With the rising cases of cyber crime and identity theft, is a career in cyber security a good choice?
Today, the government, corporations, military, and many organizations collect and store loads of data. The collection and storage of the data occur through computers and the internet. Most of the data are sensitive – it may be financial information, intellectual property, or any other personal information that can cause negative consequences if accessed by a malicious person. This is where cyber security jobs come in.
Individuals who hold jobs for cyber security ensure that the data is collected, processed, and stored securely to prevent a cyber attack or cyber threat to individuals whose data an organization holds.
What is Cybersecurity?
Cyber security refers to programs, technologies, frameworks, processes, and practices geared towards protecting networks, devices, and applications from unauthorized access. Note that if a cyber attack occurs, people with unauthorized access get hold of data or devices, and might damage the data or devices or use the data to steal from or ransom people. Information technology security is another name for cybersecurity.
With a cyber security degree, you can create security programs or a cybersecurity framework that protects data and devices from unauthorized access. After cyber security certification, you can advise government, military, corporations, small businesses and other entities on cyber security management and best practices.
The volume and complexity of cyberterror cases increase every day, so companies and organizations that hold sensitive data are consistently on the lookout for qualified cyber professionals. The salary for cyber security personnel is lucrative, especially for those employed to offer continuous monitoring.
So, are cyber security jobs a good career path?
An effective cyberterror prevention system protects all elements in an organization. Some of the main aspects of cybersecurity include:
- Network security
- Application security
- Operational security
- Informational security
Although these are the main four elements, there are many more you will learn with a cyber security degree. These include endpoint security, identity management, database and infrastructure security, cloud security, mobile security, disaster recovery and end-user education.
The main challenge in cyber security management lies in the ever-evolving nature of attacks. The National Institutes of Standards of Technology or NIST recommends that organizations consider continuous monitoring and real-time system assessments. These assessments could be through a cybersecurity framework.
Main Elements of Cyber Security You Can Train For
Adequate information technology security focuses on protecting an entire system. Some of the main elements that need protection include networks, applications, operations and information.
Network security refers to practices and activities that protect from intrusion into an organization’s network and data. It involves protecting hardware and software technologies.
Network security involves layers of defenses in the network and outside the network. Each layer in the security implements different policies and controls where authorized users will have access, and unauthorized users are blocked. By so doing, organizations can protect proprietary information from an attack.
Different types of network security exist to protect organizations. They include:
- Email security
- Anti-malware and antivirus software
- Network segmentation
- Access control
- Behavioral analytics
- Data loss prevention
- Intrusion prevention system
- Mobile device security
- Virtual Private Network
- Wireless security
All security programs above are geared towards keeping an organization’s data safe in case of cyber crime. Network security involves three main controls; physical, technical, and administrative.
Physical security involves preventing malicious people from physical access to the network.
Technical security protects data stored in a network from unauthorized access and malicious activities by employees.
Lastly, administrative security consists of policies and processes that regulate user behavior, including the level of access and how changes on the security infrastructure are implemented.
Application security refers to all measures an organization takes to protect data or code within an application from hijack or theft. The measures might be towards hardware, software, or procedures involved with risk management. For instance, how a router prevents malicious people from viewing the IP address of a user from the internet is a simple form of hardware application security. Most of the security measures at the application level are software-related.
There are different types of application security to prevent advanced persistent threats. Some of these require cybersecurity training for employees.
These types include:
Authentication – This involves entering a username and password into an application.
Authorization – Here, the system validates that a user has permission to access given parts of an application.
Encryption – This is where data to be sent over a network is protected by encoding information.
Logging – Organizations can see log in data including which parts of an application were accessed and by whom.
Also abbreviated as INFOSEC, this refers to practices that protect data from unauthorized access, both in storage and during transmission over a network online, or from one physical location to the next.
Information security is also referred to as data security. The practices protect print and electronic information, among other forms of data, from access, use, disclosure, damage, misuse, disruption or modification. The principles of information security are summed up as ICA or integrity, confidentiality and availability.
Integrity refers to protecting data from damage or modification, either accidentally or maliciously.
Confidentiality involves ensuring that only those with authorization have access to data. Here, organizations manage business cybersecurity through passwords, encryption and authentication techniques.
Availability ensures that anyone with authorization gets access to data when they need it.
Basically, ICA or integrity, confidentiality and availability means that data should be kept confidential, in its original state, and available.
There are different INFOSEC measures categorized as technical, organizational, human and physical measures. Physical measures involve hardware and software data protection; organizational measures include setting up a business cybersecurity team; human measures involve cyber security awareness or cybersecurity hands-on training and physical measures involve limiting access to data centers.
