Cybersecurity is one of the hottest buzzwords for companies today, and there are more tools, information, and resources than ever before.
While cybersecurity was once a general safety checklist an IT department might take responsibility for, today is an entire industry with conferences, startups, and new technology coming to life to fight the ever-growing war for information protection.
With hacking and security breaches happening more frequently than ever, and with the people behind these breaches becoming more sophisticated than ever, the need for cybersecurity has never been more paramount.
Cyber vulnerabilities are tantamount to a company’s greatest needs, because the most valuable assets a company has are likely in the form of digital information.
In this post, we will discuss some of the risks associated with not having a robust cybersecurity infrastructure, vulnerability in cyber security, how cyber security flaws can have devastating effects, and what you can do to protect your assets.
What is a vulnerability in cybersecurity?
To understand what would make something vulnerable within the network of data or customer information, for example, we have to first understand what it is that hackers and people who operate data breaches want.
There are different types of vulnerabilities in cyber security, but these are all related to the things a hacker might want. Once you know what hackers want from you, you'll be better equipped to know how to protect yourself.
Any information that can be sold to another party, such as email addresses and contact information, a customer profile, customers' data usage habits, and preferences are immensely valuable to hackers and people who operate data breaches.
People who try to breach a company's database or infrastructure aren't doing it to be mean, at least not usually; they are after information they can leverage to gain money or power. Or, they are trying to steal funds themselves, or company information or data that is inherently valuable.
Outside of strictly monetary gain, sometimes a cybersecurity thief might have political motivations against a certain country or company, acting out of revenge, or for some other reason.
Additionally, there are those who simply want to feel the thrill of conquering something that is off limits to them, just for the pride of being able to do it.
Whatever the case, the software, and tools utilized by cybersecurity thieves are becoming more sophisticated than ever, and today's companies need to ensure they are protected.
So, a cybersecurity vulnerability reflects any element of a company's data infrastructure in which potentially valuable or sensitive information is not fully protected in such a way that only those who need to access it can.
To put it a slightly different way, a cybersecurity vulnerability is a weak spot in the defense of your information that could allow someone other than the intended viewer to have access to it and exploit it.
Different types of cyber security vulnerabilities
It's important to distinguish that a cyber vulnerability is different from a cyber threat. A threat is something that an external item can do to harm a company, such as knowledge or information or a software tool they have in their possession that can be used against a company.
A cyber security vulnerability, on the other hand, is something internal to a company, part of their operations, that is simply unprotected and has left the door unlocked, so to speak.
There are several different types of cyber security vulnerabilities.
First, there are vulnerabilities caused by an organization's network. This can include things like Wi-Fi connections that are poorly secured and allow hackers to have access to the network.
Once a hacker has access to a network through their Wi-Fi connection, they are able to view and intercept any data transmitted over that Wi-Fi network. This is why transmitting highly sensitive information over a public Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop is never a good idea.
Hackers know that people can sometimes be less than careful in how they transmit information, and they are ready to pounce.
Another example of a network cybersecurity vulnerability is a poorly configured or outdated firewall that can be manipulated and exposed, creating the potential for a data breach. This is an example of vulnerability in computer security that most companies have to deal with on a very regular basis.
The second type of cybersecurity vulnerability is an operating system vulnerability.
Sometimes, when a new operating system is installed, there are super admin accounts associated with this operating system that have access to a large amount of information, and these super admin accounts can be breached if there is a human error in sharing a password, using a password that has been used on other sites, and so on.
Additionally, there are programs called backdoor programs that can fix themselves in an operating system during the installation process and be looked over by an IT professional. These backdoor programs can then breach and access large amounts of sensitive information without being detected because they are part of an operating systems code for a time.
The third type of cyber security vulnerability is simple human error.
This is the most common type of cyber security vulnerability, and the most difficult to prevent. Simply put, human behavior is much more difficult to control than a network firewall or software that detects and isolates malware.
In a company of thousands of employees, human beings are operating with sensitive information every day, from email addresses to passwords to financial data, and more. As they share and distribute this data, there is the constant possibility of the information being intercepted and exploited.
For example, imagine that an employee is providing a password to their account for new software to another employee. They type their password in a personal email account, thinking that it will be safer than sharing their password over their company email.
In reality, their personal email account ended up being less secure, and a hacker was able to gain access to their personal email account and find the password to a corporate software solution relatively easily. This was because the original employee had not changed the password on their personal email account for over two years!
As a result, a hacker discovered their corporate password for the company's software, and created a data breach, costing the company several million dollars.
Another example is fishing, which usually occurs as a result of clicking on a link a company does not recognize. An employee might receive an email from a sender they do not know that is impersonating someone from within the company, and asking them to click a link.
Once that link is clicked, the attacker can exploit the connection that is formed to send malware, take over user credentials and use them to log in to other company software, and much more.
This is why many companies, as part of their cybersecurity initiatives and security awareness training programs, make it a point to instruct their employees to never click links that are not approved or that they don't immediately recognize.
The fourth kind of cyber security vulnerability is a process vulnerability or a kind of vulnerability that arises because a process is weak and not being followed correctly.
For example, some companies have their employees change passwords on their company accounts for different software every two months. In some cases, these changes are even more frequent.
Another example of a process some companies might use is to make sure to scan for malware or any malicious software while running a script during code development or when downloading data from another server.
When these processes are not robust, secure, and filled with checkpoints, it can create access points for an attacker to infiltrate and expose company information.
How to take action
For many companies, they tend to assume that whatever software protection process they have in place can run on autopilot, and they don't need to worry.
The truth is cybersecurity is a full-time job that requires the attention and careful administration of several skilled professionals. The more value your company's data has, the more likely it is to attract the attention and efforts of cybersecurity hackers.
If you're dealing with large amounts of personally identifiable information (PII), intellectual property rights-protected data, copyrighted material, recipes, or formulas, for example, your organization will be almost irresistible to hackers who want to steal money, information that can be used to create more money, or even things like holding information captive.
Because cybersecurity hackers are becoming more sophisticated, a company's efforts to protect itself need to likewise become more sophisticated each day.
And, with the addition of upgrading tools like software firewalls and script protection, there is an ongoing need to train and inform employees on best practices for securing their data.
You simply can never be too careful.
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