What is Cybersecurity? Computer Security Principles

Cybersecurity is a new science that attempts to find the ways to protect digital data and channels of its spreading.

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What is Cybersecurity and Computer Security Principles?

What is Cybersecurity?

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Cybersecurity is a relatively new science, so a lot of people have a slightly incorrect definition of it. The most popular answer is “the science that studies ways to counteract malware”, but that is not the full object of cybersecurity. Let’s have a detailed look at this perspective newbie and figure out all of its edges.

So what is cybersecurity? This science may look like a thing which seeks ways to avoid malware injection, or prevent data leak, or organize more reliable information storage. However, cybersecurity researches all these things simultaneously, so it can surely be called the science of digital data protection.

Cybersecurity is defined as the defense of networks, data, and information from unauthorized access, tampering, or destruction. All the networks, data, and knowledge have something in common; they're the equivalent of data and data stored in a bank. An attacker can physically access the building and manipulate the security systems to get into the bank's vaults.

This happens because, in the physical world, criminals can't manipulate physical systems like the type that are found in IT. So the idea is to use these vulnerabilities to attack the information contained in the computer network.

An influx of new threats, technologies, and business models have emerged in the cybersecurity space as the world shifted to a more remote work model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The technology landscape that is constantly changing isn't a new revelation, but it's certainly been taken to a new level in the last year. Here, we analyze the emerging threat landscape that results from and what cybersecurity trends pose the most risk in 2022 and beyond.

Why Cybersecurity is Important?

Nowadays too many things rely on the digital form of data storing and transferring. Each company has a database with clients, work documents, statistics and other things. It is important to be sure that this info can be reached at any moment and only by the primarily designated users. As one of the ways to provide the latter, cybersecurity offers the use of security mechanisms and methods of malware counteraction. Another thing this science tries to control is the human factor - still one of the most often reasons for data breaches in large companies.

For sure, the main focus of that science is how to protect the data from third-party intruders. Such an intruder may be a malicious program called spyware, or a person who gained unauthorized access to this data. This or other way, you must understand how to avoid it, and, if it has happened, counteract it. Having to deal with all possible issues simultaneously is a very non-trivial task - that’s why all solutions there are very complex. So cybersecurity is a science that searches for ways to secure the computer networks and data stored and transferred in them.

What are Cybersecurity Threats?

It is time to mention the dangers, that cybersecurity is called to face, with more details. They usually depend on which target they aim for. The more important or valuable information these victims have - the more complicated security tools they supposedly use. Hence, the ways of stealing this info (i.e. making it through all the barriers) must become gradually more complex. Stealing conversations from individual users’ PCs is much easier than getting it from a company that has a lot of security features on. And both malware and human-related tricks will be much more complicated.

Cybersecurity threats
Cybersecurity threats that are currently present.

Let’s have a look at most of the contemporary cyber security threats. They are positioned by their complication level.

Malware

Malware. You heard this word and likely knew its definition. However, the majority of users can barely tell anything more. Malware is much more than just “malicious software”, as people used to describe this definition, and, in fact, not a synonym of “virus”. So how can it correctly be characterized?

Malicious software has surrounded us since the late ‘90s, and will surely exist as long as computers do. Even though not each malware sample is supposed to be a direct threat to the information, it likely has a way to reach it. These days even such things as adware are able to steal cookies and search history. And just imagine what spyware or stealers can do.

Phishing

Tricky social engineering does not always aim to sell something to us. When it comes to malicious actions, phishing is pretty popular for getting the users’ credentials from social networks, or online banking accounts. There are a lot of counterfeited pages online that mimic Facebook, Twitter or other widespread networks. They are usually spread via spamming in social networks or on emails. However, the biggest losses are related to the counterfeits of banking sites and apps: just say them your password, and also say “bye” to your savings.

Ransomware

The thing that is right amidst the orientation of individuals and corporations. There are enough ransomware variants that attack only individuals, and only companies; some of them take both. It is obvious that attacks on companies bring much more profit, but can also expose the ransomware group to a significant risk. Meanwhile, the ransomware market among the groups that aim at individuals got its leader and monopolist several years ago. STOP/Djvu has a share of more than 75%.

While attacks on individuals are based on bait emails and unlegit software - pretty classic methods, groups that aim at companies were forced to find less predictable ways. And they did - vulnerabilities in RDP are one of the most exploited among all other ones. Besides that, crooks sometimes use hacktools and spyware - to get confidential information from the company and then ask a separate ransom for this info to remain unpublished.

