Cybersecurity is no longer just a buzzword. Frequent cyberthreats call for a proactive approach to cybersecurity from a business perspective. In late 2020, dozens of companies fell victim to a cyberattack orchestrated through a network monitoring software called SolarWinds. Like a trojan horse, hackers hid malicious code inside the SolarWinds program to gain access to company records. Given the volume of data stored in the cloud today, such events can have catastrophic implications for businesses and individuals. The good news? The future of cybersecurity is bright, as the market continues to grow and bring new innovations.
By definition, cybersecurity refers to the protection of any internet-enabled system. In turn, internet-enabled systems can be further broken down into a number of sub-fields. Application security, network security, and information security – to name just a few. Technology is an essential element of a successful cybersecurity approach, but people and processes also play an important role. An organization with top-notch cybersecurity software will still be vulnerable without the right talent and processes to connect everything together. For many years, cybersecurity meant simple password protections and a small IT department. But today, with so much of our personal and professional lives online, the stakes are higher, as are the incentives for cyber criminals.
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The Rise of Cyberthreats
Cyberattacks aim to capture individual or enterprise-level data, usually for some sort of financial gain. At an individual level, this might mean compromised credit card information, or even total identity theft. At an enterprise level, the cyberthreat might involve sensitive customer data, or data related to daily operations. For industries we all rely on like energy and healthcare, cyberthreats affect more people than just the parties directly involved. What exactly do cyberthreats look like? The tricky part is that they are difficult to recognize. A common technique is phishing, or the practice of sending tainted emails under the guise of a trustworthy source. More advanced techniques include ransomware, malware, and social engineering. The rise of cyberthreats has come as hackers find ways around existing cybersecurity systems. But the cybersecurity industry is rising to meet the challenge.
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Cybersecurity Market Growth
In 2019, Grand View Research valued the global cybersecurity market at $156.5 billion, and expects cybersecurity market growth to be around 10% through 2027. That is almost 7.5 times the size of McDonald’s entire business! And as you might expect with any booming industry, there are plenty of attractive cybersecurity career paths.
Cybersecurity professionals focus on detecting any weaknesses in an organization’s cyber-defense. In addition, they often recommend changes to existing software and hardware that can further deter hackers. Cybersecurity job growth projections are strongest in industries that really lean heavily on computer systems. Banking, technical consulting, and ecommerce are all good examples. “Information Security Analyst” is a common entry-level role, which can earn around $70K, per recent ZipRecruiter data. And cybersecurity careers offer attractive trajectories for those who want to stick with it. Chief Information Security Officers earn well into the six-figures. The catch? Cybersecurity professionals need extensive training and constant upskilling as new innovations emerge. Find a list of top cybersecurity programs here.
Future Of Cybersecurity
The pace of innovation makes it hard to predict the future of cybersecurity, but some trends are here to stay. As mentioned already, the number of hackers will keep growing as the total size of the data pie increases. Another issue will continue to be legacy technology. The cybersecurity industry is in a constant battle with hackers to stay on top of the latest technical developments. In that regard, talent will also continue to be key. A topical, buzzword-y trend that warrants its own explanation is blockchain cybersecurity.
Blockchain cybersecurity bakes in its own security measures, with minimal need for any human involvement. In a nutshell, blockchain is a distributed, decentralized network of computing devices that can record information on a unified ledger. The security comes from the fact that no point in the system holds any value on its own. The power of the information lies in the collective links, which are decentralized – thus not easily compromised.
Cybersecurity For Beginners: What SMBs Need To Know
Cybersecurity is not only for large, Fortune 500 companies. Small and mid-sized businesses face similar threats and can face similar consequences without proper cybersecurity best practices in place. In fact, smaller businesses have even more to lose without the protection of large cash reserves. The following sections briefly outline a few basic cybersecurity concepts for smaller businesses to keep in mind. Think of these concepts not as exhaustive, but as a foundation to build upon – cybersecurity for beginners.
Personally Identifiable Information
What is personally identifiable information (PII)? The definition is broad and can include any piece of data unique to a specific individual. Things like social security number, phone numbers, and addresses. These data points are obvious targets for cyberattacks, and businesses must provide the proper guardrails to protect employees. The GDPR regulations enacted in 2018 also hold important implications for PII.
Cybersecurity Best Practices
No business will ever be 100% protected from cyberthreats, but implementing best practices will significantly reduce risk. Experts say cybersecurity best practices range from using a basic firewall to making use of multi-step authentication. A lot of best practices are “low hanging fruit” – simply educating employees, for example. Like many other important business functions, cybersecurity best practices should be ingrained in company culture – lived and breathed consistently.
Cybersecurity Risk Assessment
Wondering how your business stacks up? A cybersecurity risk assessment serves as an easy way to stress-test any cybersecurity approach. At a high level, the first step in a cybersecurity risk assessment involves identifying core characteristics of your system (how data flows, what interfaces are present, etc.). After that, you can identify which cyberthreats the system is vulnerable to, and the level of risk attached to each. Finally, based on risk, the last steps involve calculating the likelihood of a cyberattack, along with a numerical risk rating.
We live in the age of information and our most valuable economic assets exist online. If this trend continues, cyberthreats will remain prevalent. At the same time however, cybersecurity job growth projections are strong. Talent is flocking to the cybersecurity industry as firms look to bolster their defenses. The future of cybersecurity promises to bring new challenges, but the industry is showing a commitment to protect our data.
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