What is Cybersecurity? 

Cybersecurity is the practice of securing internet-connected devices against malicious attacks from threat actors all around the world. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cybersecurity is defined as the:

“Prevention of damage to, protection of, and restoration of computers, electronic communications systems, electronic communications services, wire communication, and electronic communication, including information contained therein, to ensure its availability, integrity, authentication, confidentiality, and nonrepudiation.”

The first known cyber attack was known as the “Morris Worm” and occurred on November 2, 1988. Named after the perpetrator of the attack, Robert Tappan Morris, it wreaked havoc on the connected networks of many well-known universities, NASA, and military operations and caused millions of dollars in damage. Modern cybersecurity was born after the Morris Worm, as it caused early internet power-users to take seriously the idea of protecting the data that was traveling those connected networks.

It’s common knowledge that, today, there are threat actors the world over, and ever-emerging attack methodologies are likewise driving the continued evolution of the cybersecurity industry and the many forms the practice takes. From discovering and fixing vulnerabilities before they can be exploited in a network to stopping and mitigating the effects of an in-progress attack, cybersecurity is a critical practice for all of global business and the people that drive it.

Why is Cybersecurity Important?

Cybersecurity is important because it helps to mitigate threats and prevent internet-based attacks on businesses and individuals alike (for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll focus on enterprise-level security).

Data and privacy are the core aspects of what a cybersecurity framework should protect and defend. A few questions to ask yourself:

  • What are all the types of data within your organization?
  • Is your organization's data public-facing on the internet? 
  • What data should be kept private? 
  • What are the systems on which the target data are currently operating and what can be done to secure those systems?
  • What are all locations where data resides, including cloud, database, virutal machine, desktops, and servers? 
  • Who are all the people that have access to data and its locations? 
  • What is the business function associated with each area? 

As we can see from the above considerations, the question of “why is cybersecurity important?” will look different for each organization, but the overall goal is the same everywhere: to protect sensitive information that is at the core of how and why a business operates.

An effective cybersecurity program helps to keep a business’ reputation in good standing and can have a positive impact on culture and talent acquisition.

How do the Main Elements of Cybersecurity Work? 

The main elements of cybersecurity work by creating end-to-end network coverage and education so that a business’ operations are secured by an effective program run by talented personnel. Let’s take a look at some of the core elements of cybersecurity.

Data Security

As business operations around the world increase the pace of cloud adoption, securing data is now more critical than ever. Information is constantly moving from on-prem systems to the cloud and back again, and business leaders want to keep the pace moving, so securing that free-flowing data is extremely important.

Network Security

As data moves along different systems within a hybrid (on-prem and cloud) network, there are certain points that might be more vulnerable than others due to weaker security or a flaw in how that system was configured. Therefore, it’s important to minimize the chances that malicious actors could access data anywhere along that network.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

This is the time for a security operations center (SOC) to restore normal business operating procedures. If data is not available when stakeholders and analysts need it, there needs to be a plan in place to restore it as quickly as possible.

Documentation is key to disaster planning so teams can understand what will and will not be part of your backup system so that business operations can continue with as little interruption to normal as possible.

Operational Security

This process essentially comprises higher-level actions that help to keep threat actors from breaching data that is part of the daily operational tasks of a business.

Cloud Security

Cloud security protects data and applications on both public and private cloud platforms, securing organizational cloud infrastructures on which sensitive business operations run.

Critical Infrastructure Security

Securing infrastructure that keeps society running is, well, critical. These areas include healthcare, power plants and utilities, energy industries, defense industries, nonprofits, and the government sector.

Physical Security

Literally not letting potential bad actors into the room where data is stored is the mission of physical security. Anything that is connected to the internet – a category known as the Internet of Things (IoT) – and controls access (badge scanners, door locks, etc.) to business or security operations could be a target of malicious behavior.

End-User Education

Security awareness training is the aspect of cybersecurity that extends beyond expert practitioners. Everyone in a business – no matter their department or function – is a potential liability, so it’s crucial to educate workforces on cybersecurity basics and actions individuals can take to protect themselves and the company.

Types of Cybersecurity

Needless to say, drilling down into different cybersecurity frameworks and types could be a lengthy exercise. Therefore, let’s learn a bit about some of the most common types of cybersecurity found in programs across the globe.

Detection and Response

Also known as network detection and response (NDR), this area includes applying rules or signatures to network traffic in order to automatically trigger alerts for activity that could indicate malicious behavior.

Vulnerability Management

Managing vulnerabilities along network systems can often seem like a game of whack-a-mole, with security teams running to plug one vulnerability after another before bad actors try to exploit one of them and breach the network.

Threat Intelligence

Cybersecurity practitioners leverage threat intelligence (TI) to measure the likelihood that a potential threat could turn into a full-fledged attack and subsequent breach. TI should be a constant data feed that helps to inform offensive and defensive actions to protect against threats.

