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Cyber Security

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What is Cyber Security?

Cyber security can be defined as practices used to ensure information integrity, confidentiality and availability. 

Companies of all sizes can expect to face ever more sophisticated cyber-attacks that target every part of their IT infrastructure, exploiting the weakest links in the IT chain. Most businesses lack crucial visibility and control, especially in the cloud and on mobile devices, making these areas prime targets for cybercriminals.

But cyber threat actors are rapidly adapting their techniques to stay one step ahead of companies’ efforts to strengthen their cybersecurity. No longer operating in the shadows, cybercriminals are impacting global supply chains, disrupting utilities and launching ransomware attacks on any vulnerable business.

Defending against the new breed of cyber threats requires responding quickly to rapidly-evolving attacks that can strike anywhere or any time across a company’s attack surface. Organisations need a cyber security strategy tuned for modern cyber risks and agile enough to respond to emerging threats.

 

Why we need cyber security

The goal of cyber security is to help prevent cyber-attacks. As organisations become more digitalised and store more information on their computers and devices, cybercriminals are also developing more sophisticated methods of cyber-attacks. Without cyber security, both organisations and individuals become vulnerable to threat actors. A business can keep operating with peace of mind by securing such vulnerabilities.

Some benefits of cyber security include:

Types of cyber security risks & threats

Malware

Is any harmful program or file that is harmful to a computer system. Although malware can't physically damage your hardware, it can steal, encrypt, delete your data or even hijack essential computer functions.

Social Engineering

Criminals are adapting their attack methodologies and taking advantage of the human element – the weakest link of cyber security. This method involves manipulating their victims into revealing sensitive information. An example would be criminals impersonating an IT company and requesting login credentials into a secure database.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a form of malware that encrypts an infected device's files. The hacker usually demands a ransom payment within a time frame to unlock the files. The threat is that encrypted data will be deleted if demands are not met. 

Phishing

Involves contacting targets by email, telephone or text messages and tricking them into revealing sensitive information. Methods can include posing as legitimate institutions or luring their victims into clicking malicious links.

Insider threat

 It could be unaware employees clicking malicious links or ex-staff members sharing sensitive details; users can be an actor vector regarding cyber security. The fix for this problem is educating employees on cyber security awareness and monitoring their activities.

The cost of cybercrime

One of the biggest threats to emerge from Covid-19 was the accelerated mobility and remote working of Australian businesses. What initially started as an interim fix to ensure business continuity became the “new normal”, including a new normal of cyber threats as hackers exploited new weaknesses. 

Cybercrime was already on the rise in Australia, but according to IBM’s recent annual Data Breach Report, the average cost per breach exceeded US$4.24m in 2021, the highest average amount in the report’s history. 

Since Covid, there has been a 16.6% increase in reported data breaches, and it is estimated that 30% of Australian businesses will succumb to a cyber breach, with costs potentially lasting years. The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) estimates the cost of cybercrimes for Australian companies and individuals was $33B in 2021 and is projected to be as high as $42B by 2023.

The lack of focus on cybersecurity can be impactful in more ways than one. With a lack of faith in businesses, customers will be more inclined to venture to competitors, leading to a loss of revenue. 

Threat actors aren’t the only group that companies should look out for; emerging privacy laws can also lead to hefty fines for businesses that do not protect the sensitive information of their stakeholders.

Cyber security tips – How to protect small and medium business

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) provides a prioritised list of practical actions called “The Essential 8”, which businesses can take to make their business more secure; some of these include: 

Related: Cyber Security Tips

Cease the usage of unsupported software

Although still useable, unsupported software will no longer receive updates or patches to protect against threats. The software can be compromised, making its users vulnerable to a cyber-attack.

Regularly installing
updates

Updates are designed to correct weaknesses in software and programs. If they are not updated frequently, they will present a vulnerability for hackers to attack your devices.

Use antivirus
software

Antivirus software can be used to
scan and detect any malicious
or infected files on your device.

Promote the usage of strong passwords

'Password123' is not a secure password. Secure passwords protect accounts from unauthorised access. Having an easy-to-guess password puts sensitive information at risk. For more critical accounts, two-factor authentication is strongly recommended.

