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What is Cyber Security and Why is it Important?

Over the last decade, the UK government has led a sustained effort to strengthen and reinforce cyber security on a national level. They’ve endeavoured to raise public awareness about cyber risks, grow the sector, and develop a range of defensive strategies to tackle sophisticated threats.

But what does this mean for your business in 2022?

In this article, we take a deep dive into questions like “what is cyber security?” and “why is cyber security important?” Here we also discuss what cyber security can prevent and offer guidance for finding the best cyber security solutions available to businesses today.

What is Cyber Security?

Cyber Security is how individuals and businesses reduce the risk of cyberattacks. Its core function is to mitigate the impact of cyber-attacks on systems, networks, hardware, software, and data. Cyber security involves implementing technology, procedures, and controls to fend off threats originating from external and internal sources.

There are several cyber security controls and procedures used to protect the following five categories:

Networks, Applications, Data, Mobile, and the Cloud 

How Does cyber security work?

Cyber security works by implementing multi-layered defenses across systems, networks, hardware, software, and data. But to be effective, it requires a holistic approach—whereby employees, processes, and technology fend off attacks harmoniously.

Why is cyber security important for businesses?

As technology grows across industries and remote working becomes the norm, so does digital vulnerability.

Smartphones, computers, and other devices that access the internet are gateways for cybercriminals. So, as these mediums become even more fundamental to modern life, it’s crucial that we collectively take the necessary steps to mitigate digital risks. That starts with protecting our accounts, data, and devices from cybercriminals.

One need only look at the statistics to realise this is paramount. For instance, the average cost of global data breaches totaled $4.24 million in 2021, which has grown markedly year on year. And it’s not just large enterprises that have felt the consequences of cybercrime, either. In fact, 85 percent of UK businesses said they experienced cyberattacks in 2020/2021.

The benefits of cyber security:

Protection against breaches and recovery

Cyber security is all about finding solutions that provide businesses and individuals with robust digital protection. One such measure is security tools, which reduce threat risk and help mitigate the impact of attacks. Even in the worst-case scenario, companies with adequate controls are better placed to recover critical applications, data, and devices.

Compliance and Public Sector Tenders

Since October 2014, businesses dealing with public sector contracts have been required to show proof of Cyber Essentials accreditation. Therefore, companies that don’t have basic cyber security measures are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and lose out on commercial opportunities.

Cyber security compliance ensures businesses meet regulations and don’t incur costly fines and penalties, such as those surrounding GDPR. It also builds customer trust and brand reputation, while improving access control and accountability.

Cyber-security culture and business continuity

You may think a security-first approach means leaving cyber security practices to your IT department. However, cyber security awareness should create a security culture within your organisation.

Cyber security is everyone’s responsibility. For instance, employees should be accountable for securing their devices and understanding techniques. Therefore, it’s down to you to keep them informed and explain what necessary actions they should take in specific scenarios.

Reputation and Customer trust

Cyber-attacks don’t just have financial implications; they also typically damage a business’ reputation and customer loyalty.

For instance, UK broadband company TalkTalk suffered a devastating data breach in 2019, and, as a result, lost more than 100,000 customers. It also damaged their share price, which dropped by a third in value.

Cyber security zero trust model

As more businesses use computing outside of their organisation, it is harder for security experts to identify who they should trust and what access users should receive.

The Cyber Security Zero Trust model is a strategic approach requiring all users (inside or outside the business’ network) to be authenticated, authorised, and validated for security configuration before receiving access to data and business-critical applications. Cyber Security Zero Trust applies to users, applications, and business infrastructure. It thereby removes implicit trust, an outdated strategy, from a business’ wider cyber security strategy.

In short, Zero Trust means employing a cyber security model that trusts no one.

Zero Trust is a comprehensive and robust cyber security model, enabling businesses to restrict access to networks, applications, and IT environments without sacrificing performance and user experience.

It’s not to be confused with Cyber Security ‘Zero Day’, a broad term that describes recently discovered security vulnerabilities that hackers target. It’s called ‘Zero Day’ since the victims of these attacks have “zero days” to fix the breach, as the criminal target a vulnerability before the developer has a chance to fix it.

Types of Cyber Threats:

Email Phishing

Phishing attacks involve cybercriminals deceiving their victims by sending scam emails, which, if opened, enable the hacker to gain access to sensitive information or cause the user to install malware.

Phishing remains the most common type of cyber-attack. In 2021, 83 percent of UK businesses experienced email phishing attacks, according to the government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey (2021).

Malware

Think “Malicious Software”.

Malware is an umbrella term for all kinds of malicious software, designed to infiltrate devices and steal data or damage systems.

A common misconception is that malware is a computer virus, but all viruses are malware. Examples of common malware include Viruses, Worms, Trojan Horses, Spyware, Ransomware, and Adware.

Ransomware

Ransomware encrypts a victim’s critical data so they can’t access files, databases, or applications. Like a physical ransom, the idea is to make the victim pay money for their assets.

The two most common forms of ransomware are ‘locker’ and ‘crypto’.

Locker ransomware locks you out of basic computer functions, forcing you to repay a ransom in return for regained control. In contrast, crypto-ransomware encrypts sensitive data, i.e., business-critical files, without interfering with basic computer functions.

If you want to minimise the risk of ransomware damaging your systems, ensure data is adequately backed up, and update anti-ransomware across your software.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the regular traffic of a targeted server, service, or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure. Typically, hackers achieve this by sending a flood of bot directed internet traffic. DDoS attacks are highly effective since they use multiple compromised computer systems—and since each bot is a legitimate internet device, deciphering the attack from regular traffic is often difficult.

