What is Cybersecurity?
January 06, 2024
So, what exactly is cybersecurity? Beyond merely fending off malware and securing data, cybersecurity emerges as the intricate science of fortifying digital landscapes against unauthorized access, data leaks, and ensuring robust information storage. It serves as the vigilant guardian of networks, data, and information, shielded from tampering or destruction.
In the physical realm, infiltrating a bank requires manipulating security systems and physically breaching the building. In contrast, cybersecurity addresses vulnerabilities within IT systems to protect the invaluable information housed in computer networks.
The dynamic realm of cybersecurity has witnessed a surge in threats, technologies, and business models, particularly as the world transitioned to a more remote work model during the COVID-19 pandemic. Delving into the evolving threat landscape and cybersecurity trends in 2024 and beyond, we explore the ongoing transformation of the cybersecurity space.
Why is Cybersecurity Crucial?
Today, digital data storage and transfer underpin countless aspects of our lives. Companies rely on databases for client information, work documents, and vital statistics. Ensuring seamless access to this information, exclusively by designated users, is paramount. Cybersecurity steps in to deploy security mechanisms and counteract malware, also addressing the human factor—a common cause of data breaches in large companies.
Cybersecurity's primary focus lies in protecting data from third-party intruders, whether in the form of malicious spyware or individuals with unauthorized access. Tackling these multifaceted challenges simultaneously requires complex solutions, making cybersecurity a critical science dedicated to securing computer networks and the data within them.
Exploring Cybersecurity Threats
It is time to mention the dangers that cybersecurity is called to face in more detail. 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 them from a company with many security features. And both malware and human-related tricks will be much more complicated.
Let’s have a look at most of the contemporary cyber security threats. They are positioned by their complication level.
Malware. You heard this word and likely knew its definition. However, the majority of users can barely tell anything more. Malware is more than just “malicious software”, as people used to describe this definition, and, in fact, not a synonym for “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 of reaching it. These days even such things as the adware can steal cookies and search history. And imagine what spyware or stealers can do.
Recent malware attacks in the news:
Tricky social engineering does not always aim to sell something to us. When it comes to malicious actions, phishing is pretty popular for getting 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 in emails. However, the biggest losses are related to the counterfeits of banking sites and apps: say them your password, and also say “bye” to your savings.
Phishing attacks in the news:
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 illegal 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 hack tools and spyware - to get confidential information from the company and then ask a separate ransom for this info to remain unpublished.
Recent ransomware attacks:
Old-but-gold thing was almost entirely wiped using 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 to the local corporate network without any encryption. But still, even inside corporate networks, data transfer without any security measures is rare. Man-in-the-Middle is almost unused these days.
This type of cybersecurity threat is rather about blocking access to any data than about stealing it. Flooding the servers with requests so they 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 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 flooded the website with the results. But the real DDoS attack is almost always complimented with attempts to brute force the website's admin panel.
Recent DDoS attacks:
Almost unavoidable if your company is large and well-known. A person who works for your rivals, or even the exact fraudsters. It is not obligatory for a new employee - one of the persons you thought was well-proven may also be an insider. The third party could offer him a large remuneration for such a sly job. An insider, especially one that has worked for you for some time, can do very bad things - from data leaks to malware injection.
Data breaches in 2024:
Advanced persistent threats (APT)
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. 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 many more possible combinations.
Cybersecurity Trends in 2024
To address the aforementioned threats, cybersecurity as a science has devised solutions for diverse attack vectors. It's crucial to understand that their effectiveness is highest when applied collectively and at a scale commensurate with the threats. To be most competitive against potential dangers, implementing specific measures against certain threats alongside common cybersecurity elements is advised.
1. AI and Machine Learning in Security
As cyber threats become more sophisticated, the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in cybersecurity continues to expand. AI-powered security systems are adept at analyzing vast amounts of data, identifying patterns, and detecting anomalies that might signify potential threats.
Machine learning algorithms enable systems to adapt and improve their threat detection capabilities over time, learning from new data and evolving attack techniques. These technologies are instrumental in automating threat response, enabling faster and more accurate decision-making in the face of cyberattacks.
AI-driven cybersecurity solutions are being utilized across various fronts, including:
- Threat Detection: AI and ML algorithms analyze network traffic, user behavior, and system logs to swiftly identify abnormal patterns indicative of potential security breaches.
- Behavioral Analysis: Machine learning models can understand typical user behavior, helping differentiate between normal activities and potentially malicious actions.
- Automated Response: AI-powered systems enable automated response mechanisms that can isolate threats, contain breaches, and mitigate the impact of attacks in real-time.
- Vulnerability Management: AI aids in identifying vulnerabilities in software systems and networks, allowing proactive patching and fortification against potential exploits.
