Cyber Security Explained

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Cyber Security

Cyber Security was the #1 cited tech investment for 2015. Cyber Security is the body of technologies, processes, and practices designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access.

Cyberspace and its underlying infrastructure are vulnerable to a wide range of risk stemming from both physical and cyber threats and hazards. Sophisticated cyber actors and nation-states exploit vulnerabilities to steal information and money and are developing capabilities to disrupt, destroy, or threaten the delivery of essential services. A range of traditional crimes are now being perpetrated through cyberspace, banking and financial fraud, intellectual property violations, and other crimes, all of which have substantial human and economic consequences.

 

Cyberspace is particularly difficult to secure due to a number of factors: the ability of malicious actors to operate from anywhere in the world, the linkages between cyberspace and physical systems, and the difficulty of reducing vulnerabilities and consequences in complex cyber networks.

Of growing concern is the cyber threat to critical infrastructure, which is increasingly subject to sophisticated cyber intrusions that pose new risks. As information technology becomes increasingly integrated with physical infrastructure operations, there is increased risk for wide scale or high-consequence events that could cause harm or disrupt services upon which our economy and the daily lives of millions of Americans depend on. Ensuring cyber security requires coordinated efforts throughout an information system.

Elements of cyber security include:

  • Application security
  • Information security
  • Network security
  • Disaster recovery/ business continuity planning
  • End-user education

One of the most problematic elements of cyber security is the quickly and constantly evolving nature of security risks. The traditional approach has been to focus most resources on the most crucial system components and protect against the biggest known threats, which necessitated leaving some less important system components undefended and some less dangerous risks not protected against. Such an approach is insufficient in the current environment. Adam Vincent, CTO-public sector at Layer 7 Technologies (a security services provider to federal agencies including Defense Department organizations), describes the problem:

“The threat is advancing quicker than we can keep up with it. The threat changes faster than our idea of the risk. It’s no longer possible to write a large white paper about the risk to a particular system. You would be rewriting the white paper constantly…”

To deal with the current environment, advisory organizations are promoting a more proactive and adaptive approach. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), for example, recently issued updated guidelines in its risk assessment framework that recommended a shift toward continuous monitoring and real-time assessments.