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What Is Computer security? The MOAB

What Is Computer Security? The MOAB

Computer security, sometimes referred to as cybersecurity, is the practice of protecting computer systems and networks from theft or damage to their hardware, software, or disruptions of services and unauthorized disclosure, alteration, or access to information contained therein. It involves measures through which digital assets and vital information of individuals and organizations can be protected.

The importance of computer security can never be overly emphasized. In this digitalized world of ours, a lot of personal, financial, and even business activities are done over the Internet. This, by extension, drives cybercriminals towards computer systems. The bottom line of the essence of computer security is putting adequate and effective safeguards to ward off loss of data, financial loss, and damage to reputation. On the other hand, it ensures continuity of services and safeguard sensitive information.

Key concepts related to computer security include confidentiality, integrity, and availability, which is more often abbreviated as CIA. Confidentiality ensures that only authorized persons access sensitive information. Integrity refers to maintaining the accuracy and reliability of the data. Availability is to ensure pieces of information and resources are available to authorized users on demand. Other related concepts include authentication, authorization, encryptions, and compliance with security policies and regulatory requirements.

READ MORE: How to Start a Cybersecurity Firm: Developing a Business Plan

Threats to Computer Security

What Is Computer security? The MOAB
Threats to Computer Security

The computer security world is getting knotty by leaps and bounds, with newer threats continuing to emerge in such a fashion that development takes place even at times faster than technology. The first move towards proper checks is awareness about the same.

Malware

Malware, which is short for malicious software, refers to any type of software developed specifically to damage or gain unauthorized access to a computer, server, client, or even the entire computer network.

  • Viruses: Computer-based programs that are malicious, which, in the process of execution, self-reproduce by either moving or appending their code to other relevant computer applications. Quite a number of times, infected systems miss data, portray faulty functionality, and may as well send information inconspicuously.
  • Trojans: They take their name from the mythical Trojan Horse, hiding deceptive software that will mislead about what they include or purport. They tend to compromise your security by creating backdoors that will allow for future unauthorized access.
  • Worms: They are viruses since they have so-called self-replicating programs, but differentiating from classical viruses, worms do not require any kind of human intervention to spread, and thus, they are especially dangerous in case fast exploitation of security vulnerability occurs.

Cyber attacks

  • Cyber attacks are intentional exploits of system structures and networks. They hack into an unstable system that can steal, modify, or destroy a predetermined specific object.
  • Hacking: An unauthorized intrusion into a computer or its network. A person who carries out hacking activities is popularly called a hacker. The term given in earlier days was used to mean a recognized programmer, but in the public press today, it normally comprises persons who use their skills for malicious purposes.
  • Phishing: It is an attack aimed at capturing personal data, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details, in which disguised e-mails and websites are used as bait. It’s an attack that typically results in the users having their data stolen, for example login credentials and credit card numbers.
  • Social Engineering: This is an attack tactic against an intended user base by adversary users to trick you in order to obtain confidential information from you. They can request monetary transactions or classified information from you. Insider Threats can overlap with any of the above-mentioned threats to increase your likelihood of clicking, downloading malware, or trusting malicious sources.

Generally, insider threats consist of people who are doing something for some kind of advantage within an organization and might be employees, former employees, contractors, or business associates holding some sort of insider information about security practices taken up in the course of the organization and their data and computer systems.

The other categories of virtual threats that are significantly dangerous to computer systems comprise theft, vandalism, natural disasters, and terrorism. Physical security helps safeguard the hardware and infrastructure from damage.

Types of Computer Security

A good approach to security in a computer comes from layers of protections running across the computer, networks, programs or data a user may want to safe-keep. Here, we present different types of computer security.

Network Security

Network security is designed to protect the usability and integrity of your network and data.

  • Firewalls: A firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic, deciding whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules.
  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): These represent either the devices or the software applications that monitor a network or systems for malicious activity or policy infringements.
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): It extends a private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.

