Given the scale of cyber threats worldwide, IDC predicts that global spending on cybersecurity solutions and services is going to reach $133.7 billion by 2022. As organizations and governments respond to the rising threat with new cybersecurity software and best practices, the demand for cybersecurity experts is only going to grow.
In this article, we zoom in on this incredibly fascinating field to show you why cybersecurity plays such an important role in today’s tech landscape, what its benefits are, and how you can enter this exciting sector without having a relevant college degree.
What is cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity refers to the set of tools and practices that aim to protect servers, computers, mobile devices, networks, electronic systems, and data from cyberattacks. You can probably already tell that the term is broad enough to find applications in many different contexts, from cloud computing to IT department organization.
However, we can divide cybersecurity into a few common categories:
– Information security – this area concentrated on protecting the integrity and privacy of data, both in storage and transit.
– Network security –focuses on securing a computer network from attackers, be it targeted threats or simply opportunistic malware (we explain this term below).
– Application security – this area of cybersecurity aims to keep software and devices free of any threats. A compromised application could provide attackers with access to data which it contains. This is why cybersecurity experts are already involved in the design phase of the application before a program or device is deployed.
– Operational security – this area is all about the processes and decisions made for protecting and handling different data assets the organization deals with. A good example of operational security practices is granting different permissions to users who access the network and determining the procedures that identify how and where data may be stored or shared.
– Disaster recovery and business continuity – this set of best practices define how an organization can respond to cybersecurity incidents or any other events that may cause loss of data or services. Disaster recovery policies determine how the organization restores operation and returns to the same operating capacity prior to the event. Business continuity, on the other hand, is the plan that organizations formulate in order to have something to fall back on while they are trying to operate without access to resources.
– End-user education – this area of cybersecurity addresses the most unpredictable cybersecurity factor: people. It’s possible for an employee or user to accidentally introduce a virus by failing to follow good security practices. That’s why teaching users how to identify suspicious emails or avoid plugging in unidentified USB drives is so essential for ensuring top security in an organization.
Types of cybersecurity threats
We can basically divide threats into three broader categories:
– Cybercrime – includes single actors or groups that target systems for purposes ranging from causing disruption to financial gain.
– Cyberattacks – these often involve motives such as gathering information for political reasons.
– Cyber terrorism – this range of activities intends to undermine IT systems to cause fear or panic in their targets.
But how can attackers gain control of machines and systems? Here are the most common methods used to threaten cybersecurity:
Malware basically means “malicious software.” It’s one of the most common cyber threats today. In a malware scenario, a cybercriminal creates software that disrupts or damages a legitimate user’s computer. Malware is often spread through unsolicited email attachments or legitimate-looking downloads. It can be used to make money or be involved in politically motivated cyberattacks.
We can differentiate between different types of malware:
- – Virus – a virus is a self-replicating program that attaches itself to a clean file and spreads through the computer system, infecting all of the files with malicious code.
- – Trojans – this type of malware looks like legitimate software but is, in fact, quite malicious at its core. Cybercriminals trick users into uploading trojans onto their computers where they can collect data or cause direct damage.
- – Spyware – this type of software secretly records every single thing that the user does on their computer to provide cybercriminals with valuable information. Just to give you an example, a spyware program could capture credit card details and then pass them on to cybercriminals.
- – Ransomware – this type of malware locks down the victim’s data and files with the threat of erasing it until a ransom is paid to the attacker.
- – Adware – this is advertising software that can be used to spread different types of malware.
- – Botnets – these are networks of malware-affected computers that cybercriminals can use to carry out tasks online without the user’s permission.
2. SQL injection
- An SQL (structured query language) injection is a kind of cyberattack criminals use to control a database and steal data from it. They focus on exploiting vulnerabilities in data-driven applications to insert malicious code into the database using an SQL statement. This is how they can access sensitive information included in the database.
Phishing refers to a scenario where cybercriminals target victims with emails that appear to come from a legitimate company where they ask for sensitive information. Phishing attacks are often used to confuse users into handing over their credit card data or other personal information, which can be used by cybercriminals for different purposes – for example, to break into a user’s bank account.
4. Denial-of-service attack (DoS attack)
In this type of attack, cybercriminals prevent the computer system from fulfilling legitimate requests by overwhelming the servers and networks with a massive amount of traffic. That way, the system becomes unstable, and the organization is no longer able to carry out its vital functions.
