What's cybersecurity and why it is so important in 2021?
What is Cybersecurity and Why It is so Important in 2021?
Almost everyone has heard the term cybersecurity, but very few can put their finger on exactly what it is. You'll remember stories of data leaks and hacks in the news, or seen a predictably geeky looking individual tapping away at a keyboard in movies and TV shows.
However, in reality, it’s not like that at all - it’s a much bigger concern in our data-driven world than ever before, and those with a cybersecurity masters come from as wide and varied backgrounds as all other jobs.
To get a full grasp of what cybersecurity is, how it impacts on our everyday lives and why it’s so important in 2021 and beyond, you have to start with the basics.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the protection of software, hardware, and data on systems that connect via the internet. It is protected by certified professionals, often with a cybersecurity masters qualification, from what is classed as a cyberthreat (more on that in a minute). Cybersecurity is the practice used, principally by businesses, but also by individuals, to protect against unauthorized access to their databases and the sensitive or secure information stored upon them.
Effective cybersecurity guards against threats intended to access that secure data and exploit, alter or delete it. This same effective procedure also arms against attacks designed to disrupt the running of a business by disabling or compromising its IT systems.
Even to those without a cybersecurity masters qualification, the potential threats should be obvious. With an increasing number of users working from home needing to access secure or company sensitive data remotely (a situation accelerated by the current crisis), combined with the sheer amount of data be sent over the internet, the importance of effective cybersecurity increases massively on an almost daily basis.
This needs to be broken down into several different areas, all of which need to work in unison for an effective cybersecurity strategy to be in place. These include the factors you might expect, such as network and application security, as well as the physical security of that data and the unpredictable area of educating the end-user, which you can easily imagine as being the most challenging, and is usually undertaken by an individual with a cybersecurity masters certification.
Cybersecurity needs to evolve at the same rate as the technology itself and is an ongoing and expensive challenge for corporations. However, as the cost of inadequate or non-existent cybersecurity has long surpassed the price of constantly improving defenses against attacks, it should be a price they are happy to pay.
As mentioned before, cyber threats and attacks have become more sophisticated, so old-style reactive responses (which could be equated to ‘see where the leak occurs, then plug it’) or concentrating on the bigger threats and more or less ignoring the smaller ones are now woefully ineffective.
This has been replaced with more effective cybersecurity procedures and individuals with a cybersecurity masters qualification as well as more adaptive and, most importantly, proactive policies, like a SOC-II report from a SOC-II compliance solution, that include constant real-time assessments of threats and effective measures to stop them from happening.
The benefits of an effective cybersecurity procedure go beyond protecting against cyberattacks and data breaches, it also protects the users of the network. Besides, If a breach does occur, it can be dealt with more effectively, meaning less disruption to the business.
With the reliance on the storage of data not being limited to just IT-based companies, having effective cybersecurity and one or more cybersecurity masters certified individuals in place will be a plus to any business seeking custom from other businesses
What Is a Cybersecurity Threat?
Cybersecurity threats come in many forms. They are becoming ever more harder to detect and defend against, especially in new and developing technologies. It is a challenging task for a qualified professional with a cybersecurity masters to keep on top of. Cybersecurity threats include:
Malware is one you will have no doubt heard before and is one of the things your own cybersecurity software is built to defend against. Malware would typically arrive as an attachment or a link contained in an email, and will usually need the unwitting participation of the user to trigger it.
Worms, viruses, Trojans, and spyware in various forms have been around since the 1980s. As a result, most people are aware of their existence and are careful when they see something in their inbox they do not recognize.
This is not always the case with ransomware, which is a particularly sophisticated form of malware where a cyber attack will lock or disable a system unless a ransom is paid, with the additional threat to erase the data in the event of non-compliance.
This again is one you might already be familiar with, and have probably seen examples of this yourself. This is when an email or communication (like a text message) will purport to be from a reputable source, telling you of a problem with your account or payment method, with the intention of getting you to login or re-enter card details, which are then stolen.
This type of email or message is usually distributed en-mass and is not actually difficult to spot, however, this cyber threat can sometimes be tailored to a specific user or company, where it is highly sophisticated, detailed, and much harder to detect. This particular tactic is known as Spear phishing.
#3 Social Engineering
This is where human nature is relied on to gain access. Techniques like leaving infected flash drives in public areas so it appears they have been dropped, so the individual picks them up and inserts them into their computer to see what is on it.
Other techniques involve bombarding the intended victim with information that their computer has already been compromised and then getting them to install a solution that contains malware.
Another cyber attack that relies on human compliance is called pretexting, whereby the victim is approached online by somebody pretending to be a colleague and via a series of unconnected questions obtains sensitive data to be able to reset the victim's passwords and gain access.