Delete suspicious emails and avoid clicking

on attachments or links from unknown senders Inexperienced users may be fooled into opening attachments or clicking on links sent by cybercriminals. These malicious attachments or links can contain malware designed to spy on or gain access to the host device.

Frequently back
up your data

Many organisations have become victims of data breaches and have their data deleted. Regularly backing up your data on offsite servers minimises the loss of information and business downtime.

Enterprise cyber security

The June 2022 Federal Court Case where ASIC enforced the cybersecurity obligations for an Australian Financial Services (AFS) licensee should be a wake-up call for all Australian enterprises. In the AFS case, the licensee was found in contravention of the Corporations Act for not ensuring adequate controls to manage cybersecurity. Australia’s cybersecurity regulations are tightening with a raft of new legislation imminent.

For this reason, enterprise cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important. Enterprise needs to take a portfolio-management approach to meet new regulations and provide adequate protection. An integrated and layered defence may include End-to-end network security, Cyber awareness and training, Incident Response, Cybersecurity Insurance and regular Penetration Testing to identify gaps.

Before implementing security solutions, enterprises should undertake a thorough vulnerability assessment and cybersecurity audit. Critical recommendations then inform the next phase of implementing information security policies and procedures within a cybersecurity strategy.

All enterprises, however, should work towards the international standard for information security called ISO27001. Certification to ISO27001 outlines requirements for implementing, maintaining and continually optimising an information security management system (ISMS). It is a holistic approach to enterprise security that considers people, process and technology. Obtaining external help from a cybersecurity consulting firm is recommended to ensure certification, regulatory compliance, and effective cyber insurance cover, giving the enterprise the best protection possible.

Cyber security tools

Cybersecurity consultants use various tools to help business build their cyber resilience. Some of these include:

Network security monitoring tools

They are used to analyse network data and detect network-based threats. 

Encryption
tools

Encryption protects data by scrambling text so unauthorised users cannot read it. 

Web vulnerability scanning tools

Software applications can scan web applications to identify vulnerabilities, including cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and path traversal. 

Penetration
testing

Also known as a “pen test”, penetration testing simulates an attack on a computer system to evaluate how secure that system is. 

Antivirus
software

This software helps to identify viruses and other harmful malware, including ransomware, adware, spyware and Trojans. 

Network intrusion
detection

An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) monitors network and system traffic for unusual or suspicious activity and notifies the administrator if a potential threat is detected. 

Packet
sniffers

A packet sniffer intercepts, logs, and analyses network traffic and data. 

Managed Security
Services

Managed Security Services proactively detect, analyse and eliminate cyber threats and vulnerabilities with security actions determined from cuber alerts.

A Career in cyber security

With the Australian industry expecting to need up to 18,000 cyber security professionals by 2026, it has never been a better time to consider a career in this field. Many of these roles are currently being filled by employees transitioning from similar sectors, such as information technology. The shortage in skills has pushed universities to implement cybersecurity courses and degrees. Although helpful, a degree is not a must-have for students considering a cyber security career. It should be noted that it’s possible to enter the industry with a more general degree in a related field such as computer science, IT or engineering. Graduates can improve their hiring competitiveness by obtaining relevant certifications and attending networking workshops and internships.

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FAQ

Cybersecurity is emerging as one of the most critical issues for business and individuals. Effective cybersecurity protects data such as personal identity details, intellectual property and business information against loss and theft from cybercrime.

  1. Critical infrastructure – Securing computers, telecommunications and other equipment
  2. Applications Security – The processes, tools and practices aimed at protecting software applications from threats
  3. Network Security – The policies and processes adopted to prevent, detect and monitor unauthorised access of a computer network
  4. Cloud Security – Technologies used to protect virtualised IP, data, applications, infrastructure and services of cloud computing 
  5. IoT Security – Is the task of securing internet devices and the networks connected to breaches and other cyber threats

Cybersecurity risk is the potential loss or harm resulting from a vulnerability in computer infrastructure, like a network, that has been exposed or breached by a threat actor undertaking cybercrime.

Cybercriminals do not discriminate by size. While the data breach of a large company makes headlines, small businesses are more common targets due to lower perceived cyber resilience. Small businesses must undertake the necessary safeguards to protect their data and people from cyber threats that increasingly target small, vulnerable businesses.

About Author
Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia...

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Published November 30, 2022

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