Understanding Cybersecurity

What problems do we face today?

The most common threats to our cybersecurity include malware, including ransomware, botnets, malvertising, phishing and application attacks.

Malware is the term used for malicious software intended to do any number of things ranging from the stealing of credentials, other information or money to the general wreaking of havoc, or denial of service.
Some of the more typical types of malware include:

  • Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.
  • Botnets are networks of interconnected computers that are infected with a “botnet agent” designed to do the attacker’s bidding.
  • Malvertising involves injecting malicious or malware-laden advertisements into legitimate online advertising networks and web pages. Malvertising is a serious threat that requires little or no user interaction.
  • Phishing usually is an email designed to lure the reader into doing something ill-advised by masquerading as a trustworthy source or legitimate enterprise. Phishing requests to execute an attachment to the email or click on
    a link are designed to install malware on the user’s computer, generally for the purpose of stealing money. Phishing can also involve more direct requests to provide private information such as passwords, credit card account details or other sensitive data.

Application attacks are increasingly common as application development is moving more and more to the web. In addition to complex business applications being delivered over the web, our personal mobile phone applications and our home devices connected to the internet via internet of things platforms create widespread vulnerabilities.

Who are the bad actors?

While the term “hacker” may have had its origin as a term used to describe especially talented computer programmers and systems designers, and may still include those considered “curious” hackers, the term has become much more widely used to describe computer intruders or criminals with less-than-desirable intent. In addition to basic thieves, these “bad actors” can be outsiders, such as business competitors or nation-states. They can also be insiders, such as
disgruntled, or otherwise malicious, employees.

Risk of security vulnerabilities

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities can be technical in nature or procedural. Technical deficiencies that create exposure to sensitive functionality or information include software defects and the failure to use security protections such as encryption adequately. Procedural deficiencies can be IT related, including system configuration mistakes, or
failure to keep up with software security updates. However, many procedural deficiencies are user related, such as poorly chosen passwords.

Whatever the cause, when exploited, these vulnerabilities can be costly and result in:

  • Down time — Loss of business production or revenue generation opportunities
  • Tarnished reputation — Company and brand value negatively affected
  • Customer flight — Especially critical with increasing level of e-commerce
  • Legal consequences — Fines, lawsuit costs and settlements can be staggering
  • Industry consequences — Health care records breaches have been extensive