What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is protecting data from unauthorized access, integrity and destruction. It is also about keeping critical information accessible to legitimate users.

Consumers are paying more attention; governments are putting rules and regulations in place; and companies are investing time, money and energy to guard against cyberattacks.

The good news is that savvy leaders can turn cybersecurity threats into business opportunities. To get started, consider McKinsey’s best practices for strengthening your defenses.

Defining Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting networks, devices and data from unauthorized access and malicious use. It encompasses policies, technologies and education. It is important for business because it protects valuable electronic assets from unauthorized access and theft of proprietary information like customer data, financial records or intellectual property.

It is also important for individual consumers because cybersecurity can prevent identity theft, extortion attempts and the loss of important personal information like family photos. Additionally, cybersecurity is essential for society to function properly because it secures critical infrastructure like power plants and hospitals as well as public entities such as schools, governments and banks.

The eighth instalment of the FOC WG 1 blog series examines the definitions of cybersecurity to determine how they support or hinder a human rights-respecting approach. It finds that while many of these definitions are useful, they lack a holistic view that supports interdisciplinarity. They are essentially a collection of technical perspectives that reflect the predominance of the technical perspective in cybersecurity discourse and research.

Risk Assessment

A cybersecurity risk assessment is a process of identifying and classifying an organization’s IT assets, along with determining what impact cyber attacks may have on these assets. A risk assessment must consider critical assets such as monetary, continuity of operations and intellectual property. It must also take into account the likelihood of an attack and its effect on an organization’s reputation.

A risk assessment must assess each asset’s vulnerability in a way that is flexible enough to change as the environment changes. It must also compare the cost of remediation to the potential cost of a cyber attack. This doesn’t necessarily mean monetary costs; the assessment must also include the time and disruption to the company that will result from the implementation of a remediation solution.

For example, an assessment may find that a company’s air conditioning is vulnerable to hackers, so it can reduce the risk by updating its software. It might be cheaper to do that than pay for the company to lose clients and damage its reputation.

Identifying Vulnerabilities

Vulnerabilities are weaknesses that attackers can exploit to bypass barriers and gain unauthorised access to a system. They can be caused by hardware, software, operating systems, and network architecture flaws, misconfigurations, or a lack of security controls. They can also arise from poorly encrypted data or reused passwords.

A vulnerability is not a threat in and of itself but becomes one when it is exploited by a threat, such as a ransomware attack or cryptojacking. It is important to understand how to spot and mitigate these vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability management is the process of identifying, assessing, reporting on, and managing cyber vulnerabilities across endpoints, workloads and systems. It should be an ongoing, regular process and a vital part of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy. Vulnerabilities are prioritized and categorized based on their risk to an organization’s business functions. They are documented in the National Vulnerability Database (NVD). The database is maintained by MITRE, a not-for-profit corporation. It is regularly updated with CVE identifiers (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) information.

Mitigating Vulnerabilities

Cyber attacks affect everyone from consumers to critical infrastructure, like power plants and hospitals. Advanced cybersecurity measures are necessary to ensure that the information systems that support these vital services remain secure.

When attackers gain unauthorized access to your system, the consequences are catastrophic. Attacks include malware, ransomware, botnet software, RAT (remote access Trojan) attacks, cryptojacking, DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks and more.

The best way to prevent cyberattacks is to mitigate vulnerabilities. Mitigation is the process of reducing or eliminating risk by implementing mitigation strategies, such as patching software, enforcing software signatures and limiting access to sensitive data.

Other risk mitigating techniques include establishing a disaster recovery plan and incorporating cyberattack awareness training for employees. Also, deploying contemporary hardware security features on newer devices can increase your system’s integrity and reduce threats. Backing up your system to remote storage and scheduling backups to happen frequently can also help you avoid cyberattacks. Having the right team on your side to help with mitigation is important, but so is finding a solution that automates some of the most tedious parts of vulnerability management.

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