- Security Operations Optimization: ML algorithms optimize security operations by prioritizing alerts, reducing false positives, and streamlining incident response workflows.
2. Zero Trust Architecture
Wider adoption of the Zero Trust security model, which assumes no trust within the network and requires verification from anyone trying to access resources, even if they are within the network perimeter.
Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) represents a paradigm shift in cybersecurity, challenging the traditional notion of a trusted internal network. In a Zero Trust environment, no user or system is inherently trusted, whether inside or outside the network. This approach acknowledges the reality of sophisticated cyber threats and the need for continuous verification.
Key components of Zero Trust include:
- Identity Verification: Every user and device must authenticate their identity before accessing any resources.
- Micro-Segmentation: Network segmentation is implemented on a smaller scale, restricting lateral movement within the network.
- Least Privilege Access: Users and systems are granted the minimum level of access required to perform their tasks.
- Continuous Monitoring: Ongoing monitoring and analysis of user and system behavior to detect anomalies or suspicious activities.
The Zero Trust model recognizes that trust must be earned continuously and is not granted based on network location or traditional security perimeters. This approach enhances overall cybersecurity posture, especially in a landscape where remote work and cloud services have become integral parts of business operations.
Organizations implementing Zero Trust Architecture benefit from improved resilience against evolving cyber threats, reduced attack surfaces, and enhanced data protection. The trend towards Zero Trust is likely to grow as businesses prioritize a more robust and adaptive security framework in the face of an ever-changing threat landscape.
3. Cloud Security
As organizations continue to embrace cloud computing for its scalability and flexibility, the focus on enhancing security measures in cloud environments becomes paramount. The transition to the cloud brings forth new challenges and opportunities for cybersecurity professionals.
The key aspects of cloud security trends in 2024 include:
- Multi-Cloud Security Strategies
With many organizations adopting multi-cloud architectures to avoid vendor lock-in and enhance resilience, cybersecurity strategies will evolve to ensure consistent security policies across diverse cloud providers.
- Zero Trust Frameworks for Cloud
Implementing Zero Trust frameworks within cloud environments will gain prominence. Organizations will adopt a 'never trust, always verify' approach, requiring continuous authentication and authorization, even within the cloud perimeter.
- Container Security
With the increasing use of containerization technologies like Docker and Kubernetes, ensuring the security of containerized applications will be a key focus. This includes addressing vulnerabilities in container images and securing the entire container orchestration process.
- Serverless Security
The rise of serverless computing presents new security challenges. Cybersecurity measures will adapt to protect serverless functions, APIs, and the associated infrastructure, emphasizing the principle of least privilege and secure coding practices.
- Data Encryption and Privacy in the Cloud
Enhanced data encryption practices will be implemented to safeguard sensitive information stored in the cloud. Organizations will prioritize compliance with data protection regulations and focus on maintaining user privacy in cloud-based services.
Overall, the evolution of cloud security in 2024 reflects the ongoing commitment to securing digital assets in the cloud era. Cybersecurity professionals will play a crucial role in developing and implementing robust strategies to address the evolving threat landscape associated with cloud environments.
4. IoT Security
The Internet of Things (IoT) continues its rapid expansion, connecting an ever-growing number of devices and systems. With this proliferation, there is a parallel rise in concerns regarding the security of these interconnected devices, ranging from smart home appliances to industrial sensors.
As IoT devices become integral to various aspects of our daily lives and critical infrastructure, cybersecurity measures must adapt to address the unique challenges posed by this expansive ecosystem. Security issues in IoT devices can expose vulnerabilities, leading to data breaches, unauthorized access, and potential disruptions to essential services.
Measures to enhance IoT security involve:
- Device Authentication: Implementing robust authentication mechanisms to ensure that only authorized devices can connect to the network.
- Encrypted Communication: Enforcing encryption for data transmitted between IoT devices and backend systems, safeguarding sensitive information from interception.
- Regular Updates and Patching: Establishing protocols for timely updates and patching to address vulnerabilities as they are discovered.
- Network Segmentation: Utilizing network segmentation to isolate IoT devices from critical systems, minimizing the potential impact of a security breach.
- Regulatory Compliance: Adhering to industry and regional regulations to ensure that IoT deployments meet required security standards and protect user privacy.
Addressing IoT security challenges is crucial not only for safeguarding personal data but also for maintaining the integrity and reliability of interconnected systems that form the backbone of smart cities, healthcare, and industrial processes.
As cybersecurity professionals continue to grapple with evolving threats, the focus on IoT security in 2024 reflects the industry's commitment to ensuring the resilience and safety of our increasingly interconnected world.
