A ransomware attack happens every 11 seconds, and 43% of these attacks are against small businesses. If your business doesn't have a strong cyber security program, you can't defend against attacks by malicious actors. Cyber security is the process of protecting your networks, devices, and data from unauthorized use and access. Effective cyber security practices guarantee the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of your data.
In this article, we'll discuss the importance of cyber security, including what it is, why it's important, and who is involved in designing and maintaining it. Cyber security is a complex topic that covers a wide range of domains. It can be complicated, but understanding cyber security is vital for any modern business.
The Importance of Cyber Security Awareness
The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. in 2020 was $8.64 million. When you think about cyber security, you should consider it from a risk management perspective because the cost of neglecting it can be steep. Cyber security threats can come from any level in your business. The threat is only continuing to grow as more companies move to cloud computing and remote working.
Cyber security can no longer be viewed through the lens of the perimeter model. Instead, it has to be baked into all aspects of business operations and activities. From DevSecOps to hardening remote devices, cyber security should be embedded into the standard operating procedures of every department in your organization.
What Is Cyber Security, and Why Is It Necessary?
Cyber security includes all of the steps you take to protect your organization's vital systems and information from any type of unauthorized use or access from an ever-growing field of possible threats. Cyber security is also referred to as information technology (IT) security, and it protects your business from both internal and external threats.
Comprehensive cyber security practices include layers of protection that cover all domains of your business activities. A good cyber security program should defend against every type of cyber threat, including those that attempt to access, change, or corrupt your data, extort money from your business, customers, or users, or attempt to disrupt your business operations.
Attackers are always looking for new ways to infiltrate your systems and applications. Because of this continual and evolving threat, cyber security has to be an ongoing effort that is constantly reviewed and updated to stay current. Cyber security is necessary to protect your company from the consequences of a cyber security attack.
The Devastating Consequences of a Cyber Security 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 cyber security policy in place. Despite this widespread complacency, the consequences of a data breach can cripple a business.
Companies operating with thin profit margins may feel like they don't have the resources to devote to cyber security. However, the financial losses they may experience as a result of a data breach can cost far more. The costs associated with a data breach can include:
- Compensating customers who've been affected
- Investigating the breach
- Setting up and equipping incident response teams
- Legal fees
- Investing in effective cyber security measures
- Regulatory fines for noncompliance
Regulatory fines alone can be massive. Marriott was recently fined $124 million for violating the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. Just as your business takes a risk management view of safety issues, you should also look at cyber security as a risk management measure.
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. If you experience a data breach, you may not only leak sensitive and confidential personally protected information; you may lose it completely.
Personal data includes any information that can be used to identify an individual. Obviously, this will include information like their names, addresses, email addresses, bank account numbers, IP addresses, and images. It can also include biometric or genetic data that can be linked to them. Such data can impact a person's health, finances, and other vital aspects of their lives.
There are a number of laws that govern the type of cyber security measures you're obliged to take. These laws vary by country and even state for U.S.-based businesses. Noncompliance with any law that applies to your business carries hefty fines and penalties, up to and including imprisonment.
Additionally, individuals can pursue restitution through the courts. There's been a significant increase 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 customer.
If you're affected by a cyber security attack, you may have to shut down normal business operations to deal with it. You'll have to contain and investigate the breach to discover how it occurred and what systems were affected. This may involve bringing in outside professionals to help deal with the breach. You may have to shut down operations completely during the investigation and while you shore up your cyber security protections.
The amount of downtime you may experience will depend on the nature and scope of the attack, but it could range from days to weeks. This will have a negative impact on your 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 can be one of the biggest consequences of a data breach. If your customers don't trust you to protect their data, they may well stop doing business with you. Almost half of companies that experienced a cyber security attack suffered reputational damage.
Aspects of Cyber Security
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 your 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 cyber security 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. Cyber security 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 focuses on protecting networks from attacks on both wired and wireless connections.
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.
You 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 can handle data in all of its states.
Information security focuses on protecting confidential data from exposure, theft, or unauthorized access through data protection measures like the GDPR.
End users have to understand and follow cyber security best practices to ensure endpoint security. Building a culture of cyber security awareness will educate end users to avoid opening suspicious attachments, falling for phishing emails, and otherwise exposing their devices to malicious actors.
Creating a Culture of Cyber Security Awareness
Technology and training are vital to your cyber security program, but they're not enough alone. Creating a comprehensive cyber security program includes nurturing a culture of cyber security awareness at all levels of your organization.
While cyber security experts can do a lot to reduce your surface of attack, if your other employees are lax about cyber security, you'll still be exposed to outside and inside threats. Every member of your organization needs to embrace the beliefs and practices that drive secure behavior. In many cases, the weak link in the cyber security 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 can help change your employees' attitudes and values about organizational security at all levels:
Assign a leader to own cyber security culture
Don't just add this responsibility to the CIO or the CISO. Appoint a nontechnical leader to be in charge of creating informative and engaging campaigns that will resonate with your employees.