#4 Insider Threats
Whereas previous attacks rely on the unwitting compliance of the target, sometimes the threat can be assisted by a willing employee or customer, with malicious intent. These attacks can be particularly damaging as these individuals would normally exist within that business' circle of trust.
Other threats that do not rely on human assistance are denial of service attacks, where a company’s server is bombarded with so much information that it slows to a point where it cannot operate effectively, or shuts down altogether.
There are threats where an attacker has gained access but not stolen any data yet, and as a result, may go undetected for long periods of time, or where messages are intercepted so that systems think they are communicating with each other but instead are sending data to an attacker.
Cybersecurity Is Continuously Challenged
These challenges come externally from hackers but also internally from poor or changing cybersecurity strategies. These challenges are set to increase with the gradual move to people working remotely, which has been rapidly accelerated by the current crisis, which has seen people working from home on shared devices that are not as well protected as those in the office environment.
This shows the value of end-user education because, as you have seen, the weak link in the chain is most often the human. They can accidentally bring viruses into a workplace network on a mobile device that is used to answer emails outside of office hours, for example.
Continual reinforcement of training and refresher courses, usually done by a trained professional with a cybersecurity masters qualification, will help to keep employees aware of threats and motivate them to do their part in contributing towards cybersecurity.
The job of cybersecurity personnel can often be compromised by lack of staffing and funding, with many boards and management seeing the lack of security problems as proof that expensive cybersecurity is not needed, rather than proof that it is working.
This is a very shortsighted outlook as the increased amount of data being used by all businesses is an indication that more personnel with a cybersecurity masters qualification are necessary, not fewer. This has led to a skills gap where demand for cybersecurity personnel has overtaken the number of people able to fill them.
In the face of a shortage of professionals with a cybersecurity masters, much of cybersecurity is automated. Using machine learning and artificial intelligence in areas with high volumes of data has benefits in threat detection and threat response as well as taking the weight off of the shoulders of those cybersecurity masters qualified personnel.
As well as allowing the cybersecurity masters qualified personnel to get on with the more sophisticated tasks, automation also enables the categorization of threats to see where resources are deployed most effectively.
Cybersecurity Career Opportunities
As has already been established, the vast gap between demand and supply, and as the use for data-driven applications grows, the need for more cybersecurity personnel, should be obvious, especially in the face of new and more sophisticated threats.
The lack of qualified individuals with cybersecurity awareness has led to an urgent need in CISO (chief information security officer) and CSO (chief security officer) roles. These people are responsible for the cybersecurity of a company, and in the case of the CISO, implementing and overseeing its operation.
Other roles include security engineers and security architects who plan, analyze, design and test the infrastructure to keep it safe from threats. Security analysts plan security measures and controls, and carry out audits.
The security of these systems is tested by ethical hackers who seek out vulnerabilities and try and penetrate the system in the same ways that nefarious hackers would. Vulnerabilities are also uncovered by threat analysts (also known as threat hunters) before they are found by hackers.
These roles are essentially proactive in nature and are increasingly vital as the need for remote data access from multiple places simultaneously increases. Under this umbrella also fall security consultants, data protection officers, cloud security architects, cryptographers, and security administrators.
All of these roles carry the twin benefits of job security and way above-average remuneration. However, the top jobs, as in all industries, will go to the most qualified personnel. Those with ambitions for a long career in this industry should seriously consider certification, such as a cybersecurity masters.
Many courses like the cybersecurity masters can be done 100% online, so physical location or unavailability to attend courses on campus should not be an obstacle. Certification like cybersecurity masters is required for at least 25% of all roles in cybersecurity and as previously mentioned, the majority of the in-demand roles.
With a predicted shortfall of 3.5 cybersecurity roles by the end of the year and a zero percent unemployment rate in key cybersecurity roles since 2016, a cybersecurity masters opens up a wide range of opportunities in this field.
A qualification like a cybersecurity masters is viewed by employers as a statement of intent and can help you move into leadership with the enhanced salary that would bring.
With cybercrime on the rise and the relative number of qualified cybersecurity personnel effectively declining, businesses and individuals need more help with protection from the threats posed by malware, phishing, and social engineering among other attacks.
Individuals with a cybersecurity masters are ideally placed to help deter these threats and benefit from enhanced job security and the attractive salaries offered by the many roles from security administrator to CISO.
Cybersecurity plays a vital role in protecting data from those who would exploit it for their own ends, which may affect the businesses we work for or rely on to live our everyday lives, or worse still our own data, which can compromise our financial resources, such as bank accounts or credit cards.