What Is Cybersecurity and Why Is It Important?

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Rafael Timbó
By
Rafael Timbó
|
Chief Technology Officer
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Cyber security threats can come from any level in your business. The number of threats are only growing as more companies move to cloud computing and remote working.
Published on
July 25, 2022
Updated on
April 11, 2024

Cybersecurity is the process of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized use and access. Effective cybersecurity practices guarantee data availability, integrity, and confidentiality. A ransomware attack happens every 11 seconds, and 43% of these cyberattacks are against small businesses. If a business doesn't have a strong cybersecurity program, it can't defend against attacks by malicious actors. 

This article explores the importance of cybersecurity, including what it is, why it's important, and the consequences of a data breach. Cybersecurity is a complex topic that covers a wide range of domains. While complicated, understanding cybersecurity is vital for any modern business.

The Importance of Cybersecurity Awareness

The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. in 2023 was $4.45 million. When thinking about cybersecurity, organizations should consider it from a risk management perspective—the cost of neglecting it is steep. Cybersecurity threats, both internal and external, affect businesses of all sizes. The threat is only continuing to grow as more companies move to cloud computing and remote work, as security standards are more difficult to enforce in non-traditional work environments.

Cybersecurity is no longer viewed through the lens of the perimeter model. Instead, it has to be integrated into all aspects of business operations and activities due to the increasing shift towards cloud computing. From DevSecOps to hardening remote devices, cybersecurity should be embedded into the standard operating procedures of every department in an organization.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity includes all of the steps taken to protect an organization's vital systems and information from any type of unauthorized use or access. Cybersecurity is also referred to as information technology (IT) security, and it protects businesses from both internal and external threats.

Comprehensive cybersecurity practices include layers of protection that cover all domains of business activity. A good cybersecurity program should defend against every type of cyber threat, including those that attempt to access, extort, or corrupt data from customers and employees.

Why Is Cybersecurity Necessary?

Attackers are always developing new ways to infiltrate systems and applications. Due to continual and evolving threats, cybersecurity has to be an ongoing effort that is constantly reviewed and updated. Without stringent cybersecurity protocols in place, organizations using almost any form of internet or cloud-related technology put themselves at risk. 

Additionally, customers have developed an expectation that when they use a company’s services: that their personal data will be stored securely and used only for business purposes. Once that notion is disproven by a security breach, it’s incredibly difficult to regain trust. Now more than ever before, it’s imperative to protect a company from the consequences of a cybersecurity attack.

Consequences of a Data Breach

Shockingly, given the increased proliferation of cyber attacks, more than two-thirds of medium-sized businesses (250 to 549 employees) don't have a cybersecurity policy in place. Despite this widespread complacency, the consequences of a data breach cripples a business.

Financial Loss

Companies operating with thin profit margins may feel like they don't have the resources to devote to cybersecurity. However, the financial losses they may experience as a result of a data breach costs far more. The costs associated with a data breach include:

  • Compensating customers who've been affected
  • Investigating the breach
  • Setting up and equipping incident response teams
  • Legal fees
  • Investing in effective cybersecurity measures
  • Regulatory fines for noncompliance

Regulatory fines alone are massive. Marriott was recently fined $124 million for violating the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. Just as a business takes a risk management view of safety issues, it should also view cybersecurity as a risk management measure.

Data Loss

Data has become the lifeblood of modern business. From marketing to product development, business strategies are driven by data. In addition to driving high-level planning, many business activities depend on accurate, up-to-date data. In a data breach, organizations may not only leak sensitive and confidential personally protected information, but lose the data completely.

Personal data includes any information that can be used to identify an individual. This will include information like their names, addresses, email addresses, bank account numbers, IP addresses, and images. It also includes biometric or genetic data that can be linked to them. Such data breaches impact a person's health, finances, and other vital aspects of their lives.

Legal Penalties

There are a number of laws that govern the type of cybersecurity measures that certain organizations must follow. These laws vary by country and even state for U.S.-based businesses. Noncompliance with any law that applies to a business carries hefty fines and penalties, up to and including imprisonment.

Additionally, individuals increasingly pursue restitution through the courts. There's been a significant uptick in the number of class-action lawsuits brought by victims seeking monetary compensation for the exposure of their data. Equifax has paid out over $700 million to U.S. customers affected by its 2017 data breach— as much as $20,000 to each affected customer.