Information Security

Information security or InfoSec involves protecting information from unauthorized access along with preventing identity theft by making sure that private information stays private.

  • Data Encryption: This refers to the process of converting data into another form, or code, in such a way that only people who possess access to a secret key or password can read the code and the message.
  • Data Classification: Classifying data into appropriate categories so that it can be useful and protective for the organization.
  • Access Control: Ensures that only authorized individuals are granted network access or access to any resource.

Application Security

Security application is generally focused on ensuring that they are free from threats to software and devices. This is because an application that has been compromised can simply offer access to the data it has been designed to protect.

Secure Coding Practices: Involve the use of computer programs written in a way anticipated to guard against the accidental introduction of vulnerabilities into them.

Web Application Security: This involves the securing of websites, web applications, and web services. Measures here include firewalls, SSL certificates, and regular security testing.

Endpoint Security

Endpoint security is securing the endpoints or points of entry of the end-user devices such as desktops, laptops, and mobile devices from being exploited by malicious actors and campaigns.

  • Antivirus Software: It is software that is intended to recognize, prevent, and take action to disarm or remove malicious software from your computer such as viruses and worms.
  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): This refers to technology that will provide the requisite tools needed for the detection of suspicious activities on end-user hosts and endpoints, which may serve as indicators to prove malicious actors are present.

RELATED: Top Computer Security Companies: How to Start Properly?

Security Policies and Procedures

Security Policies and Procedures
Photo Credit | CR-T: Security Policies and Procedures

There should be strong security policies and procedures in place to prevent and mitigate any form of security breach. These policies, in fact, guide the organization on how they should actually go about protecting their information assets.

1. Password Policy

Password policies are essential, and a system must follow password security issues for its protection. It should implement the creation of strong passwords that are potentially changeable at regular times and retain those that are not shared or easily guessable.

2. Incident Response Plans

An Incident Response Plan is a directive that outlines procedures which IT staff can use to detect, respond as well as recover from network security incidents. Such plans contain steps to undertake in case of data breaches and cyber-attacks, among other possible threats.

3. The Security Awareness Training

This should include training the employees on the various security protocols of the company. This should entail an understanding of the type of cyber threats that are in existence and how to identify a phishing attempt, among others.

4. Risk Assessment and Management

Identifying potential security vulnerabilities helps in regular risk assessments. Risks need to be identified and assessed, and steps taken to reduce the risks to an acceptable level using risk management processes.

5. Security Audits and Compliance

Regular security audits should be conducted to ensure the organization’s compliance with internal policies and external regulations. It includes a review and appraisal of the effectiveness of security policies, procedures, and controls.

7. Security Technologies

Computer security uses different technologies to secure digital assets. These means of technology are changing continuously as the new security threats continue to evolve.

8. Biometrics

Biometric-secured security systems employ individualistic physical features like fingerprints or facial recognition retina scans for identification and access control. In all, the technology assures significantly high-level security as duplication or robbing someone’s biometric traits is very difficult.

9. Two-factor authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication provides another layer of security, requiring two different factors of authentication. These normally consist of something the user knows, such as a password, and something that they possess, such as a smartphone app, to approve authentication requests.

10. Security Information Event Management (SIEM)

The raised security alerts by applications and network hardware can be analyzed in real time by using SIEM technology. It is used to collect logs, correlate events, raise alerts, and report. For monitoring networks, SIEM should have the capability to review records of activities carried out on networks in the past. In addition, SIEM provides for forensic activities of criminal-type attacks on a network, like analyzing whether a rootkit has been installed on devices.

11. Security Certificates and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)

Together with security certificates, PKI is employed to secure electronic communications over networking. A PKI is a regulatory framework aimed at devising a secure mechanism for exchanging the required information based on public key cryptography. He would require digital certificates for both the sender and recipient to ascertain the sending and receiving entities.

