a patch to address it.

Discovering and remediating these myriad threats requires a future-facing cybersecurity strategy that focuses on protecting all your business’ most important assets.

What Is the Future of Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity professionals use technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and automation to create new strategies to protect information systems.

Some of the fastest-growing cybersecurity initiatives include:

  • Mobile device security: As more people connect using multiple mobile devices, organizations need to change the way they defend their systems, especially as these systems connect via home Wi-Fi networks. New, more agile endpoint security technologies can help protect data while ensuring a smooth user experience.
  • Cloud security: As organizations adopt a multicloud approach, the number of third-party partners working with them grows. Each of these partners have different cybersecurity mechanisms and will make it more difficult to ensure security.
  • Application security: This security discipline pertains not only to the need to secure the data moving between cloud and SaaS applications and endpoints, but to the secure development and deployment of business applications, as well.
  • Security as a service (SECaaS): The rise of SECaaS providers gives organizations access to the latest technology and practiced security professionals.
  • AI and automation: While cybercriminals are turning to AI to exploit weaknesses in defenses, cybersecurity professionals are using the same technology to monitor and protect networks, endpoints, data, and IoT.
  • Zero trust: The advent of BYOD and hybrid work has made organizations more flexible, but also more vulnerable, than ever. Zero trust places security measures in place to grant users authentication only to the applications they need, based on context such as location, role, device, and user.

Who Is Responsible for Managing Cybersecurity?

An effective cybersecurity strategy requires an organization-wide approach from top executives down to temporary office staff. Everyone needs to be aware of their responsibilities, the latest policies, best practices for information security, and their role in the overall strategy.

With most organizations having adopted the cloud in some form or another, they're now seeing the value of moving security away from the data center and into the cloud alongside. In doing so, they're reaping the following benefits:

  • Employees get the same protection whether they’re in the HQ, branch offices, on the road, or at home.
  • Integrated security controls and cloud services correlate information to give organizations a complete picture of everything happening on the entire network.
  • Traffic is no longer backhauled to the corporate data center, eliminating much of the performance lag when accessing cloud-based applications and data.
  • Stacks of single-purpose security appliances are integrated into a single platform.
  • Threat intelligence can be updated much more quickly than with appliances. Any time a threat is detected in a cloud platform, that information is shared with the entire network instantaneously, and protection is deployed in real time.
  • Costs can be controlled as there are no more appliances to buy, maintain, or upgrade.

Protect Against the Latest Cyberthreats with Zscaler

A cloud and mobile world requires a new approach to networking, a new approach to security. The Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange™ is a modern approach that enables fast, secure, connections and allows your employees to work from anywhere, using the internet as the corporate network.

The Zero Trust Exchange runs across 150 data centers worldwide, ensuring that the service is close to your users, co-located with the cloud providers and applications they are accessing, such as Microsoft 365 and AWS. It guarantees the shortest path between your users and their destinations, providing comprehensive security and an amazing user experience.

The Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange:

  • Reduces IT cost and complexity by being simple to manage and deploy without the need for VPNs or complex firewalls
  • Prevents lateral threat movement by connecting users to apps directly without network access, isolating threats
  • Eliminates the internet attack surface by placing applications behind the exchange, preventing discovery and targeted attacks
  • Delivers a great user experience by intelligently managing and optimizing direct connections to cloud applications

Want to know more about how Zscaler is helping organizations secure their digital transformations? Read this blog to learn why the Zero Trust Exchange is the only road to zero trust. Or request a demo of the Zero Trust Exchange and learn for yourself how it can help you experience your world, secured.

Suggested Resources

  • 2023 ThreatLabz State of Ransomware

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  • Securing Your Digital Transformation

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  • Zscaler: A Leader in the 2023 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Security Service Edge (SSE)

    Read the report
  • Breaking Down Zero Trust Security Strategies with Leading Minds in Cybersecurity

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  • Cybersecurity Doesn’t Have to be Scary

    Read the blog

FAQs

What Is the Difference Between Cybersecurity and Network Security?

Cybersecurity refers generally to an entity’s ability to ward off cyberthreats and prevent data loss from a holistic point of view—that is, how well networks, applications, users, and endpoints protected.

Network security is an element of cybersecurity that focuses mainly on how well an entity’s network infrastructure is protected from cyberthreats, data loss, and the like. Cybersecurity is a discipline and a goal to be achieved by an entity, and network security is one component of such a discipline or goal.

What Are Some of the Biggest Cybersecurity Challenges?

Outdated security architectures, a lack of employee awareness, and the shift to remote/hybrid work are all barriers to an improved cybersecurity posture across an organization. Legacy security is incapable of detecting today’s most advanced cyberthreats, employee ignorance can (and often does) lead to data breaches, and without a zero trust architecture, the use of the internet as a corporate network presents a slew of risks of company data.

How Can You Increase Cybersecurity Awareness Within Your Organization?

This can be a great challenge for some organizations. Reduce your organization’s risk by ensuring you’re constantly enforcing security best practices for its employees. Train them to set strong passwords, recognize and report phishing attempts, and keep software updated.