Downtime

If affected by a cybersecurity attack, organizations may have to shut down normal business operations to address specific breaches. Organizations must contain and investigate the breach to discover how it occurred and what systems were affected. This process may involve bringing in outside professionals to help track, analyze, and re-evaluate existing security standards. Often, organizations must shut down operations completely during the investigation while bolstering cybersecurity protections.

The amount of downtime organizations may experience depends on the nature and scope of the attack, but it could range from days to weeks. This will have a negative impact on an organization's ability to recover quickly from a breach.

Damage to Your Reputation

While it's difficult to put a monetary value on damage to your reputation, this consequence is one of the most notable losses in a data breach. If customers don't trust an organization to protect their data, they may cease partnerships or individual patronage. Almost half of companies that experienced a cybersecurity attack suffered reputational damage.

Aspects of Cybersecurity

For many years, network security primarily focused on securing the network from outside threats. This is called perimeter security, and it's analogous to setting up a fence around a store. Perimeter security was effective when most employees were office-bound and trusted with expansive access, and resources were stored on-site.

The traditional method of network perimeter security has always had its problems but has become completely outdated as employees have moved out of the office and resources have moved to the cloud. Instead of using this outdated method, new cybersecurity models rely on Zero Trust principles and perimeter-less security to protect a company's resources no matter where they're located.

Perimeter-less security models protect all cybersecurity domains, including:

Critical systems infrastructure

These are the systems, networks, and assets that our society and economy depend on for security, health, and safety. Cybersecurity in this domain is largely guided by frameworks developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Network security

Network security focuses on protecting networks from attacks on both wired and wireless connections. Firewalls, email security applications, and anti-virus software are all commonly employed to maintain a strong network across company-owned and personal devices.

Application security

Application security should be built-in from the beginning of the development process. It's no longer enough to bring in the security team at the end of development. Security has to be addressed from the design stage on and needs to include considerations like how to handle confidential data and user authentication.

Cloud security

Companies need a solution that protects data while it's being stored, as it's traveling between the cloud and devices, and while it's in use. Effective cloud security handles data in all of its states.

Information security

Information security focuses on protecting confidential data from exposure, theft, or unauthorized access through data protection measures like the GDPR.

End-user education

End users have to understand and follow cybersecurity best practices to ensure endpoint security. Building a culture of cybersecurity awareness will educate end users to avoid opening suspicious attachments, falling for phishing attacks, and otherwise exposing their devices to malicious actors.

Cybersecurity Awareness Training for Employees

Technology and training are vital to a cybersecurity program, but alone, they're not enough. Creating a comprehensive cybersecurity program includes nurturing a culture of cybersecurity awareness at all levels of an organization.

While security analysts reduce the surface of attack, if other employees are lax about cybersecurity, organizations are still exposed to internal and external threats. Every member of an organization needs to embrace the beliefs and practices that drive secure behavior. In many cases, the weak link in the cybersecurity chain is the human element. Up to 85% of breaches involve human behaviors, and 94% of malware is delivered via email.

Using the following managerial mechanisms help change employees' attitudes and values about organizational security at all levels.

Assign a Leader to Own Cybersecurity Culture

Don't just add this responsibility to the CIO or the CISO. Appoint a nontechnical leader to be in charge of creating engaging campaigns and cybersecurity certifications that resonate with employees. 

Use Effective Language

For employees who aren't in a technical role, using overly technical language leads to apathy. When reviewing cybersecurity risks, phrase it in terms they relate to and easily understand. Relatable messaging and social engineering are vital to increasing engagement.

Create a Cybersecurity Plan

Consider making cybersecurity behaviors a part of formal employee evaluations. Companies can implement a system of rewards and consequences around cyber-secure behaviors. Falling for a phishing email may lead to additional security awareness training or negatively affect a performance review. On the other hand, going above and beyond to ensure data protection should be a cause for a bonus or reward.

Perform Cybersecurity Drills

Organizations need to be prepared ahead of time for an attack. Coordinate company-wide exercises that simulate a security threat so that everyone knows their role in advance of real breaches. The following steps provide a basic phishing email drill template:

  1. Create awareness: Email phishing, among other types of malware, constitutes a massive share of risk for most organizations. Provide clear evidence, documentation, and examples of what these threats may look like in practical settings.
  2. Develop a test email: Using the most current phishing tactics, create an email to be sent to employees. Note that more advanced phishing schemes are thoughtfully developed to mimic a company’s tone and design, sometimes even using names from high-level executives within the company in order to motivate interaction.
  3. Analyze and strengthen protocols: Based on the rate of interaction with the test phishing email, IT teams identify individuals or departments who performed poorly. Re-education and subsequent tests allow employees to continue practicing strong cybersecurity protocols.