Emerging Trends of Computer Security

As time passes by and technology advances, the techniques and methods adopted by cybercriminals are also progressing. For a complete evaluation of the effectiveness of computer security defense, emerging trends need to be included and embraced.

  • Security AI (Artificial Intelligence)

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning systems are increasingly used to enhance cybersecurity. They allow us to analyze patterns while learning from them, hoping to eventually be able to assist with preventing similar attacks or alterations of behavior.

  • Internet of Things (IoT) Security

With the rising growth in a network of interconnected devices, it is essential to think about IoT security. This involves securing a network of physical devices, home appliances, and vehicles, as well as other various items that are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity.

  • Cloud Security

With most businesses shifting their operations to cloud-based computing, it is essential that the cloud space is made secure enough. For example, this can refer to securing data, applications, and infrastructures in play during cloud computing.

  • Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Security

Blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies have brought out new technological secirity challenges, these include protection against thefts of cryptocurrencies, protection and securing blockchain transactions as well as against new cyaberattacks that exploit the blockchain technologies.

  • Legal and Ethical Considerations

Legal and ethical dimensions of computer security have critical dimensions that guide individual and organizational conduct in the digital world.

  • Data Privacy Regulations (e.g., GDPR, CCPA)

Data protection as well as privacy are benchmarks that are set by different regulations of data protection like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for the European Union or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States. The said regulation ensures the rights of individuals to be in control of their personal data as well as puts obligations on how organizations should manage that data.

Cybersecurity Laws and Regulations

Cybersecurity laws and regulations cut across various areas of concentration from one country or region to another, but in general terms, they largely concern the requirements relating to how sensitive data is to be protected, how to report any breach to data, as well as ensuring data availability and integrity. It thus follows that all organizations need to be fully aware of these laws such that they remain compliant all through in order to avoid legal penalties.

  • Ethical Hacking and Responsible Disclosure

Ethical hacking is a term that denotes penetration into computers and computing systems with the legal aim of testing the defense of a company. The term penetration testing or white-hat hacking also defines a similar category. Responsible disclosure is, then, the practice through which any such vulnerabilities are brought to the attention of companies privately so that they can be remedied long before they have the chance to become publicly known and open for exploitation by unethical hackers.

MORE: Cybersecurity Risks of Remote Work and How to Avoid Them

Some Best Practices for Computer Security

10 Steps to Cyber Security
10 Steps to Cyber Security | Aura Technology

This means that organizations and individuals, therefore, have to observe best practices in computer security if they are to stay safe from the said cyber threats.

  • Regular Software updates and Patch Management

Another of the most basic yet effective security measures is updating software. Updating involves patch management and regular updating intervals which help to fix the vulnerabilities that could be used in the future by attackers.

  • Data Backup and Recovery Plans

Regular backups and a good recovery plan form the backbone of proper data protection and business continuity. Such measures enable businesses to guarantee that critical pieces of information will be recovered in the face of data loss episodes like ransomware attacks.

  • Employee Training and Security Culture

Creating a security culture in an organization is important. Conducting regular training classes to develop desired security practices among employees by teaching them how to recognize phishing emails, as well as sensitizing them about handling sensitive data, can help significantly minimize the risk of security breaches.

  • Assessment of Third-Party Risk

Most organizations source different services from third-party vendors; hence, access to their security protocols becomes key. The provision of stringent security standards on third-party partners forms part of an organization’s security posture.

Case Studies and Examples

Analysis of notable security breaches and their successful implementation of the security measures is illustrative of valuable insights whereby the importance of robust computer security measures flow.

1. Notable Security Breaches and Implications

The Equifax Data Breach: Coming back to 2017, where Equifax is one of the biggest credit bureaus in America and they were suffering from a great crisis when it found out that its database had been hacked, losing its personal information involving 147 million people. This incident would be an eye-opener for them and other companies about the protocols on hand and their impact if not followed accordingly.

