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Types of Cybersecurity: Threats, Attacks, and How To Defend Yourself

Tristen Cooper

Cyber security agency multiethnic team encrypting mainframe database

In today’s highly digital world, cybersecurity has become an important consideration for both businesses and individual consumers. As a whole, cybersecurity is the practice of protecting your digital data from threats. However, there are many different types of cybersecurity, each of which addresses different threats and protects different types of technology. 

Understanding these different types of cybersecurity is crucial when putting together your organization’s IT strategy. Here are the key forms of cybersecurity as well as some of the most common cyber threats that organizations need to address. 

Key Takeaways

  • Cybersecurity is a broad category of technology practices designed to protect electronic assets from compromise. 
  • There are five key types of cybersecurity, each one of which is important to overall digital health. 
  • To address a range of cyber threats that are constantly evolving, organizations must take steps to improve their cybersecurity posture. 

What Is Cybersecurity?

In short, cybersecurity is the process of protecting electronic data and assets from theft, damage, or compromise. In addition to protecting data itself, cybersecurity also focuses on protecting systems of software, hardware, and computer networks. Cybersecurity primarily focuses on protecting systems and data from external threats, but can address internal threats as well when necessary. 

5 Types of Cybersecurity

1. Critical Infrastructure Security

As the name implies, this type of cybersecurity focuses on protecting our society’s most critical infrastructure. This includes everything from energy systems to financial infrastructure to healthcare systems and more. When thinking about cybersecurity, we often think about government-run systems, but it can also apply to privately-run pieces of infrastructure. 

Pieces of critical infrastructure contain large volumes of valuable and sensitive data. Because of this, they are often a target for hackers. Critical infrastructure requires ongoing system monitoring in order to prevent devastating cyber attacks. 

2. Application Security

Application security is the process of protecting individual applications from potential security breaches. This could include applications your organization has built as well as third-party applications. 

Because many applications run on the web, they are vulnerable to a variety of security threats. Application breaches can negatively affect your internal operations as well as your customers’ ability to access your website. Application security requires developers to be mindful of potential vulnerabilities when coding and updating applications regularly to prevent new threats. Organizations should also be wary of open-source applications, which pose additional security risks. 

3. Network Security

Network security strategy is particularly important because most malicious attacks happen through computer networks. Network security strategies are designed to limit access to vulnerable networks and monitor for irregularities. Firewalls, antivirus software, and VPNs are all examples of network security measures. 

4. Cloud Security

Many organizations today are transitioning from storing data on premise to storing data in the cloud. This makes data much more accessible in a remote work environment, but it also presents unique security risks. Cloud security measures are intended to protect data stored this way. 

Even if your third-party cloud provider offers security solutions, it may not be enough to completely protect your data. Having your own cloud security measures in place serves as a failsafe in case of an emergency. 

5. Internet of Things Security

The Internet of Things, or IoT, has expanded dramatically over the past several years. The IoT is a network of web-connected devices—think speakers, security systems, or smart-home devices, for example. Many organizations use IoT devices throughout their offices to work more efficiently. 

IoT devices have access to a large amount of secure data, and it can be very dangerous for this data to fall into the wrong hands. IoT security strategies monitor and protect these devices from outside threats. 

7 Types of Cyber Security Threats

There are many different types of cyber security threats that organizations need to be aware of, especially as hackers become more tech-savvy. Using a multi-pronged security strategy can help you keep all of these security threats at bay. Here are seven of the most common security threats and how to address them. 

1. Malware

Malware is any type of software program designed with malicious intent. There are a few ways that malware can enter your system. Many people accidentally download malware by clicking on an unsecured link or attachment. Some software programs that appear legitimate can actually be malware as well. 

There are many different types of malware, with the most common being spyware, ransomware, and adware. Spyware monitors the activity on your device to collect personal information. Adware displays a large volume of ads while slowing down your device. Ransomware encrypts valuable pieces of data and charges a large sum to return them. Ransomware attacks have become particularly common and can be financially devastating. 

2. Emotet

Emotet is a unique type of malware that is delivered via phishing email. These emails are designed to look like they are from trusted sources, tricking users into opening them. Emotet was initially designed to attack financial institutions and compromise banking information. However, it has since evolved to become much more complex and can compromise many different types of data. 

One of the reasons why Emotet is so dangerous is because anti-malware programs can’t always detect it. It also can replicate itself and spread to other computers in a way that is similar to a worm. Emotet has the ability to update over time, which helps it continue to evade detection. Once Emotet has made its way onto your system, it is very difficult to remove. 

3. Denial of Service

Denial of service (DoS) attacks overwhelm a system with information so that it cannot function normally. Even a relatively small DoS attack can make your website inaccessible to customers, resulting in a loss of sales. 

A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack targets a website or server using heavy internet traffic. A botnet is another common type of DoS attack. In a botnet, a large volume of devices are infected with malware and then work together to overwhelm the target network. 

Hackers will often conduct DoS or DDoS attacks in conjunction with other cyber attacks. The DoS attack serves as a distraction while the hacker gains access to your system and your data. 

