How Does Cyber Security Work?
We can think of cyber security as a set of technologies, processes, and controls that are designed to protect digital systems from unauthorised access. According to Forbes, the global cyber security market will reach $170 billion (£120b) in the next two years – this can be attributed to growing cyber-crime events and a near endless stream of new technological developments.
For organisations, the repercussions of cyber security breaches can be devastating; heavy financial loss (in the form of non-compliance fines or migrating customers) and reputational damage can be hard to recover from, and – considering our reliance on technology in the 21st century – no organisation can afford to stick their head in the sand when it comes to keeping this information secure.
Using Cyber Security Software
Using software to protect your systems and networks acts as a deterrent for hackers who prefer easy targets that require less effort and carry less risk of being caught. Although no software can promise 100% impenetrability, security software makes it that much harder for cyber criminals to create access points, and we can think of it as an extra layer of protection from hackers.
Antivirus software works by detecting and removing malware, as well as preventing it from getting into the system in the first place. Malware (or malicious software) is any piece of software that can be considered harmful. When we hear about Trojan horses, spyware, ransomware, viruses, and so on, what you're really hearing about is types of malware. Antivirus software works by regularly scanning your device and systematically removing items of malware already installed. It will also hunt for potentially harmful files included in emails or direct messages and notify recipients / remove the files before they can cause harm. Due to constant developments in malware, it is important to frequently update antivirus software in order to remain protected.
Firewalls work by monitoring your device's network traffic in real time, and denying connection requests from any source it regards as malicious. It acts as a filter, deciding what gets in and out of your network and giving you another source of security that is complementary to antivirus software. Just like antivirus software, firewalls also require regular updates – users should never deny or ignore attempts by security software to update themselves.
Cyber Security Awareness Training
Maintaining an informed, empowered, and proactive workforce is one of the best defences against cyber security breaches organisations can implement. The reason why is twofold:
1.1 A Weak Link
Employees are one of – if not the – most valuable asset an organisation has. However, without regular cyber security awareness training, they can also be its weakest link when it comes to keeping systems and networks safe from unauthorised access.
Too many organisations neglect to offer basic cyber-security training, mistakenly assuming that 'everybody already knows' or that it's just 'common sense'. This is a dangerous way to approach cyber security since it both neglects to fill gaps in employee knowledge and also sends the message from the top that cyber security just isn't a priority at the organisation.
Common cyber-security mistakes, e.g. reusing passwords or creating passwords that aren't complex enough, are exactly the type of errors hackers look for when targeting organisations. Making unauthorised access 'easy' should be the last thing organisations encourage – after all, cyber criminals naturally prefer victims that require minimum effort and time to exploit.
1.2 A Culture of Compliance
The idea of setting up a compliance culture goes beyond regulatory requirements under the law. It involves creating a corporate culture wherein each and every employee is informed about cyber security risks, where training is regularly updated and refreshed in a positive, engaging way, and where each person carries personal accountability for maintaining the security of the organisation.
These cultures involve senior management teams to set the tone from the top, and not ignore their responsibilities when it comes to promoting and exemplifying appropriate cyber security behaviours. For example, malware or phishing attacks are often successful not because they are particularly sophisticated pieces of software, but because individuals aren't being vigilant. It's fairly easy to download an email attachment without thinking when under stress at work - it's even easier not to question this action when no-one else around you seems concerned about cyber security risks or makes cyber security a priority.
Compliance cultures take away the 'box-ticking' element of compliance and turn regulatory requirements into foundations from which to build upon.