The WannaCry Ransomware Attack: The WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 affected 200,000 computers all over the world in 150 nations. The reasoning behind the attack was that old Windows software was, however, vulnerable as their patches were not updated.

2. Security Implementations that Have Worked

Google’s Advanced Protection Program: Google’s endeavor towards the implementation of its users’ comprehensive security system, including even its own two-factor authentication and regular security audits.

IBM’s Zero Trust Security Model: The implementation of the Zero Trust security model by IBM that readily assumes no trusted users or devices out-of-the-box fundamentally reflects a proactive attitude in relation to cybersecurity through which an increased integrity level is allowed regarding its data.

The MOAB, Explained?

MOAB
The MOAB

The MOAB is found to have exposed an estimated 26 billion records with massive amounts of data clocking at approximately 12 terabytes of data dated January 22, 2024. It has been cited to be the largest breach of its kind in history, surpassing the previous significant breaches. The stolen data contains sensitive users’ information from sources too many to mention, with major ones being platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Adobe, among other thousands of organizations.

Another remarkable aspect of this breach is that it all appears more like a sum total of various previous breaches rather than an isolated one, which points to some sort of meticulous collection of data. The exposed records go as far as a series of data, ranging from social media accounts up to government entities, making its potential damage extensive and widespread. The largest breach of all time is said to have exposed the biggest amounts of data from Tencent QQ, Weibo, and MySpace and massive numbers from Twitter and LinkedIn.

The MOAB points out a number of critical issues in cyberspace. On a broader dimension, it underscores the continuing risk of credential-stuffing incidents – especially given poor password practices across the broad use case. The breach further underscores the need to utilize measures such as multifactor authentication (MFA) and using strong, unique passwords for every account being used.

Security experts note that while the majority of the breach is old data from prior incidents, the ability to aggregate this data into one easily-accessible dataset vastly amplifies the risks of targeted attacks, including large-scale noob phishing and unauthorized account access.

This breach is a wakeup call of ever-evolving the cyber threats are and that there is therefore a need for constant vigilance as well as strong security measures at the persona and organizational levels. This, therefore, impresses the need for constant monitoring as well as updating of the security protocols so as to prevent such large data exposures.

How the MOAB Could Have Been Prevented

Avoiding a breach of the magnitude of the “Mother of All Breaches” (MOAB) requires a multi-pronged approach, where strong technological safeguards are well-aligned to rigorous organizational and behavioral practices. This is how important strategies would have been applied effectively in avoiding or reducing the impact of such a breach:

  • Improved Data Security Measures: Strong encryption of sensitive data is very important. By encrypting data, it makes it very hard for an unauthorized person to get access to it in case other layers are breached.
  • Implementation of Multifactor Authentication (MFA): By not limiting users to username and password, MFA requests additional verification. This makes it difficult to breach since unauthorized access is one more step away from a possible occurrence.
  • Regular Software Updates and Patch Management: Regular updates to software and patch management of systems keep the vulnerability of the system low by closing open ends that hackers can use to compromise the system.
  • Advanced Threat Detection Systems: Simply with the help of cyber tools that have artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, all strange behavioral patterns can be spotted in advance or as potential breaches in cases where they have not yet happened.
  • Strict access controls: Access to sensitive data on a need-to-know basis alone will reduce the chances of internal breaches or leaks to a dramatic extent.
  • Regular Security Audits and Compliance Checks: Regular security audits for making the systems compliant to data protection regulations will go a long way in finding and fixing other vulnerabilities.
  • Employee Training and Awareness Regular training employees on best practices in cybersecurity, how to identify phishing attempts, and good password-securing practices remain essential as it enhances adequate development and maintenance of security-conscious behavior.
  • Focused and Tested Incident Response Plan: A detailed and tested incident response plan can allow organizations to timely and effective reactions to the data breach and the possibility of containing the damage.
  • Third-Party Risk Management: The security measures of the third-party vendors and partners must be regularly assessed as often the systems being connected to the main network, which is less secure, have been the sites of breaches.
  • Public Awareness and Vigilance: The success rate of the above-mentioned credential-stuffing attacks can be only minimized by educating the public about the necessity to comprehend unique and complex passwords, the perils of password reuse, and how to identify phishing attempts.