Cybersecurity Industry Trends

As the industry advances, certain benchmarks are developed to highlight companies whose cybersecurity protocols meet universal standards. Currently, there are eight overarching domains of cybersecurity outlined in the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) examination. This certification is issued by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2, a leading nonprofit organization in the cybersecurity space.

Security and Risk Management

Security and risk management policies will vary based on the risk tolerance and goals of the organization. Infrastructure security models have different layers and types of goals, including:

  • Operational goals: Objectives that focus on incorporating secure practices into normal tasks and activities. One example is installing software updates as they become available. These are usually short-term goals that are accomplished easily.
  • Tactical goals: Mid-range plans that may take longer and need more resources to accomplish, such as moving all computer systems into domains and installing firewalls.
  • Strategic goals: Long-term objectives such as changing branches from dedicated communication lines to frame relay.

The fundamentals of security are called the CIA triad. It includes:

  • Confidentiality of information
  • Integrity to ensure information hasn't been compromised
  • Availability to grant information access to authorized users who need it

Risk management includes identifying, measuring, managing, and mitigating risks from cybersecurity attacks. The main goal of risk management is to reduce exposure to known risks.

The best practices to support risk management include:

  • Examine the risks of every decision
  • Calculate asset value
  • Identify cost-effective methods to reduce risk to an acceptable level
  • Implement safeguards as proactive security solutions and countermeasures as reactive solutions

Asset Security

Asset security deals with monitoring and securing any assets that are important to the organization. The core concepts of asset security are:

  • Data management to maintain and determine ownership
  • Longevity and use, including data security, access, and sharing
  • Data standards covering life cycle, control, audit, specification and modeling, storage and arching, and maintaining databases
  • Data retention policies
  • Data security controls during all data states

A large part of protecting assets involves ensuring data has the proper classification. Companies don't need to invest the same level of security in protecting publicly available data as top-secret data. Most data are classified as one of the following:

  • Public data: Can be viewed by anyone, and its exposure won't cause any damage
  • Sensitive information: Data such as a company's financial information, needs extremely high levels of protection to ensure confidentiality and integrity
  • Private data: Includes personal information such as credit card data and bank accounts, which could have disastrous consequences if exposed
  • Confidential data: Typically only used within an organization and needs to be protected since there could be serious consequences if released
  • Unclassified data: May not be publicly available but isn't sensitive or confidential
  • Secret data: Could adversely affect national security if exposed
  • Top-secret data: Could have massive national security implications if released

Security Architecture and Engineering

Security architecture and engineering involve the processes, standards, and structures involved in setting up a secure information system. Security architecture should be designed so that hardware, software, and firmware all work together to resist attacks and unauthorized access. Aspects of security architecture include:

  • Client security related to applets that run on a client's machine and local caching
  • Server security to mitigate vulnerabilities
  • Database security to protect an organization's databases
  • Cryptographic systems designed to protect desktop and mobile devices
  • Data security center, physical access, and visitor management

Communications and Network Security

Information systems live on physical networks, and communication protocols determine their security, so communications and network security form the heart of a cybersecurity system. The endpoint of a network is usually the most important as well as the most difficult to secure. With remote work on the rise and not showing any signs of slowing down, there is an ever-increasing number of endpoints that need to be secured.

Endpoints, and all other aspects of a network, need to be secured with the following measures:

  • Secure design principles in network architecture
  • Secure network components
  • Secure communication channels dictated by design

Identity and Access Management

Modern cybersecurity practices involve controlling who has access to information and for how long. An effective identity and access management (IAM) framework controls user access to critical information within an organization. IAM systems can be provided by a third party through the cloud, developed and implemented on-site, or a combination of both.

No matter how it's implemented, an IAM system should address the following issues:

  • How a system identifies users
  • How roles are identified
  • How roles are assigned to users
  • Updating, adding, and removing users and roles in a system
  • Assigning levels of access to users or groups of users
  • Protecting sensitive data within a system and securing the system itself

Security Assessment and Testing

Testing security systems is essential to assess its performance and effectiveness. Tests and audits should be a regular part of a cybersecurity program. Cybersecurity professionals design assessment, testing, and auditing strategies for internal, external, and third-party auditors.

Auditing strategies should be tailored to fit an organization. Internal audits are performed in-house by cybersecurity teams. External audits ensure that companies are complying with all relevant procedures and are performed by external auditors. Third-party strategies involve a neutral approach that reviews overall auditing strategy and methods of testing. This complements both internal and external strategies to ensure all audits follow well-defined standards and procedures for the best results.