Man-in-the-Middle

Old-but-gold thing, which was almost entirely wiped by the use of HTTPS encryption standard in web browsers. This attack supposes the traffic packages' interception on their way to the server. While “classic” MitM attacks were performed in the unsecured Wi-Fi network, modern ones are usually done as a part of insider threat activity. The disguised crook sniffs the packages that are transferred in the local corporate network without any encryption. But still, even inside corporate networks data transferring without any security measures is pretty rare. Man-in-the-Middle is almost unused these days.

Man-in-the-Middle attack scheme
The principal scheme of MitM attack

DDoS

This type of cybersecurity threat is rather about blocking access to any data than about stealing it. Flooding the servers with requests so they just fail to respond looks pretty easy, until you think about where to get all these requests. Distributed denial of service will barely occur because of the requests from a dozen of computers. Hence, cybercriminals who attack something more serious than the site of a local chain of supermarkets in Texas usually make use of botnets or similar stuff.

Occasionally, people may commit an unintentional DDoS attack on a certain site. For example, such a situation occurred during the last Eurovision song contest, when folks were flooding the website with the results. But the real DDoS attack is almost always complemented with attempts to brute force the admin panel of the website.

Insider threats

Almost unavoidable if your company is large and well-known. A person who in fact works for your rivals, or even for the exact fraudsters. It is not obligatory a new employee - one of the persons you thought is well-proven may be one either. The third-party could offer him a large remuneration for such a sly job. An insider, especially one that works on you for some time, can do very bad things - from data leaks to malware injection.

Advanced persistent threats (ADP)

Exactly, the king of all threats. Most complex and most successful if everything is done right. This type of cybersecurity threat supposes the use of multiple tools that act during a relatively long period of time. It can be both spyware, stealer, or other malware that can deliver confidential data, in combination with an insider that manages all these things. However, there are much more possible combinations.

To respond to the threats you can see above, cybersecurity as a science developed the solutions for different attack vectors. It is important to understand that they have a really high efficiency only when applied together, and in the scale that corresponds to threats. And to be the most competitive against all possible dangers, it is better to implement both specific measures against certain threats and common cybersecurity elements.

Network security

These days, most of the application software has embedded elements of network security. HTTPS certificates are used on almost every website, and most web browsers block access to ones that do not have it. From your side, security is about to be provided with passwords on Wi-Fi routers and complicated passwords in the local network.

Cloud security

When you trust someone to store your data, it is essential to be sure that it will not be sniffed in any way. Asymmetric encryption, along with the aforementioned HTTPS protocol are the industry standards for cloud storage providers. Most of them also cipher the customers’ data when it is about to be stored for a long time.

App security

Data handling, user authentication rules, networking protocols - all these elements in the apps you use must be applied by design. Even if you are not paranoid about developers that collect your personal information, it is better to have your personal information secured. Most enterprise-quality applications usually do everything to avoid exposing user data.

Storage security

When we talk about embarrassing cases, the baddest one is when you have done everything to protect your data from external dangers, and got your datacenter collapsed. Storage units - HDD or SSD - may fail because of different reasons. Fortunately, it is pretty easy to counteract these unpleasant cases - with buying the disks with a bigger lifespan or protecting the equipment from damage.

Another edge of storage security is more about physical security of the place where the data is kept. Such a room must be accessed only by authorized personnel, and - what is more important - without any stuff that can be used to extract data. Securing the computers with additional passwords and ciphering the disks is also a typical measure.

Information security

General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, is a thing that explains almost everything. This regulation on European data protection law stands for top privacy for the data of people who use any application available to the public. All information about users that is kept on servers must be encrypted, otherwise you will face lawsuits from the official EU authorities. In case someone uncovers this, of course.

Critical infrastructure security

That part of cybersecurity is rather for vital governmental organizations than for companies. These orgs usually have a lot of confidential information, and overall the workability of these structures are matters of national importance. Leakage of this info may cause a significant influence on folks or non-governmental organizations. Cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline is a great example of such a case.

That’s why these orgs sometimes have paranoid safety measures. You are not allowed to take a photo or video from the inside, cannot use removable drives into their networks, and all actions in these systems require authorization with password.

Mobile security

In contrast to a globalized security of critical infrastructure, mobile security is more about the choice of each particular user. If you want (or even need) to have the data on your phone secured, it is better to make use of anti-malware programs and disk ciphering tools. Following the rules of network safety is also recommended - use only secured networks and sites with HTTPS certificates.