Although not all forms of cyberattacks can be stopped, especially by more advanced and determined actors, the above approaches form a general defense-in-depth paradigm that enhances the level of data security and reduces the chances of large-scale breaches.

MORE READ: The Importance of Cybersecurity in the Healthcare Industry

The Future of Computer Security, Trends, and Challenges

Here are a couple of the trends and the challenges that are going to shape the year’s landscape:

  • AI-Powered Attacks: The steep rise of cyberattacks in the year 2024 is set to steeply increase with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Simply put, AI-driven attacks fundamentally have the ability to adjust when they evolve and learn, which is not simple to contain using conventional security tools.
  • Ransomware Escalation: The threat of ransomware still remains a pivotal concern with new and sophisticated formats of attacks, such as double and triple extortion. These advanced ransomware campaigns do not restrict themselves to encrypting victim data but also pose a threat of making sensitive information public.
  • Vulnerabilities in Supply Chains: Global supply chains are intertwining at an increased rate, hence leading to emerging vulnerabilities. Perpetrators may attack the supply chain with the aim of derailing operations, compromising many organizations at a go .​​.
  • IoT and Cloud Security: With the exponential increase of devices in IoT and with cloud-based services gaining more reliance, we can also observe a corresponding surge of threats around these. Such includes but is not limited to attacks against weaknesses of cloud systems (cloud jacking) and unprotected IoT devices​.
  • Quantum Computing Threats: Still under development, existing encryption methods can face threats from quantum computing.  Since improvements are being made towards the potential of quantum computing, quantum-resistant encryption is required to help fortify data from such emerging technologies.
  • Zero Trust Architecture: Zero trust is such an important security model as it never assumes the trust between components of the network but rather verifies every user and device, accessing only the authenticated and authorized entities.
  • Generative AI in Cybersecurity: Generative AI has roles in two ways in cybersecurity – it helps defense but also presents a cause for concern as attackers apply generative tools to develop sophisticated threats. There’s the exploration of the security capabilities of generative AI towards the pre-emption of the attacker.
  • Cyber Insurance and Compliance: Cyber insurance is a new transfer mechanism for managing cyber risk. Further, compliance standards are shifting approach to adopt a more transparent approach requiring investment in security​​.
  • Skills Gap and Staffing Issues: The cybersecurity industry is facing a severe shortage of talent, and the demand for security professionals is increasing at a rapid pace against the available number of workforce. Budget cuts have further aggravated this issue, and some of the organizations​​ have also undertaken layoffs.
  • Emerging Attack Surfaces: The growth of remote and hybrid environments will result in greater interest in the securing of unmanaged devices, as well as vulnerabilities in communication apps such as Slack and Teams​​ to be exploited.

Conclusion

The threats to computer security are changing and varied, starting from malware, cyberattacks, insider problems, and violations of physical security.

Effective computer security must be a many-shaded approach using network, information, application, and endpoint security. Policies and procedures like password policies, incident response plans, safety audits et all are the best practices to ensure a safe environment.

Biometrics, 2FA, and SIEM technology advancements are key in the protection of digital assets. Key elements that form legal and ethical in computer security include data privacy regulations coupled with the fact of ethical hacking practices that avail responsible and lawful implementation of cyber security practices within the organization.

As we navigate the digital landscape of 2024 and beyond, computer security is one thing that can never be stressed enough. We can work together towards a more resilient and secure future by being proactive and remaining vigilant.

FAQ

What is computer security?

