Resources > Security Terms Glossary > What Is Cybersecurity?

What Is Cybersecurity?

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.

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 standards, guidelines, best practices, 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 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.

 

 

Cybersecurity has clearly moved away from being a side concern of the overall IT infrastructure plan. There is an incredible amount of complexity introduced by the shift to more proactive tactics, the changing regulatory environment, and the need to educate the entire workforce.
CompTIA's State of Cybersecurity 2020

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 horse cyberattacks: In this specialized type of malware attack, attackers plant malicious code in useful or trusted software. For example, in the infamous SolarWinds 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. 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.

 

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 most important battlegrounds in the future of cybersecurity will be:

  • 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. Agile, new cybersecurity 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.
  • 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 security only grants authentication to applications 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 the rise of the cloud, cybersecurity is changing. Organizations are seeing the value of moving security away from the data center and into the cloud. In doing so, they are getting 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 the 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.

 

Cybersecurity Crisis-Planning Checklist

Read the white paper
Cybersecurity Crisis-Planning Checklist

Why Cybersecurity Must be Viewed as More Than an IT Issue

Read the blog
Why Cybersecurity Must be Viewed as More Than an IT Issue

2019 Zero Trust Adoption Report by Cybersecurity Insiders

Read the report
2019 Zero Trust Adoption Report by Cybersecurity Insiders