What is Cyber Security?

by Petrone Risk

What is Cyber Security?

In today’s day and age, we rely on our computers and smart phones for many aspects of our lives. We bank online, communicate for business, make purchases and even view our medical records.  With so much of our personal information being sent out through cyberspace, it’s important that this data is protected so that it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Cybersecurity works to keep the digital information we send and share from our computers and devices safe. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) describes cybersecurity as, “The activity or process, ability or capability, or state whereby information and communications systems and the information contained therein are protected from and/or defended against damage, unauthorized use or modification, or exploitation.” There are technical methods and cyber security positions available that together work to maintain the safety of data online.

Securing Data

There are protocols in place on the Internet like Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, or HTTPS which protects personal data like location and credit card numbers, which are sent to websites when accounts are created or products are purchased.

It also helps to have a firewall enabled on the computer. According to the New York State Department of Homeland Security, “A firewall is a hardware or software solution to enforce security policies.” Basically, firewalls are the traffic police of computers. They examine data before it enters or leaves a computer and if anything seems suspicious or doesn’t match their policies they can block or redirect that traffic.

Encryption is another way that information is kept safe online. Think of it like a digital safe for important files that only those with the combination can open. There are many different forms of encryption, but they all provide confidentiality of data. Whether its communication over email or important PDFs that contain financial documents, encryption will protect that information from unauthorized access.

Role of Cyber Security

One of the challenges of cyber security is that the threats come from all over the world. Computer hackers are willing to attack anyone in order to gain access to valuable data. Businesses are especially a target for cyber threats, including those in the private sectors, public entities, and not-for-profit organizations.

Those in the private sector need to use cyber security to protect their assets and consumers. It’s important to keep customers’ personal information and credit card numbers secure.

A privacy breach, such as the Target breach, has an extensive price tag. Cost for customer support, credit monitoring, customer notification, forensics, public relations and advertising are all included when responding to an attack.  Moreover, the loss of consumer trust which can also be costly to a company’s bottom line.

Cyber security is important for public entities because they need to ensure that their resident’s information is secure. It’s the responsibility of local governments to safeguard the data that residents and local businesses have entrusted to them. Municipalities maintain addresses, public health records, and employee data all of which should be kept confidential. Some political activist groups specifically target public entities to hack as a protest method.

It is a priority for not-for-profit organizations to protect data about their members from cyber threats. They need to beware of email spammers who want to use their list of members’ email addresses for malicious reasons. Not-for-profit organizations also have financial records and donors’ personal data, including names, addresses, and phone numbers, which need to be kept secure and confidential. If the personal data of donors is exposed through a cyber-attack, then the integrity and trust of the organization is at risk.

Using cyber security techniques to protect ourselves, our businesses and those they service are important tools of risk management in today’s technology.