5. Ransomware Protection
Ongoing efforts to develop more robust strategies and technologies to prevent, detect, and respond to ransomware attacks.
Ransomware continues to pose a significant threat to organizations worldwide, demanding enhanced protective measures. The emphasis in 2024 will be on the following key aspects:
- Advanced Prevention Techniques: Innovations in preemptive measures to thwart ransomware attacks before they can infiltrate systems. This includes improved endpoint protection, threat intelligence, and the utilization of behavior-based detection.
- Early Detection Systems: The development and implementation of early detection systems that can identify ransomware activities in their initial stages, minimizing the impact and potential damage caused by these malicious campaigns.
- Response and Recovery Frameworks: Building resilient response and recovery frameworks that enable organizations to swiftly and effectively respond to ransomware incidents. This involves robust backup strategies, incident response planning, and cyber insurance considerations.
- Ransomware-Specific Training: Increased emphasis on educating employees and users about ransomware threats, fostering a heightened awareness of potential attack vectors and best practices to avoid falling victim to phishing and social engineering schemes.
- Collaborative Threat Intelligence Sharing: The cybersecurity community's commitment to sharing threat intelligence to create a united front against ransomware. Collaborative efforts aim to pool resources and knowledge to stay ahead of evolving ransomware tactics and techniques.
- Regulatory Compliance for Ransomware Preparedness: Organizations focusing on aligning their cybersecurity practices with regulatory requirements specifically addressing ransomware preparedness. This includes compliance with data breach notification laws and industry-specific cybersecurity standards.
As the threat landscape evolves, the development of comprehensive ransomware protection strategies becomes paramount to safeguarding sensitive data and ensuring the continuity of operations.
6. Quantum Computing Threats and Defenses
The rise of quantum computing brings both promises and challenges to cybersecurity. Quantum computers, with their ability to process complex calculations exponentially faster than classical computers, pose a potential threat to existing encryption methods.
Cryptographic algorithms that currently secure sensitive data may become vulnerable to quantum attacks. As organizations explore the benefits of quantum computing, there's a simultaneous urgency to develop quantum-resistant cryptographic solutions to safeguard against potential breaches.
The cybersecurity community is actively engaged in researching post-quantum cryptography, aiming to design algorithms that can withstand the computational power of quantum computers. This proactive approach is crucial to ensure the long-term security of sensitive information in an era where quantum computing capabilities continue to advance.
Experts anticipate a gradual transition to quantum-resistant algorithms, and organizations are encouraged to stay informed about developments in post-quantum cryptography. Implementing quantum-safe practices will be essential to maintain the confidentiality and integrity of data in the face of evolving technological landscapes.
7. Supply Chain Security
Increased focus on securing the supply chain, with a particular emphasis on verifying and securing third-party software and services.
In an era where organizations heavily rely on interconnected systems and collaborative ecosystems, the integrity of the supply chain becomes paramount in cybersecurity strategy. Supply chain attacks have emerged as a significant threat vector, prompting heightened scrutiny and proactive measures.
Organizations are recognizing the potential vulnerabilities introduced by third-party vendors, making it imperative to assess and validate the security practices of suppliers. This involves rigorous vetting processes, audits, and the establishment of clear security standards for all entities contributing to the supply chain.
Moreover, there is a growing emphasis on transparency, as companies seek to enhance visibility into the entire supply chain. This includes understanding the security postures of suppliers, ensuring the integrity of software and firmware, and monitoring for any anomalous activities that may indicate a compromise.
As part of supply chain security strategies, organizations are investing in technologies such as blockchain to create immutable records of the supply chain, making it more resistant to tampering and providing a verifiable history of transactions.
Collaboration within industries is also on the rise, with the sharing of threat intelligence and best practices to collectively strengthen the resilience of the entire supply chain ecosystem. This collaborative approach extends beyond individual organizations, involving industry alliances, regulatory bodies, and standards organizations working together to establish and promote robust supply chain security practices.
As supply chain attacks continue to evolve in sophistication, the cybersecurity community is adapting by implementing proactive measures, fostering transparency, and fortifying the defenses of every link in the supply chain.
8. Biometric Security
Advancements in biometric authentication methods are anticipated to play a pivotal role in cybersecurity for 2024. As organizations prioritize enhanced user identity verification, biometric technologies are evolving to provide more secure and convenient solutions.
In the realm of biometrics, fingerprint recognition, iris scanning, facial recognition, and even behavioral biometrics are gaining prominence. These technologies offer a level of authentication that goes beyond traditional methods, providing a unique and personal layer of security.
Organizations are exploring the integration of biometrics not only for access to physical spaces but also for securing digital assets and sensitive information. The aim is to create a seamless and robust authentication process, reducing reliance on traditional password-based systems that are susceptible to various cyber threats.