Application Security

It can be difficult to secure the many aspects of applications that exist on the web. They’re constantly sending and receiving data from the internet, so it’s critical to defend that process against malicious attacks by scanning web applications for vulnerabilities and signs of a breach.

Top Cybersecurity Threats

There have been many high-profile, or celebrity, attacks over the years. But, what are the specific processes and workflows by which these newsworthy attacks have been perpetrated?


This is essentially the same as the act of robbing a bank or stealing someone’s wallet. Cyptojacking enables a perpetrator to breach a network in order to mine cryptocurrency, often without the user’s knowledge until it’s too late.

Supply Chain Attacks

A supply chain attack gives a threat actor access to not only the organization they’ve managed to penetrate, but also to any third party plugged into the breached network. These third parties typically include outside vendors, channel partners or resellers, contractors, and more.

Advanced Persistent Threats

An APT is an individual or group that is well funded, well organized, and well supplied to be able to outlast any countermeasures that a security organization uses to try and fend off the threat or attack. They are able to be persistent and wear down defenses for a prolonged attack.

Zero-Day Exploits

In this scenario, an attacker is able to breach the security perimeter or a network undetected. This indicates that, once the breach is discovered, the organization has “zero days” – also known as no time at all – to respond to, remediate, or mitigate the threat.

Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS)

Larger, more sophisticated ransomware groups sell their technical expertise in the form of ransomware kits that a layperson could theoretically launch with relative ease.

Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) Attacks

MITMs allow attackers to eavesdrop on the communication between two targets. The attack takes place in between two legitimately communicating hosts, allowing the malicious actor access to sensitive data that they can then offload to another location.

What are the Challenges of Cybersecurity? 

Learning about the challenges inherent in cybersecurity would probably be like learning the many incredible challenges of climbing a mountain. This is why talent is so crucial.

A proper security program can’t possibly work without a team of individuals who can address challenges specific to certain functions of your cybersecurity program.

Security-Awareness Training

It takes action on the part of an organization's leadership to build and implement a comprehensive training program not just to keep the skills of security professionals sharp, but also to inform and train non-security professionals working in the business on the basics of information and cybersecurity.

Building this sort of internal program from the ground up is no small task. Therefore, many security organizations will bring on a third party that may specialize in security awareness training.

Regulatory Compliance

Remaining in compliance with state/federal/territory/government/internally mandated regulations and policies can often seem like a game of chase. An organization puts a significant amount of energy building to compliance in one area only to realize it is sorely lacking in another.

Indeed, depending on where in the world a business operates – whether one office or multiple all over the globe – it will likely have to adhere to several regulations concerning the transfer of private user or customer data across both physical and digital borders. Some industries like healthcare, financial, and energy are more heavily regulated than others.

Sophisticated Cyber Threats

Attackers for whom money is of no or little object – like those backed by nation states or wealthy hacker groups – often can find ways around traditional security protocols and methods.

Even as vendor consolidations heat up and more security solutions and functions come under a single power-provider umbrella with its own deep pockets, it can still be difficult to catch a well-funded and motivated threat actor who may actually be many threat actors overwhelming the target system into submission.

Cybersecurity Fatigue

When discussing fatigue in the world of cybersecurity, we’re usually speaking of “alert fatigue.” That is, alerts of multiple kinds coming in hundreds or even thousands of times a day.

If a team isn’t properly staffed to investigate those alerts – and even if it is, looking over each and every alert can get old very fast – or doesn’t have a plan in place to automate that process, it will become extremely difficult to both know which alerts aren’t false positives and have resources on hand to investigate the valid ones.

Cybersecurity Best Practices

In cybersecurity, the best-practice playbook is deep. And, depending on the function, best practices may not be universally applicable. Let’s take a look at some of the more broad areas that can serve as starting points and ultimately could become great benefits of cybersecurity.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

With MFA, a user or application will need to perform an additional step – beyond inputting a username and password – to gain access. This usually comes in the form of presenting a hardware key, receiving an authenticating text message, and/or inputting a one-time code.

Security Automation and Orchestration (SOAR)

With automation and orchestration, teams can realize improved security posture and efficiencies without sacrificing control of critical security and IT processes. Integrating disparate security systems and actually getting them to operate efficiently together is key to unlocking a successful cybersecurity program.

Zero-Trust Security

In this model, everything is inherently untrusted, or has zero trust: humans, endpoints, mobile devices, servers, network components, network connections, application workloads, business processes, and data flows. This means that each of these persons, processes, or things must be continuously authorized and authenticated.

Deception Technologies

This technology essentially serves as bait for would-be attackers. By setting traps that appear to be legitimate IT assets, a deception technology can entice attackers to interact with those assets, triggering an alert and giving your team the time, insight, and context they need to stop attackers in their tracks and force them out of the network.

Read More on Cybersecurity 

Cybersecurity: Latest Rapid7 Blog Posts