Computer security, also known as cybersecurity, basically refers to the practice of protecting computing systems as well as associated data from being accessed without authority or from those that are not authorised by users or from insider attacks.

It entails the use of practice and techniques with an aim to protect information technology and data from malware, hacking, as well as other cyber threats. Be it hardware or software or even the information that is being run through the systems, which is stored within them or the one transferred amongst them, needs protection.

Which security risk issues are posed by cloud computing?

Though cloud computing brings better scalability and efficiency, it poses some security risk issues, which are as follows:

Data Breaches: Unauthorized access or exposure to sensitive data.

Weak Identity, Credential, and Access Management: Poor authentication, authorization, and audit controls.

Insecure Interfaces and APIs: Vulnerabilities in interfaces and APIs enabling interaction across the cloud services.

System Vulnerabilities: Bugs throughout the system via cloud services through which vulnerabilities can be exploited to gain access to the system.

Account Hijacking: Unauthorized entry into misuse or somebody stealing an account’s credentials used to log in and then modifying, stealing, or destroying the data as well as providing the services.

Insider Threats: The risks are because of the people within the cloud service provider.

Data Loss: Lost data may be due to malicious attacks, accidental deletions, or physical disasters.

Inadequate Diligence: Inability to understand the cloud environment and to make it secure.

Does cybersecurity come under the computer science category?

Computer science is a very broad field. However, cybersecurity is another specialized field within computer science that deals with the various protection actions conducted in national networks or different computer managers to offer them protection and security. It’s more like a subset of sorts of the computer science umbrella. So, while computer scientists need a strong computer science foundation, their focus tends to be broader.

Which type of threat actor violates computer security for personal gain?

Some kinds of threat actors violate computer security for personal gain; they include:

Cybercriminals: People or groups of people who target systems with the purpose of gaining financial benefits through means such as stealing, fraud, or ransom.

Hackers for Hire: Individuals who take money and hack into systems so that they can benefit a third party.

Insiders: Employees or associates improperly use access to systems for some type of unauthorized personal gain.

Organized Crime Groups: Criminal organizations that have a large value of cybercrime as a financially motivated essential activity.

Is computer science better than cybersecurity?

More than anything, the difficulty people perceive between cybersecurity and computer science mostly relies on personal aptitude and interest. Cybersecurity usually focuses more on the practical, real-world implementations of protection of data and systems from threats, often through constant vigilance and up-to-datiness of threats as they change.

On the other side, computer science is broader and more theoretical in nature, and it spans many fields or disciplines, including algorithms, theory of computation as well as software development. Each one of the fields has its challenges, and to some degree level, the level of difficulty might change according to one’s strength and interest in certain areas of the respective disciplines.

If you’re ready to take the next step in your cybersecurity journey? You can do that with an expert beside you to guide you through without having to stress much. Schedule a one-on-one consultation with Tolulope Michael, a cybersecurity professional with over a decade of field experience. This will allow you to gain personalized insights and guidance tailored to your career goals.

Visit tolumichael.com now to book your session. This is your opportunity to embark on your cybersecurity career with confidence.

Tolulope Michael

Tolulope Michael

Tolulope Michael is a multiple six-figure career coach, internationally recognised cybersecurity specialist, author and inspirational speaker. Tolulope has dedicated about 10 years of his life to guiding aspiring cybersecurity professionals towards a fulfilling career and a life of abundance. As the founder, cybersecurity expert, and lead coach of Excelmindcyber, Tolulope teaches students and professionals how to become sought-after cybersecurity experts, earning multiple six figures and having the flexibility to work remotely in roles they prefer. He is a highly accomplished cybersecurity instructor with over 6 years of experience in the field. He is not only well-versed in the latest security techniques and technologies but also a master at imparting this knowledge to others. His passion and dedication to the field is evident in the success of his students, many of whom have gone on to secure jobs in cyber security through his program "The Ultimate Cyber Security Program".

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