What is Cyber security?
That was the question of the year in 2021. It began with a bang… or ended more like– December 2020. It was the start of a fresh new hell, one where the news and media outlets start reporting every day about the newest cyber attack. There was Solarwinds, an attack which struck so many institutions, we still aren’t entirely certain just how much damage was done. Then, there was wave after wave of ransomware attacks. It’s almost never-ending.
While freaking out is certainly a viable option, it’s ultimately not going to be what stops the attacks, unless while freaking out you spill coffee on your infected device. To be fair though, that probably won’t stop it either. AND GUESS WHAT, WORLD??? It doesn’t appear to be slowing down in 2022….(so keep the Keurig on and brewing!!)
What is going to stop the attacks (or at least mitigate the damage caused by such attacks) is the renewed focus on cybersecurity education. While technology has grown exponentially, making our lives more convenient than ever, it has also made it that much more convenient for bad actors and hackers to insert themselves into our systems and lives and hang out at their leisure. The current state of our cyberworld is a lot like playing dodgeball – with an invisible enemy who can be anywhere and can strike at any time, as many times as they want, and once it starts, it almost feels like we’re powerless to stop it.
While we can’t see hackers, this isn’t to say there’s no way to prevent the effects of their attacks. A greater understanding of the cyberworld and the tricks hackers use to infiltrate and situate themselves into our systems and devices can help your everyday average computer user keep these pests at bay. An increase of knowledge is what is needed if we are to slow these attacks, maybe even prevent them from happening altogether.
So what is cyber security? If you were to ask a cyber security expert what ‘cyber’ even is, you’d probably get four different answers, and the next cyber security expert would have a problem with each of those four answers, and have four answers of their own. This is great by the way. Nothing really furthers education like a lack of definition of what your discipline actually is.
It’s difficult to nail down what fully encompasses the cyber world though, which is ultimately where the confusion comes from. A good way of thinking of it though is to take stock of everything in your home – your computer, phone, smart TV, Alexa, your toaster – anything that has a Bluetooth connection or wireless capability, which probably then has a vulnerability and the ability to be hacked by an outside source. All of that is part of the cyber world, and the ability to prevent those outside sources from accessing it without your permission is what puts the ‘security’ in ‘cybersecurity’. And yes, even your smart toaster is vulnerable. Nothing is sacred.
How in the hell though does the average person protect their toaster from being hacked? What is a criminal going to do with a hacked toaster? Burn your toast? It sounds ultimately more annoying than it sounds like a matter of national security and when most people think of cybersecurity they may imagine the protection of their bank accounts or personal information.
What is important to understand is that in the cyberworld, because so many things are connected, it’s not readily apparent. A smart toaster is similar to your smart TV, and your smart TV has your passwords to your streaming accounts. Your smart TV is also possibly utilizing your wifi, and your wifi is utilized by your computer or your phone for when you do your online banking or online shopping. Everything is connected.
Cybersecurity is currently lacking at all levels. Any vulnerability at any level can be exploited until it becomes a headline on the 6 o’clock news. Knowing how to defend ourselves from attacks, as well as prevent them is vital but this is not easy information to come across and it is certainly not easy to understand. If you’ve ever tried reading a cybersecurity article, it usually reads like an alphabet word soup salad: IoT, DDOS, MBA’s, OTS, ITS, tigers and bears, oh my.
Thus the intention is to create a blog series of easily digestible cybersecurity knowledge, accessible and understandable to anyone. Never will a word salad go unexplained, or an acronym undefined. Cyber Security 101 is an exploration of basic and best cyber security practices and terminology, so that anyone of any level can attempt to better their cyber lives and sleep easier at night… maybe.
Now that I’ve properly made you paranoid of your Alexa, I offer these words of wisdom… in the world of cyber dodgeball…
Authored by: Steffani Farrell