Cybercriminals carry our DDoS attacks with networks of internet-connected machines. They consist of computers and other devices infected with malware, commonly referred to as bots (or “botnets”).

Once a botnet is established, the criminal can direct an attack by sending remote instructions to each bot. The botnet then sends multiple requests to the server, intending to overwhelm it.

Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

ATPs use continuous, sophisticated hacking techniques to gain access to a system. They then remain inside for a prolonged period with potentially highly destructive consequences. ATPs are notoriously complicated to implement, so they tend to be targeted at nation-states and large corporations.

APTs can also target smaller companies affiliated with larger businesses, often via the supply chain. They essentially use the smaller business’ weaker cyber security as a steppingstone to the larger corporation.

The main goal of APTs is to steal information over extended periods rather than ‘dipping in’ and leaving quickly.

Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attack

A MITM attack is a sophisticated form of phishing. In these cases, the attacker intercepts email communication between two people, and sends either one or both emails appearing to originate from the other person.

The main goal of MITM attacks is to steal data. For example, an attacker could intercept data passed from an individual’s device or network on an unsecured Wi-Fi network.

Real-Life Cyber-Attacks:

Cyber-attacks on businesses constantly flood headlines, so here are some real-life examples. You’ll see how destructive these attacks are in practice, and how cyber security solutions can repel and mitigate risks.

White Rabbit Ransomware Threat:

In January 2022, a cybercrime group known for targeting financial institutions used White Rabbit, a highly covert form of ransomware. The group utilised White Rabbit in December 2021, targeting a large US bank.

Most significant DDoS attack in history:

Russian search engine company Yandex reported the biggest DDoS attack in history on September 5th 2021. At the height of the attack, the site reportedly repelled 22 million requests per second! However, they managed to mitigate the attack without compromising their system.

KP Snacks:

Real McCoy’s, Quaker Oats, Hula Hoops, and other confectionery goods under the KP Snacks umbrella experienced a catastrophic data breach in 2022.

After successfully gaining access to KP’s network, a criminal group deployed a devastating ransomware attack targeting the corporation’s supply chain.

As a result, the business faces ongoing supply chain delays. The example shows that even large companies aren’t immune to cyber threats, and, therefore, all businesses, regardless of size, should remain vigilant.

Cyber security tools:

Network security:

Network security refers to cyber security tools that protect networks from attacks and breaches. It includes hardware and software, as well as rules and configurations relating to network use, accessibility, and threat protection.

 

Endpoint security:

Endpoint security involves securing endpoint or end-user devices, i.e. laptops, desktops, mobile devices. These endpoints are often targeted and exploited by cybercriminals to access larger networks.

Identity and Access Management (IAM):

Identity and Access Management is a framework of business processes, policies, and technologies that facilitate the management of electronic or digital identities.

IAM ensures that the relevant people in a business can safely access the right tools at the right time.

 

Firewalls:

Firewalls protect private computers or a network of computers. They work by only allowing legitimate traffic through a network, filtering out unauthorised users from accessing confidential information. Firewalls stop remote access and protect data, providing increased security.

 

 

 

Anti-virus:

Anti-Virus software is installed on a computer to protect it from malicious viruses, malware, trojans, and phishing attacks originating from internal and external sources. Anti-virus software is seen as an integral control for endpoint security. There are three stages to anti-virus software:

  1. The software detects a virus.
  2. The software identifies the virus type.
  3. The software attempts to remove the virus from the system.

Pen testing:

The NCSC defines Penetration Testing as a “method for gaining assurance in the security of an IT system by attempting to breach some or all of that system’s security, using the same tools and techniques as an adversary might.”

A common analogy likens pen testing to piercing the armor of a business’ cyber security defenses, identifying vulnerabilities in applications, and user security.

 

Cyber security awareness training:

Cyber security staff awareness training is advised since employees are at the forefront of businesses, dealing with external contacts and colleagues through technology. It’s an effective way to educate your staff on best security practices.

Human error is a significant cause of cyber security breaches. But by educating your staff on identifying cyber risks, like phishing emails, you’re more likely to be prepared when the real thing happens.

The National Cyber Security Centre has an e-learning training scheme for SMEs and charities. It includes a free, 30-minute resource for staff that could prove invaluable.

Cyber Essentials (CE) scheme:

The Government-backed Cyber Essentials scheme covers cyber security fundamentals. It helps businesses protect themselves from cyber threats and demonstrates to stakeholders that you’re committed to enforcing cyber security controls.

The CE scheme is seen as a practical first step for businesses on their cyber security journey, protecting against 80% of the most basic digital threats. Please note that the CE scheme educates businesses on BASIC threats, so is only suitable for tackling cyber security fundamentals.

Cloud backup:

Cloud Backup involves duplicating files to a secondary, off-site location, thereby preserving business-critical data in case of cyber-attack, equipment failure, or natural disaster. Cloud backup is an effective strategy as it increases data protection without increasing the workload for a business’ IT staff since third-party service providers hold it.

Cloud backup works by copying data and hosting it on a remote storage system for easy access in a recovery situation. What’s more, cloud backup is scalable and acts as an effective means of business continuity, enabling organisations to continue operating in the event of a breach.

Disaster recovery

Disaster recovery is the cornerstone of business continuity. It enables businesses to carry on as usual following an outage, whether a breach or natural disaster. The objective of disaster recovery is to provide business continuity AFTER any disruption. In contrast, cyber security is designed to stop attacks from happening in the first place.

Start your cyber security journey today:

BCN Group has provided cyber security for businesses of all sizes and across all industries for more than a decade.

 

Out cyber security consultants take pride in providing personalised services for our clients. View our cyber security services to begin your journey with us today.