Cyber security is the protection of systems, networks and programs from attack. Every organisation is a potential victim of cyber-attack, meaning we must all implement thorough cyber security measures. Cyber security comes in many different shapes and sizes, we will explore a number of common strategies throughout this article. In order to achieve comprehensive protection it is important to combine a multitude of these defences.
Hardware versus Software
Software is the historical form of cyber security. This incorporates basic protection such as passwords. Anti-malware, anti-spyware and antivirus systems also serve to protect your data and systems. A major drawback is the fact that many forms of software are vulnerable to attack from viruses and malware that can shut down their defences opening the system up for more attacks. Therefore software defences are vulnerable to the very threats they are intended to protect against.
Consequently, businesses are increasingly looking to hardware for more robust cyber security. Unlike software security measures, hardware exists as a separate entity from the device so can continue to function even in the midst of a cyber security attack, this is critical as it is in these vulnerable moments that we need protection most. They are also often more effective than the traditional software solutions day-to-day. Hardware is not required to run in the background once devices boot up so hinder systems less.
Firewalls are the first line of defence, they block some types of network traffic offering protection against untrusted networks. Firewalls come many forms, some more refined than others. A few of the main categories are explained below:
- Packet filtering firewalls have a list of rules dictating what they will and will not allow through. However, this form of firewall allows through all web traffic, so is ineffective against web-based attacks.
- Stateful firewalls are similar to packet filtering firewalls but are a bit more sophisticated in keeping track of active connections.
- Deep packet inspection firewalls examine the contents of the data packet and can therefore differentiate attacks from normal access, in theory.
- Application-aware firewalls are similar to deep packet inspection firewalls, but more intelligent and able to understand some processes and whether they are harmful or benign.
- Application proxy firewalls intercept traffic (e.g. emails, web traffic, etc.) and validate them before allowing them to proceed.
Encryption utilises algorithms to convert data into complex codes. Users require a key (decryption algorithm) in order to quickly access any meaningful information. Encrypting data mitigates the risk of it being accessed and exploited by unauthorised users, as they will not be in possession of the necessary key. This form of protection is often used when sending information over the internet or storing it on portable devices.
Cyber security awareness is critical in protecting your systems. One lapse of knowledge in a single employee could result in your whole network being affected. For this reason, every single staff member must be thoroughly trained and engage in regular refreshers. Human error often opens the door to attackers. Whilst the risk of human error can never be eliminated, an in-depth knowledge of good security practices and the importance of compliance can reduce slips.
How Can My Business Benefit from Cyber Security?
Good cyber security practices and awareness reduce the risk that your business will suffer a cyber-attack. Cyber security breaches can be costly to businesses. The government conducted research into the cost of a cyber security breach and found the average cost to be £19,000 for a large business and £1,570 for small and medium businesses. Cyber security threats are constantly evolving, therefore it is vitally important to stay up-to-data on current protection and undergo regular cyber security training refreshers.