While advancements in biometric security hold promise, there are also discussions around addressing potential privacy concerns and ensuring ethical use. Striking the right balance between security and user privacy will be a key consideration as biometric technologies continue to evolve and become more integral to the cybersecurity landscape.
9. Regulatory Compliance
Continued attention to regulatory compliance is imperative as organizations navigate the complex landscape of evolving data protection and privacy regulations. In 2024, the regulatory environment is expected to witness notable developments, with stringent data governance frameworks shaping the way businesses handle sensitive information.
Organizations will focus on enhancing their compliance strategies to align with updated regulations and ensure the responsible and ethical handling of user data. The implementation of robust compliance measures will not only be a legal requirement but also a crucial aspect of building trust with customers who are increasingly concerned about the privacy and security of their personal information.
Key areas of emphasis may include:
- Data Localization: Adherence to regulations requiring the storage of certain data within specific geographic boundaries.
- Data Breach Response: Strengthening incident response plans to comply with reporting requirements in the event of a data breach.
- Privacy-by-Design: Integrating privacy considerations into the development and design of products and services from the outset.
- International Data Transfers: Navigating the complexities of cross-border data transfers while complying with regional and global data protection standards.
As regulatory bodies worldwide refine and introduce new compliance standards, organizations will engage in proactive measures to stay ahead of the curve. This proactive approach not only safeguards against legal consequences but also fosters a culture of data responsibility and ethical business practices.
10. Cybersecurity Skills and Workforce Challenges
The demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals continues to outpace the available talent, leading to persistent challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified individuals. This workforce gap is exacerbated by the evolving nature of cyber threats, requiring a diverse skill set.
Organizations are recognizing the importance of investing in training programs to upskill existing staff and attract new talent. Cybersecurity training initiatives encompass various specialized areas, such as threat intelligence analysis, ethical hacking, and incident response, aiming to create well-rounded professionals capable of navigating complex security landscapes.
Furthermore, the industry is turning to automation technologies to alleviate some of the burden on cybersecurity teams. Automation can handle routine tasks, allowing human experts to focus on more complex issues and strategic decision-making. However, balancing automation with the need for human expertise remains a challenge.
The collaborative efforts of educational institutions, industry certifications, and corporate training programs are crucial in building a skilled cybersecurity workforce capable of addressing the ever-growing threats to digital assets and sensitive information.
As organizations adapt to the evolving threat landscape, fostering a culture of continuous learning and professional development becomes essential for cybersecurity professionals to stay ahead in this dynamic field.
Cybersecurity Technologies and Tips to Follow
Most anti-malware programs currently use the rule “if the program is installed and run by the user - it is legit”. Hence, these programs will 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 to provide additional persistence for the threat. When it comes to human-related threats, the trust of 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 paranoia can minimize the risk of deeply-embedded malware injection and will not even give any false detections with modern technologies. Another example of the program that offers zero-trust policy is Microsoft Defender - it is likely known by everyone.
Identity and Access Management (IAM)
This principle stands for setting strict access privileges not for each group of users - for each certain user. It may look like overkill, but when you deal with confidential or classified data - it is exactly what you need. However, this division may start from some simple steps - forbid your employees to use an administrator account for work. Most apps work great with user privileges; you can 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 sensitive info for employees who do not need it. People are curious by nature, so having access to some secret info will cause them to attempt to check it. You need to understand that each user with access to the secret documents is a potential leak source. Giving the employees access only to documents they need for work means having your company secured.
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
As mentioned multiple times, malware and its distribution methods constantly evolve. Having complete 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 the 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 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. Some steps may repeat from one attack to another, but you can never foresee how much they will grab. Crooks may steal your data, leave it be, reach your domain controller, and cipher it, or even fail 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 uncovers many 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 the 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
Many companies happily exhaled when ransomware groups declared the list of sectors they would 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
What is EDR
Endpoint detection and response applications, or EDR, is a relatively new concept of anti-malware software. The exact definition of this type of security tool appeared in 2013.
What is OSINT
OSINT, or Open-Source Intelligence, is a powerful tool for getting information on any suspect. Governmental special services often use it, but it is available to use by every user.
What is Trojan
Trojan is malware that injects into the computer under the guise of a "horse" - a legit program or utility. It disguises itself as legitimate. In some cases, crooks may try to hide their virus as a keygen or system hacking tool.
What is Backdoor
Backdoors are a big subspecies of viruses that have been used for different targets over the last 10 years. Of course, the malware examples that reportedly had the same functions as backdoors appeared even earlier, but no one classified them exactly as the backdoors.