End-user education

Any threat will be ineffective when users know how to recognize them before their launching. Knowledge always gives a right of first move, and even the best security tools will fail when everything is done intentionally wrong. Using doubtful USB-drives, visiting untrustworthy sites and opening any attachments on the email is definitely the way to get infected, regardless of how well you are protected.

Cybersecurity Technologies and Tips to Follow

Zero-trust

Most of the anti-malware programs currently use the rule “if the program is installed and run by the user - it is legit”. Hence, these programs will just ignore everything that goes under this rule. Such a decision is normal from a certain point of view, but the malware spreading evolution makes this rule dangerous for the protected system. The development of deeply-integrated malware made it easy to exploit this rule for providing the additional persistence for the threat. When it comes to human-related threats, the trust to long-working employees is a thing to abuse.

The specific solutions for corporate security - Endpoint Detection and Response applications - usually use zero-trust policy. That means that anything, from a simple script to a full-fledged app, must be checked as potentially dangerous. Such a paranoia can minimize the risk of deeply-embedded malware injection, and with modern technologies it will not even give any false detections. Another example of the program that offers zero-trust policy is Microsoft Defender - it is likely known by everyone.

Identify and Access Management (IAM)

This principle stands for setting the strict access privileges not for each group of users - for each certain user. It may look like an overkill, but when you have a deal with secret or even classified data - it is exactly what you need. However, this dividing may start from some simple steps - just forbid your employees to use an administrator account for work. Most of the apps now work great with user privileges, and you can simply enter the admin password if needed. Such an easy step significantly reduces the chance of successful usage of exploit malware.

When it comes to a higher level, it is essential to restrict access to the sensitive info for employees who do not need it. People are curious by nature, so it is obvious that having access to some secret info will cause the attempt to check it. You need to understand that each user who has access to the secret documents is a potential source of leak. Giving the employees access only to documents they need for work means having your company secured.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

As it was mentioned multiple times, malware is constantly evolving, as well as methods of its distribution. Having the full information on how it tries to get into the system and provide itself persistence makes the protection from all further attacks. The protection application that logs all events which take place in your network will clearly show you where your weak spots are. But even without any attacks such logging may help you to detect suspicious activity of the applications you use or even your employees.

Cybersecurity Myths and Misconceptions

There are enough myths and wrong facts about cybersecurity. Some of them are based on real events, but in fact are just random coincidences. More critical misunderstandings appear in topics that are massively covered in the media. Let’s have a look at the most popular of those false opinions.

Risks can easily be estimated

Cybercriminals never act in the same manner twice. Sure, some of the steps may repeat from one attack to another, but you can never foresee how much they will grab. Crooks may steal your data or leave it be, may reach your domain controller and cipher it, or even fail at the initial steps. It is always good to hope for the best and be ready for the worst.

Attacks are committed in the same way. It is enough to be protected from well-known attack vectors

This statement is both true and false simultaneously. Yes, you will make it impossible for lazy cybercriminals to attack you if no “classic” breaches are available. But as you could read in the previous paragraph, it is better to be ready for the worst. And as statistics show, the most inventive attackers are the most successful ones. LockBit group - the leading ransomware gang - is notorious exactly for their non-linearity in new attacks.

All cybercrimes are committed from the outside

The press covers most of the cyberattacks as something that is done by bad boys in Guy Fawkes masks, who have no relation to the target company. However, the detailed research of the wide-known attacks uncover a lot of details that refute such a thesis. Cyberattacks often happen because of the negligence of employees, but the cases of collaboration with crooks are not single. Paying attention to strange actions of your employees is the way to prevent cyberattacks and data leaks.

My company will not be attacked. It is not attractive for crooks/it works in the sector that will not be attacked

A lot of companies happily exhaled when ransomware groups declared the list of sectors they will avoid in their attacks. The news was pleasant, but some companies turned too reckless after this announcement. Not every ransomware group agreed to follow these rules, and there are even more new groups that did not ever say anything about their opinion about “ethical hacking”. Hence, it is too early to relax.

Cybersecurity Reality in Numbers

  • 85% of cyberattacks are due to human error
  • 61% of cyberattacks target small businesses
  • 65% of data breaches involve insiders
  • 50% of companies with a BYOD policy experienced a mobile data breach
  • 81% of data breaches are due to weak, stolen, and default user passwords
  • 68% of C-suite executives feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing
  • 7% of companies’ folders are adequately protected, on average
  • ~200 days - Average time to identify a breach in 2021
  • ~1.2 billion records were breached in the first half of 2021
  • 4,421 – Average number of times hackers attack in a day

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