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Cyber 101: A Guide to Cybersecurity

May 11, 2022
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What is Cyber 101?

IT innovations and virtual environments are central to an organization’s day-to-day activities. They increase efficiency, productivity, and communication. On the downside, they also introduce numerous cybersecurity threats and increased risks of data loss. Therefore, companies must channel efforts on comprehensive security controls and information security policies to address the security risks and combat cyber threats. Cybersecurity policies and controls assist in thwarting data breaches and malware attacks and preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data. Cyber 101 plays an essential role in providing employees and system users with information concerning common security threats and the tools, techniques, and practices required to detect and mitigate them.

In addition, cybersecurity is more important in the current volatile threat landscape. Cyber 101 consists of detailed descriptions and explanations regarding vital cybersecurity fundamentals to facilitate cyber preparedness, threat awareness, user security training, best practices, and cybersecurity education. For example, cyber 101 provides fundamental principles to guide cloud security practices, endpoint detection and response measures, data breach prevention, and acceptable use policies. At the same time, cyber 101 enables continuous education and training due to the constantly changing cybersecurity environment. Cyber 101 is the key to comprehending current and emerging cyber threats.

Cyber 101 enlightens individuals on the art of securing data, systems, networks, and endpoints. In addition, it educates the best practices for preserving data/system integrity, availability, and confidentiality. This is through ensuring employees and users are aware of inherent risks associated with the use of digital infrastructure. Due to increasing challenges in protecting personal data and sensitive information like intellectual property, cyber 101 provides a detailed guide for enhancing cybersecurity and consists of relevant expressions and terms in the sector, crucial cybersecurity principles, and recommended best practices. 


Why is cybersecurity knowledge important?

Increase in cybercrime

Cybercrime has increased tremendously across all industries in recent years. Cybersecurity experts estimate that financial losses due to cybercrime will increase by 15% annually within the next five years and may exceed $10.5 trillion by 2025. With that said, organizations must ensure employees understand the different types of cybercrime and suitable preventive measures. That is where cyber 101 comes in. Companies can significantly reduce cybercrime by ensuring all users understand how they can become victims of different cybercrimes, identify and respond to cyber threats, and ensure healthy cybersecurity practices. Cyber 101 is integral to nurturing and maintaining a cyber security-conscious culture that can go a long way in addressing security threats.

Moreover, cyber 101 is crucial in the modern era, where approximately one million new users connect to the internet every day. Also, roughly 6 billion people will access and interact with sensitive data through the internet by 2022, and the number will keep growing. Due to the growing number of internet users, malicious cyber actors continuously develop and execute dangerous malware attacks and data breaches. Within the last twelve months, at least 66% of internet users have fallen victim to various forms of cyberattacks. Furthermore, more users will connect to the internet, and attacks will continue unabated. Subsequently, cyber 101 is vital to preventing inherent internet security risks and deterring attacks perpetrated through the internet.


Endpoint security threat prevention

Cyber 101 is also pertinent due to a rapidly increasing number of endpoints. According to a recent CISCO report, networked devices will exceed humans by more than three times by 2023. In addition, a separate study found that there will be at least one trillion networked sensors by 2022. Many companies experience challenges in managing the increasing number of endpoints, especially with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. As a result, enterprises must expose employees to cybersecurity 101 programs to equip them with relevant knowledge of secure endpoints. These include using secure passwords to secure laptops, smartphones, and PCs connecting to internal networks, effective patch management, firewall configuration, among others. 


New technologies bring new cybersecurity risks

More importantly, most countries are in the process of rolling out newer technologies, such as 5G networks and AI-enabled autonomies systems. While newer technologies promise many benefits, they will also introduce new security risks. According to Gartner, newer technologies have expanded the attack surface significantly. In particular, companies worldwide are exposed to sophisticated supply chain attacks due to undetectable vulnerabilities embedded in the supply chain. Cou0pled with human errors that contribute to successful data breaches, emerging technologies present a serious security threat that requires continuous cyber 101 programs. 


Small and medium-sized business are vulnerable to threats

Last but not least, small and medium-sized businesses require cyber 101 to support the development of robust cybersecurity programs and policies. Alarmingly, at least half of all attacks and data breaches target SMEs, causing 60% to shut down their operations. In a recent survey, one of the main reasons SMEs are targeted the most is a lack of adequate knowledge on emerging threats, best cybersecurity practices, and insufficient resources. Thus, cyber 101 is a critical program for SMEs since it can assist business owners in overcoming security threats. In addition, Cyber 101 imparts knowledge concerning modern threats and how to prevent them. As a result, SMEs can leverage cyber101 programs to acquire the requisite knowledge on recommended cybersecurity practices to deter breaches and malware attacks.


