Cyber security refers to the body of technologies, processes, and practices designed to protect networks, devices, programs, and data from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. Cyber security may also be referred to as information technology security.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CYBER SECURITY
Why is this so important? Because year over year, the worldwide spend for cyber security continues to grow: 71.1 billion in 2014 (7.9% over 2013), and 75 billion in 2015 (4.7% from 2014) and expected to reach 101 billion by 2018. Organizations are starting to understand that malware is a publicly available commodity that makes it easy for anyone to become a cyber attacker, and even more companies offer security solutions that do little to defend against attacks. Cyber security demands focus and dedication.
Cyber security protects the data and integrity of computing assets belonging to or connecting to an organization’s network. Its purpose is to defend those assets against all threat actors throughout the entire life cycle of a cyber attack.
CHALLENGES OF CYBER SECURITY
For an effective cyber security, an organization needs to coordinate its efforts throughout its entire information system. Elements of cyber encompass all of the following:
- Network security
- Application security
- Endpoint security
- Data security
- Identity management
- Database and infrastructure security
- Cloud security
- Mobile security
- Disaster recovery/business continuity planning
- End-user education
The most difficult challenge in cyber security is the ever-evolving nature of security risks themselves. Traditionally, organizations and the government have focused most of their cyber security resources on perimeter security to protect only their most crucial system components and defend against known treats. Today, this approach is insufficient, as the threats advance and change more quickly than organizations can keep up with. As a result, advisory organizations promote more proactive and adaptive approaches to cyber security. Similarly, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued guidelines in its risk assessment framework that recommend a shift toward continuous monitoring and real-time assessments, a data-focused approach to security as opposed to the traditional perimeter-based model.
MANAGING CYBER SECURITY
The National Cyber Security Alliance, through SafeOnline.org, recommends a top-down approach to cyber security in which corporate management leads the charge in prioritizing cyber security management across all business practices. NCSA advises that companies must be prepared to “respond to the inevitable cyber incident, restore normal operations, and ensure that company assets and the company’s reputation are protected.” NCSA’s guidelines for conducting cyber risk assessments focus on three key areas: identifying your organization’s “crown jewels,” or your most valuable information requiring protection; identifying the threats and risks facing that information; and outlining the damage your organization would incur should that data be lost or wrongfully exposed. Cyber risk assessments should also consider any regulations that impact the way your company collects, stores, and secures data, such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, SOX, FISMA, and others. Following a cyber risk assessment, develop and implement a plan to mitigate cyber risk, protect the “crown jewels” outlined in your assessment, and effectively detect and respond to security incidents. This plan should encompass both the processes and technologies required to build a mature cyber security program. An ever-evolving field, cyber security best practices must evolve to accommodate the increasingly sophisticated attacks carried out by attackers. Combining sound cyber security measures with an educated and security-minded employee base provides the best defense against cyber criminals attempting to gain access to your company’s sensitive data. While it may seem like a daunting task, start small and focus on your most sensitive data, scaling your efforts as your cyber program matures.