Training, awareness, and education all fall under security assessment and testing. These concepts are often grouped together, but they indicate different levels of functioning and require different methods to implement.

  • Awareness identifies an organization's existing cybersecurity policies
  • Training assists in understanding how an organization's cybersecurity procedures work
  • Education helps explain the why behind an organization's security procedures and its strategic goals

Security Operations

Security operations are the first line of defense against cybersecurity threats. It involves many different tasks across many different areas of information security. It includes tasks associated with the following areas:

Investigations

  • Collecting and handling evidence
  • Reporting and documenting
  • Techniques for investigating
  • Techniques and tools for digital forensics

Logging and Monitoring Activities

  • Detecting and preventing intrusions
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Continuous monitoring
  • Egress monitoring
  • Log management
  • User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA)

Configuration Management

  • Provisioning
  • Baselining
  • Automation

Foundational Security Principles

  • Principle of least privilege
  • Separation of duties
  • Managing privileged accounts
  • Rotating jobs
  • Service level agreements

Resource Protection

  • Managing media
  • Protecting media

Designing and Maintaining Measures for Preventing and Detecting Security Risks

  • Firewalls
  • Intrusion detection and prevention systems
  • Honeypots and honeynets
  • Whitelisting and blacklisting
  • Sandboxing
  • Anti-malware

Software Development Security

Secure software development is the principle of incorporating security into every aspect of the software development life cycle (SDLC). Instead of waiting until after a security risk or vulnerability is found, security is addressed beginning at the planning stage, before coding even starts.

Fixing a bug during the design phase is far cheaper than fixing the same bug during the implementation or testing phase. Secure software development practices include static and dynamic security testing throughout the development process. Software security requirements should be documented alongside functional requirements. Conducting risk analysis during design allows companies to identify potential threats and mitigate them before launch.

A secure software development policy should be a part of an overall cybersecurity plan. This document outlines the policies and procedures development teams should follow to decrease the risk and exposure to vulnerabilities during the entire development process.

Zero Trust Security

Underlying all cybersecurity best practices is the principle of Zero Trust. A Zero Trust framework grants the least amount of privilege for the least amount of time required for users to complete their tasks. All users, both inside and outside the network, have to be authenticated, authorized, and continuously validated in order to be allowed access or continued access to data or applications.

With Zero Trust, it doesn't matter whether a network is local, in the cloud, or a hybrid. It secures remote workers and hybrid cloud environments to protect against ransomware threats.

Zero Trust has evolved to an "assume breach" mindset under Zero Trust Segmentation. Zero trust assumes every user and device is a bad actor unless authentication proves otherwise. Zero Trust Segmentation assumes that even with advanced security measures, skilled cyber criminals will be able to infiltrate the environment at some point.

With Zero Trust Segmentation, organizations create microperimetry so critical data assets are isolated. Even if a network is compromised, a cyber criminal isn't granted widespread access. When implementing Zero Trust architecture, ensuring that secure access is user-friendly is imperative for employee buy-in.

Cybersecurity Talent Shortage

Cybersecurity professionals are in high demand—the job market is experiencing a critical talent shortage. The number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs has risen from 1 million in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021, with no relief in sight.

Finding and retaining cybersecurity talent will likely continue to be a challenge in the foreseeable future since 83% of cybersecurity teams are affected by talent shortages. Qualified cybersecurity professionals in all domains and at all levels can afford to be choosy when it comes to job opportunities. Some effective methods for retaining cybersecurity talent include:

  • Providing opportunities for personal and professional development
  • Allowing employees to work from home but maintaining and community environment
  • Offering additional compensation in the form of bonuses or stock options
  • Prioritizing their physical and mental well-being
  • Paying a competitive salary

Hire Cybersecurity Experts With Revelo

With the challenges associated with hiring cybersecurity talent increasing, many companies are turning to alternative solutions. Working with a talent marketplace like Revelo can help you find, hire, and manage the cybersecurity talent you need to succeed in this competitive economy. Revelo provides an end-to-end solution that connects U.S.-based tech companies with qualified and vetted Latin American software engineers.

You can build your remote tech team in a cost-effective and efficient manner. We'll provide you with a list of expertly matched developers within three days, and the majority of our clients hire within three weeks. You'll have 14 days to evaluate your new employees. If you aren't completely satisfied, you'll pay nothing. 

Contact us to find out how Revelo can help your company build or increase your cybersecurity team.

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