5. Man-in-the-middle attack (MITM attack)
A man-in-the-middle attack is a kind of cyber threat where criminals intercept communications between two individuals with the aim of stealing data. For example, they can do that by plugging into an insecure Wi-Fi network and intercepting data that is passed from the victim’s device and the network.
6. News cyber threats
Naturally, criminals are always busy inventing new ways of achieving their goals and identifying the new vulnerabilities in brand-new systems or technological innovations.
A new type of cybersecurity threat is Dridex malware attacks. Dridex is a kind of financial trojan with a broad range of capabilities – it can steal passwords, personal data, and banking details that can be later used in fraudulent transactions. Such attacks have caused massive financial losses among users.
Another type of cyber-attacks common today is romance scams; fraudulent behaviors of cybercriminals carried out via dating chat rooms, sites, and apps. Perpetrators take advantage of people who are seeking new partners by tricking them into giving away their personal data. According to the FBI, romance threats affected as many as 114 victims in New Mexico in 2018, generating financial losses that amounted to $1.6 million.
Another new type of cyber threat is Emotet malware. In late 2019, the Australian Cyber Security Center warned national organizations about the threat of Emotet trojans that can steal data and load other malware. The trojan especially thrives on unsophisticated passwords – a good reminder to all of us that creating strong passwords is the best measure to guard against cybersecurity threats.
Benefits of cybersecurity
Why are organizations around the world investing so many resources into cybersecurity and hiring cybersecurity experts? You can probably imagine that having a strong cybersecurity policy brings a number of critical benefits to a company.
Cybersecurity solutions offer digital protection for all kinds of activities, ensuring that employees aren’t at risk for potential threats such as ransomware or adware.
Increase in productivity
Malware can slow down computers and make work practically impossible. An effective cybersecurity policy strategy eliminates this threat and maximizes the potential output of your teams.
Trust and confidence
Businesses able to prove that they are effectively protected against all kinds of cyber threats that inspire trust in their customers, who can be sure that their personal data will not be compromised.
Another benefit of investing in a cybersecurity solution and strategy is ensuring business continuity no matter what. For example, if you host your own website, a potential threat could be disastrous to your business. A system that becomes infected might force your website to close, causing you to lose lots of money in lost transactions. That’s why protecting your digital business assets is so important.
By ensuring that a business is secure from cyber threats, you also show that you’re capable of protecting your customers who might be susceptible to cyber by proxy. That’s why cybersecurity is such an important issue in the financial services sector where companies store and process sensitive user data.
How to build a career in cybersecurity
In the past, cybersecurity used to be only associated with defense contractors and government agencies. Today, cybersecurity has entered the mainstream, and industries such as financial services, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing hire cybersecurity experts to protect valuable information from breaches and threats. That’s why the demand for specialists in this field is so high.
A report from Burning Glass Technologies showed that job postings for roles in cybersecurity grew three times faster than those for IT jobs overall. That’s why the job outlook for cybersecurity experts is very promising, probably more so than any other industry today. Cybersecurity offers many different positions, ranging from network security engineers and cloud security engineers to experts in application security and security testers.
Can you get a cybersecurity job without a degree?
A lot of people wonder whether it’s possible to get a job in cybersecurity without having a relevant degree. This depends on a number of factors. Generally, it’s possible to get a job in cybersecurity without a degree if:
- – you have prior experience in either IT or military,
- – already have a security-related certification,
- – or are looking for an entry-level job and are willing to take a course to take the first step into the field of cybersecurity.
Also, not all of the cybersecurity jobs require degrees. Since the cybersecurity job market is growing quickly, employers find it troublesome to fill cybersecurity positions. That’s why they might consider hiring candidates with less work experience or college education – and then train them in-house. Cybersecurity doesn’t have a regulating body or structure – unlike fields such as medicine. That’s why it’s not a regulated environment, and employers are essentially free to hire whoever they want. Cybersecurity certifications can easily fill in as a substitute for degrees. Cybersecurity experts can choose from many alternative qualification options. You can build a successful career without committing to full-time study because college is never the only option to learn – consider technical schools or specialized online learning programs.
We hope this article helps you to understand what cybersecurity is all about, why it’s so important today, and how you can become part of this exciting field even without the relevant degree.
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