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What is Cyber Security all about?

Filed under: Features — Stephanie on June 28, 2013


Cyber security runs as a common thread through our daily interaction with computing-related devices (desktop or mobile), whether in the home or at work. While it is not an easy concept to define neatly, one can safely say that cyber security is primarily about building and maintaining suitable defences against digital crime and malfeasance.

Cyber security is also concerned with picking up the pieces, restoring a normal service if said defences are, despite best efforts, breached. In this sense, cyber security is about blocking cybercrime and dealing with its sometimes crippling effects. Those who manage information security do not go on patrol in town centres – their work is not always visible. Yet despite its position below the parapet – removed from the immediate physical world – cyber security is of mission-critical importance.

The threats posed

Cyber security is also, to a large extent, defined by the range of disruptive enemies it has to fight. Of the plethora of IT security threats out there today, some of the most common include:

– Viruses and malware designed to harvest and confidential information from, or simply disrupt, targeted machines

– Online identity theft, often with the intention of making fraudulent use of a victim’s bank account

– Corporate raids with the intention of vandalising a company website, or stealing user details

– Industrial espionage through network hacking

– Cyber terrorism, such as attempting to disrupt energy supplies.
This last example is cybercrime of a different order of magnitude, and is exercising government security personnel the world over.

The efforts made by cyber security experts to combat such threats fall under three broad, and sometimes overlapping, categories: home, corporate and government.

At home

Home users can choose from an array of professional internet security software packages which, if kept up to date, should be able to fend off a good number of assaults on their computers and mobile devices. Such defences, however, rely on individual users playing their part, with responsible password and identity management, and taking sensible steps to protect sensitive information.

At work

In corporate cyber security, the principles remain the same: combining technological security measures with users being urged to take personal responsibility. Defences are, however, considerably more complex at the corporate level, especially in the areas of network and firewall configuration. Moreover, cyber security for large organisations is supported by a raft of regulations and international standards. At the same time, an increasingly respected IT security profession, with its own certifications, has grown up. Roles such as “Security Consultant” and “Risk Manager” are now standard slots in corporate job trees.

The international scene

Finally, in the international arena, governments work – sometimes individually and sometimes in concert – to combat what has been called the “growing threat” of cyber terrorism. As far back as 2010, Robert Mueller, then Director of the FBI, cited Denial of Service attacks in Estonia in 2007 that shut down banks, petrol stations and parts of the government. Effective cyber security for shared infrastructure is clearly a high priority.

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