4. Man In The Middle

A man in the middle (MITM) attack happens when a hacker inserts themselves into a digital interaction between two parties. The hacker does this with the goal of gaining access to personal or financial information. These attacks are most likely to happen on unsecured public WiFi networks. Teams that work remotely are particularly vulnerable to MITM attacks because of this. 

There are a few ways that the hacker might approach this. They might impersonate one of the parties involved in the transaction, posing as a trusted business or individual. They might also observe the interaction undetected to collect data. Hackers use a variety of strategies to disguise their identity, often altering their IP addresses. 

5. Phishing

Phishing attacks can target both organizations and individual consumers and have become extremely common. In fact, you’ve probably seen a phishing email yourself at some point—studies have shown that roughly one in every 99 emails is a phishing attack. Attackers pose as a trusted source and attempt to trick the user into sharing their passwords, credit card numbers, or other pieces of sensitive information. 

Phishing attacks normally happen via email, social media message, or text message. Phishing messages may look very similar to messages from major brands like Google or Amazon, but they often contain inconsistencies or spelling errors. Spear phishing and whaling are types of phishing that target individual users with highly specific language. 

6. SQL Injection

An SQL injection happens when a hacker places a piece of malicious code directly onto a server. This usually happens through an entry field on a website, such as a contact form. This code gives the hacker access to secure data stored on the server. It may also give the hacker administrator privileges. Developers can prevent SQL injections by securing every entry field in an application. 

7. Password Attacks

Password attacks happen when hackers try to obtain a user’s password and access secure accounts. There are many different types of password attacks. The simplest password attacks happen when hackers simply guess the user’s login information. Password attacks can also occur when hackers gain access to secure password databases.

Once hackers obtain these passwords, they can then gain access to other pieces of secure information. Creating complex passwords and changing them regularly can help prevent many password attacks. 

How To Ensure You’re Protected From Cybersecurity Threats

To protect your organization from cybersecurity threats, you’ll need a strong security posture. Your security posture is your company’s cybersecurity status as a whole. It reflects how prepared you are to prevent and respond to cyber attacks. A robust security posture includes secure infrastructure as well as guidelines and processes for secure operations.

Assess Your Security Posture

Before taking steps to make your organization more secure, you’ll need to assess your current security posture. Taking a holistic look at your existing security systems will help your team identify what needs to be changed or strengthened. 

The first step to assessing your security posture is to take a total inventory of relevant assets. This could be physical assets, such as on-premise servers, as well as data stored in cloud services. This inventory should also account for any relevant software programs and web applications. You’ll need to determine where each piece of data is currently located and who has access to it. 

Once you have an overview of how your assets are organized, the next step is to evaluate the current security tools and protocols you have in place. Do you use firewalls or antivirus software programs? How does your IT team monitor traffic? What steps do you take to ensure your team members handle data properly? 

All of these things work together as part of your security posture. From there, you can assess where potential risks and vulnerabilities are within your network. Even the best security systems are going to have some weak points, and you will need to understand these before you can move forward. This will likely involve conducting tests on your systems to see how different types of threats will affect them. 

Steps To Improve Your Security Posture

Once you’ve conducted a thorough review of your existing security posture, you can start to take steps to improve it. Proactively improving your security posture is a must as your business grows. Cybersecurity practices can help prevent devastating financial losses. They also help you build trust with customers and avoid data breaches that could damage your reputation. 

Because cybersecurity is such a broad concept, there are many things your organization can do to improve your security posture. Here are some key steps to take in this process. 

1. Monitor your entire system for threats. 

If you don’t already have 24/7 monitoring in place, now is the time to implement it. Monitoring will help you catch and address security breaches faster, which helps minimize the amount of damage overall. Many aspects of system monitoring can be automated. If you don’t have the resources to monitor your systems with in-house talent, consider outsourcing to a managed IT provider. 

2. Create a disaster response plan.

No company is completely immune to security threats. Having a response plan in place can lessen the damage if a security breach occurs. Determine how you will recover data, address customers, and reconfigure your systems in the event of an emergency, and ensure that all relevant team members are aware of the plan. This will help you avoid system downtime and minimize damage. 

3. Educate team members. 

In order for your cybersecurity strategies to work, your entire team has to be on board. Many security breaches happen as a result of innocent mistakes that happen internally. Regular training on basic concepts like password strength, remote work safety, and avoiding phishing emails can go a long way toward protecting your organization. 

4. Reassess and update regularly. 

Because new cybersecurity threats emerge regularly, you’ll need to reassess your systems regularly as well. Schedule time throughout the year to take a look at your security system, assess for vulnerabilities, and patch weaknesses wherever is necessary. It’s also very important to make sure you’re updating third-party software systems whenever possible. 

Final Thoughts

As technology becomes increasingly complex, the concept of cybersecurity becomes more complex as well. To stay one step ahead of cyber criminals, organizations will need to develop an understanding of the current digital threats and take steps to build a strong security posture.