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What is Cyber Security? (+How to Protect Yourself From an Attack)

Mara Calvello
Mara Calvello  |  June 12, 2019

We’ve all seen those movies and television shows where the supporting character is feverishly typing away on a keyboard trying to thwart a cyber attack.

If only entering a few keystrokes was all it took to ensure your data wasn’t stolen by a hacker. In reality, a lot more goes into both hacking information and keeping your data secure.

Before hackers realize you’re a perfect target for a breach, it’s best that you educate yourself on the ins and outs of cyber security. Keep reading to ensure you remain un-hackable.

What is cyber security?

You know it’s important. And you read about cyber attacks and data breaches in the news on the regular (we’re talking about you, Instagram and Quora). But, what exactly is cyber security anyway?

Think of cyber security as a way to infiltrate information technology systems and exploit all of the data it stores and sends to other networks.

This term applies to so much within the tech industry, from businesses to mobile computing. Consider other industries, like government, finance, and medical organizations, that house extensive sensitive data. Without cyber security, this data could easily be exposed and fall into the wrong hands.

Related: Interested in a job in cyber security? Check out these 8 most-common and in-demand cyber security jobs.

Related content: 8 In-Demand Cyber Security Jobs →

As we store more and more data online, the volume and sophistication of cyber attacks grow, and additional steps need to be taken to protect both sensitive business and personal information. Especially when you consider that implementing these measures is more challenging today due to our reliance on a growing number of devices, as well as many new innovations in hacking.

Did you know? 67% of organizations reported being breached at some point in the past.

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Types of cyber security threats

Cyber security isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of threat. Depending on what the hacker is after, there are ways they can go about stealing your information.

TIP: Cybersecurity threats happen every single day. Protect yourself with threat modeling
  • Social engineering: Exploiting human trust to gain access to private data
  • APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats): When an unauthorized user invades a network and stays for an extended period of time, stealing data without harming the network
  • Malware: Specific software designed to gain access or damage a computer or network

Percent of companies with open sensitive files

These three types of security threats will target either confidentiality, integrity, or availability.

  • Confidentiality attacks: Attacks that steal your personal information related to your identity, like your bank account or credit card number.
  • Integrity attacks: Also called leaks, attacks that access and release sensitive information with the intent of exposing the data to the public, causing loss of trust in an organization.
  • Availability attacks: Attacks that block users from accessing their own data unless they pay a fee or ransom.
It can happen to anyone: In October 2018, Facebook admitted that email addresses, phone numbers, and other sensitive details, were stolen from 29 million of their users in a major cyber attack.

Protecting against cyber security attacks

No one wants to fall victim to an attack, and luckily there are ways to protect yourself.

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For starters, backing up your files is an absolute must. Whether you’re backing up the photos of your European vacation or data regarding your bank numbers, this is a crucial first step. Going along with this is to always update your devices with the newest software. I know that pop-up to install updates always comes at the worst time, but these updates contain patches that fix security issues.

Next, don’t trust any website that doesn’t feature an HTTPS URL with any of your data. If the URL starts with http://www… this site isn’t secure and you should avoid entering in any information about yourself (like your Social Security Number) at all costs.

Finally, don’t open attachments or links from an email sent from an unknown source. Double check that the email address is one that you recognize and that it isn’t off by an underscore or one missing letter. This can make all of the difference.

Tip: Looking for software to up your security game? Check out some of the best cyber security services.

See the best cybersecurity providers →

Keep your data on lock

Small businesses. Large businesses. Your dad who only uses his computer to check the stock market. No matter who you are or what category you fall under, being informed on cyber security is an absolute must. Anyone can become a target of a cyber attack, so it’s best that you know the signs and how to protect yourself, and all of your data.

Interested in learning more about cyber security? Check out these 13 cyber security tips from the experts and expand your vocabulary with our complete list of 70+ cyber security terms and definitions. 

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Mara Calvello
Author

Mara Calvello

Mara is a Senior Content Marketing Specialist at G2. In her spare time, she's typically at the gym polishing off a run, reading a book from her overcrowded bookshelf, or right in the middle of a Netflix binge. Obsessions include the Chicago Cubs, Harry Potter, and all of the Italian food imaginable. (she/her/hers)