Before we get to the why, it’s important to understand what. What exactly is cybersecurity? In general, this refers to the protection of enterprise-level digital devices and networks, hardware and software, from malicious attacks. But in a practical sense cybersecurity refers to the same concept on a personal level as well. A compromised company server relates to the same concept of cybersecurity as someone hacking into a home computer.
When it comes to cybersecurity attacks, these take many forms. These vary from fraudulent emails to viruses on USB drives. Some of the infamous types include malware, ransomware, phishing, and social engineering.
This is what most would define as a virus in general. Yet, malware applies to anything from worms, viruses, to spyware. This is a program that’s intention is to harm a system in some form.
One of the most notorious forms of cyberattacks. This is where a malicious program locks a computer system. The victim would usually need to pay a certain ransom to unlock the system. Ransomware usually spreads through emails. In 2017, the Petya ransomware wreaked havoc in several companies across Europe and the United States.
Here, fraudulent emails disguised to look like legitimate emails are sent to users. The goal is usually to get sensitive and/or personal data. Often, the tactic is to redirect the user to a seemingly legitimate website where the data is collected for nefarious purposes. Sometimes even ransomware is delivered through this method.
This isn’t necessarily an attack. Rather, this is a method that would allow for an attacker to get information about a potential victim system. Social engineering looks to manipulate individuals to divulge personal or even confidential information. This information usually enables the attacker to penetrate certain security procedures with ease.
Why is cybersecurity important?
Technology. The past few years have seen technology advance at an exponential rate. So much so that the conversation has shifted from computers to the 4th industrial revolution. We’re no longer talking about isolated systems. Rather, it’s all about a connected world. This is partly thanks to the many advancing fields such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and the Internet of Things. While a more connected world would mean convenience for all. It also means that security and privacy are no longer optional matters. Yes, cybersecurity is important. But how important is it exactly?
As data becomes more valuable, so does the importance of cybersecurity
Cybersecurity has always been an important aspect of the embrace of technology. Today, we’re at a state where pretty much everything is connected. Smartphones, the Internet of Things, and even technologies like 5G are have raised the priority levels of cybersecurity. One of the reasons for this is the significance modern society has placed on data. “Data is the new gold”, is a popular phrase that’s thrown around every now and then.
In truth, the statement does hold a lot of merits. Take big tech companies for instance. Their biggest asset is not always the products or services they deliver. But rather, the data. It’s what helps sell ads on Facebook and Google. It’s what helps Netflix understand what type of content they should be making. All this has given rise to the enormous significance that’s placed on data. With this comes the importance of the security aspect.
In 2014, 145 million eBay user data was compromised. In 2017, it was reported that all 3 billion Yahoo email accounts were hacked in a 2013 data theft. Over the years these types of security breaches got bigger and more ambitious. As these hacks became prominent, so did the importance of cybersecurity. In turn, hackers have upped their game as well. Attacks have become more sophisticated compared to a decade or so ago. The easily accessible tools that enable these activities makes the situation even more challenging.
The world is more connected today
Today, we live in a world that’s connected more than ever. We have cars that need to download updates the same as we do with our smartphones. We have smartwatches that can detect distress and call 911 automatically. As such, the need for cybersecurity exceeds far beyond websites, servers or personal computers.
Take the case of Tesla’s electric cars. Wired recently reported that hackers could steal a Tesla Model S by compromising its keyless entry system. To make matters worse, this wasn’t the first time the electric car’s security came into question.
Then there was the incident involving an Amazon Echo. A couple in Portland reported a case where their Amazon Echo device had recorded a private conversation and sent it to one of their contacts.
The above two are only a few of the incidents that reflect the vital need for better cybersecurity standards. It’s a dangerous thought to even imagine your car or your personal digital assistant getting hacked.
Regulations are getting stronger
Fortunately, government bodies around the world are actively looking into data protection. They are also keen on beefing up cybersecurity on a national level. In May 2018, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) forced companies to look at data more seriously. The following January, tech giant Google was fined 50 million euros for violating GDPR. The fine was in line with Google’s failure to provide enough information to users with regards to its data consent policies and insufficient control over how their information is utilized.
But the efforts aren’t limited to Europe. Many other countries are now taking the initiative to up their cybersecurity game. The Australian government, for example, has launched a cybersecurity innovation node with the aim of growing its cybersecurity industry.
But this isn’t only about governments or enterprises. Negligence on cybersecurity can cause damage at an individual level as well. In 2017, the WannaCry attack was an extreme case of ransomware affecting over 200,000 victims from at least 150 countries. The attack exploited an existing vulnerability in Windows systems.
But I don’t have anything to hide
Still, for the average person, it’s fair to think that security isn’t something that should be on top of the priority list. After all, you might not even have anything sensitive or damaging that could be used for any nefarious purpose at all. If you have nothing to hide, why worry about cybersecurity right? Wrong. Even in such a situation, cybersecurity should remain a priority for every citizen today. The Cambridge Analytica fiasco is one such example that reflects why your personal data should be protected at all costs. In case you didn’t know, Cambridge Analytica was a political data analysis firm that had harvested data of 50 million Facebook users without their consent. This was done through a third-party app called “thisisyourdigitallife”.
At the end of the day, the larger responsibility of ensuring protection and safety in the digital space falls on governing bodies and companies. But the same responsibility falls on the individual as well. It can be as simple as keeping your systems up to date or being extra cautious while engaging in your digital life. Cybersecurity is no longer an option. Rather, it’s a vital component of how we as society progress in the modern age.