Use effective language
For employees who aren't in a technical role, using tech talk can cause them to tune you out. When you're talking about cyber security risks, phrase it in terms they can relate to and easily understand. Relatable messaging is vital to increasing engagement.
Formalize cyber security practices and consequences
Consider making cyber security behaviors a part of formal employee evaluations. You can also set up a system of rewards and consequences around cyber-secure behaviors. Falling for a phishing email may lead to additional 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 cyber security drills
You want to be prepared ahead of time for an attack. Do some companywide exercises that simulate a security breach so that everyone knows their role in advance.
Cyber Security Market and Industry
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 cyber security space.
Security and risk management
Security and risk management policies will vary based on the risk tolerance and goals of the organization. Your security model will have different layers and types of goals that will include:
- Operational goals 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 can be accomplished easily.
- Tactical goals are mid-range goals that may take longer and need more resources to accomplish, such as moving all of the computers into domains and installing firewalls.
- Strategic goals are long-term goals 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 cyber security 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.
- Assess the value of your assets.
- Identify cost-effective methods to reduce risk to an acceptable level.
- Implement safeguards as proactive solutions and countermeasures as reactive solutions.
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 your data has the proper classification. You don't need to invest the same level of security in protecting publicly available data as you do top-secret data. Most data can be classified as one of the following:
- Public data can be viewed by anyone, and its exposure won't cause any damage.
- Sensitive information, 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 is only used within an organization and needs to be protected since there could be serious consequences if it's released.
- Unclassified data may not be publicly available but isn't sensitive or confidential.
- Secret data could adversely affect national security if it were 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 web-based and mobile-based systems
- 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 cyber security 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 cyber security 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 your security system is essential to assess its performance and effectiveness. Tests and audits should be a regular part of your cyber security program. Cyber security professionals design assessment, testing, and auditing strategies for internal, external, and third-party auditors.
Auditing strategies should be tailored to fit your organization. Internal audits can be performed in-house by your cyber security team. External audits ensure your company is complying with all relevant procedures and are performed by external auditors. Third-party strategies involve a neutral approach that reviews your 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 understands what your organization's cyber security policies are.
- Training understands how your organization's cyber security procedures work.
- Education understands the why behind your organization's security procedures and the big picture behind them.
Security operations are the first line of defense against cyber security threats. It involves many different tasks across many different areas of information security. It includes tasks associated with the following areas:
- 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)
Foundational security principles
- Principle of least privilege
- Separation of duties
- Managing privileged accounts
- Rotating jobs
- Service level agreements
- Managing media
- Protecting media
Designing and maintaining measures for preventing and detecting security risks
- Intrusion detection and prevention systems
- Honeypots and honeynets
- Whitelisting and blacklisting
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 you to identify potential threats and mitigate them before you launch.
A secure software development policy should be a part of your overall cyber security 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 cyber security 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 your network is local, in the cloud, or a hybrid. It secures remote workers and hybrid cloud environments to protect against ransomware threats.
Before Zero Trust, the traditional method of network security was "trust but verify." This method trusted users and endpoints located within the network perimeter. The problem with "trust but verify" is that any malicious actor who gets past the perimeter has access to all of the applications and data inside of the perimeter.
Zero Trust eliminates the threats associated with privileged accounts. Although there are frameworks and products available, Zero Trust is a mindset. At its most basic, Zero Trust is about not implicitly trusting any devices or users, even if they're inside your network. Many vendors will sell "Zero Trust" products, but using one doesn't guarantee that you have a Zero Trust security system.
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.
Isolating workloads and devices via Zero Trust Segmentation ensures that if a breach occurs, its impact will be limited. Zero Trust Segmentation requires widespread visibility in order to understand what devices and workloads are communicating with each other. Only necessary and wanted communications should be allowed.
With Zero Trust Segmentation, you create microperimeters 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.
Hiring Top Cyber Security Talent
Cyber security professionals are highly in demand. The cyber security job market is experiencing a critical talent shortage. The number of unfilled cyber security positions has risen from 1 million in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021, with no relief in sight.
Finding and retaining cyber security talent will likely continue to be a challenge in the foreseeable future since 83% of cyber security teams are affected by talent shortages. Qualified cyber security professionals in all domains and at all levels can afford to be choosy when it comes to job opportunities. Some effective methods for retaining cyber security 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
Working With a Talent Marketplace
With the challenges associated with hiring cyber security talent increasing, many companies are turning to alternative solutions. Working with a talent marketplace like Revelo can help you find, hire, and manage the cyber security 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. Reach out today to find out how Revelo can help your company build or increase your cyber security team.