Basic Terms and Principles

1. Data, Devices, and Networks 

Data consists of personal information and includes sensitive information like names, social security numbers, gender, home address, phone number, and date of birth. Cybercriminals target sensitive data to use it for unauthorized account access, transfer money from bank accounts, and steal your identity. On the other hand, devices like laptops, PCs, smartphones, and tablets permit users to process, store and share sensitive data. Therefore, organizations and individuals must leverage the best security controls, such as strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and timely patching to protect the devices from attacks. In addition, networks enable users to access the internet from their devices; hence, understanding the best network security practices is vital.  


2. Basic Cybersecurity Terms 

Attack surface: Consists of all locations through which hackers can compromise a system, device, network, or data. An attack surface comprises all exposed endpoints, unpatched vulnerabilities, devices lacking multi-factor authentication, shared passwords, among others. Reducing the attack surface by leveraging real-time monitoring and alerting solutions can effectively protect from attacks. 

Endpoint detection and response (EDR): EDR is a crucial cybersecurity tool that enables a company to monitor, detect, and respond to security threats across all deployed endpoints. As organizations permit employees to use an array of work-issued and personal devices, EDR solutions are vital to protecting against known and unknown threats.

Phishing/spear phishing: Phishing attacks are among the most notorious methods attackers use to commit cybercrimes. For example, attackers may send phishing emails to employees to trick them into divulging login credentials or other types of sensitive information. Adversaries craft the emails to appear legitimate to minimize suspicion and increase the rate of successful phishing attacks. Luckily, phishing simulations can help a company understand how likely employees can fall victim to phishing attacks and implement appropriate preventive measures. 

Security misconfigurations: These arise from the improper or inaccurate implementation of cybersecurity controls and settings in devices, cloud systems, firewalls, or networks. Security misconfigurations may include open ports, default credentials, unpatched software, and unencrypted files. Vulnerability assessments can help detect and mitigate such misconfigurations to avert data breaches. 


3. Basic Cybersecurity Principles 

Penetration testing: New vulnerabilities emerge daily as malicious adversaries devise advanced and more sophisticated methods of compromising secure systems. Therefore, penetration testing is a cybersecurity service through which competent and qualified experts uncover potential security flaws. A successful penetration test requires qualified experts and professionals to penetrate a defense to understand where your company is the weakest and inform required mitigation measures.

Wireless network assessment: A wireless network assessment occurs when network security experts analyze a wireless installation to identify security or configuration factors that impact its security or performance. It evaluates the vulnerability of the installed infrastructure to ensure the implementation of robust security controls and countermeasures. Cybersecurity professionals often perform a survey to determine existing access point weaknesses, identify clients on the network, and signals that may be intercepted. 

Vulnerability assessment: Each company requires a consistent and systematic evaluation of networks, applications, and systems to detect and mitigate potential vulnerabilities. A vulnerability assessment helps determine if an organization’s networks and systems are susceptible to known and unknown vulnerabilities and prioritize the mitigation measures. Also, a vulnerability assessment uncovers possible areas where data breaches may occur and reveal weaknesses like suspicious user behaviors, unpatched applications or systems, and misconfigurations.

Dark web assessments: The dark web is a rich source of sensitive information that sells at a throwaway price. As such, it is crucial to perform frequent dark web assessments to determine whether any of your sensitive data has been uploaded on the dark web. Additionally, cybersecurity experts assess the hidden corners of the web to discover breached sensitive data, which includes but is not limited to compromised passwords and usernames, intellectual properties, breached personal or company accounts.

Red teaming: Despite the controls or measures taken to protect against attacks, business owners must always remember it is when an attack happens, not if it will happen. That said, red teaming is a cybersecurity principle where experts leverage a hacker’s attack tools, knowledge, and tactics to know exactly how a cyber-attack would occur. It also tests an organization’s detection and response approach in a real-world attack scenario to identify areas requiring improvement. 

Corey Belanger

Corey Belanger

Corey is a Security Consultant and leads QA of product development, using his expertise in these dual roles to more effectively test and secure applications, whether while building enterprise applications or while performing penetration tests and vulnerability assessments for customers. An Army veteran with a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Corey has built a post-military career in security while earning Network+, Security+, GIAC Certified Incident Handler, GIAC Python Coder, GIAC Web App Penetration Testing, and GIAC Penetration Tester certifications. Corey is also a BsidesNH organizer and founding member of TechRamp, avenues which he uses to help others build their skills for careers in security and technology. Fun Fact: When not manning a terminal or watching the Bruins, Corey can often be found snowboarding or riding his motorcycle.