Abbreviated as OPSEC and also known as procedural security, this is a risk management practice; where managers and those with jobs in cyber security look at operations from the perspective of a malicious hacker to create general data protection regulation and come up with ways to protect sensitive data.
The managers and cyber security professionals can conduct OPSEC through social media activity monitoring and cyber security awareness, where employees are advised against sharing their login credentials with third parties.
OPSEC started as cyber security training for veterans and military personnel but is now available for everyone. It is part of the comprehensive cyber security training curriculum where technicians with high-value skills act as hackers to identify the weaknesses in an organization’s security systems.
OPSEC occurs in five significant steps:
- 1. Identification of sensitive data
- 2. Identification of cyber threat
- 3. Analysis of organization vulnerabilities
- 4. Appraisal of the level of risks that come with each identified vulnerability
- 5. Creating measures to counter any imminent threats
Common Types of Cyber Attacks
The techniques used by malicious people to gain information from organizations keep evolving. As such, the cybersecurity workforce needs to continue improving their skills through continued cybersecurity hands-on training. Some of the common threats organizations face include:
A hacker exploits the vulnerabilities in a security system to gain access to networks, applications, software, and hardware. Hackers fall into two main categories; ethical hackers who work for an organization to find faults in the security system and black hat hackers who maliciously access data and use it to their benefit.
Hackers are individuals with high-value skills who can get into a system without detection and eavesdrop on all activities within networks and applications. Individuals looking for cybersecurity training have to study hacking to match the skills of malicious people.
Through hacking, malicious people can conduct various attacks such as:
- Computer fraud
- Privacy violation
- Identity theft
- Sharing of copyrighted information and files
- Electronic funds transfer
- Money laundering
- ATM Fraud
- Denial of Service attacks
- Domain Name Server spoofing or poisoning and many more attacks
A hacker looks for weaknesses in the security system and then finds a way to exploit the vulnerabilities. The fault might be the hardware, software, a user, or an application.
DNS Poisoning and Spoofing
Domain Name Server (DNS) poisoning is part of the comprehensive cyber security training curriculum when learning cyber security from scratch. It involves directing traffic away from the main servers to fake servers. Usually, hackers send spam emails to users with fake URLs and threats to frighten them into opening the counterfeit websites. For instance, a hacker might redirect the domain name www.facebook.com to www.facebook1.com. The latter might be a website with malicious programs that expose a user to worms, spyware and keyloggers.
After clicking on the poisoned domain and accessing the fake website, users risk losing data to malicious people. Hackers mostly spoof banking websites and online retailers’ websites to capture passwords, credit card information and personal information. Spoofed sites might also expose users to viruses and Trojans where internet security providers are involved. Cybersecurity education within an organization helps advise employees to avoid clicking all links that come to them without double-checking them for safety.
Secure Socket Layer Attacks
Today, almost all websites use secure socket layer (SSL) to protect data sent from a computer to a website and from one website to another. Automatically, SSL ensures that hackers do not have access to data. If a hacker successfully intercepts data sent over the internet, they will not read the data unless they have a private decryption key.
With SSL, websites and data sent over the internet are protected from theft, modification and spoofing. Although websites are never entirely safe, using SSL reduces the instances of user data theft.
Today, hackers have found ways to attack websites even with SSL and TLS encryption. These hackers develop malware that steals SSL/TLS keys to use in data decryption. For instance, Advanced Persistent Threat hackers used Heartbleed malware to steal digital keys and certificates. The hackers accessed more than 4.5 million patient records in the Community Health System, CHS. Using the Heartbleed malware, the hackers were able to bypass the CHS firewall.
Organizations can protect users against advanced persistent malware through malware detection and by identifying systems using SSL and TLS. If the keys and certificates are already compromised, organizations need to revoke the certificates and validate new keys.
Hackers have also found a way to downgrade SSL protected websites from https to http so they can access information sent over the internet. These hackers act as a link between users and the websites they send information to, referred to as the Man in the Middle (MITM).
MITM attacks are possible when a hacker impersonates a trusted website from where they listen in on secure conversations. Once a hacker accesses SSL/TLS keys and certificates, they can exploit unprotected or lightly protected access.
Phishing and Spear Phishing Attacks
Phishing involves hackers sending spam emails that appear to be from a trusted source. The goal here is to get the receiver of the email to trust the hacker and give them personal information or make them do something that benefits the hacker.
The email might contain a link to a spoofed website or an attachment that installs malware.
Spear phishing occurs where attackers study their victims and then create personalized messages to gain trust. Granted, spear phishing becomes very hard to detect since the email reads like it is from someone you know. The hacker might pretend to be a manager in your bank, your supervisor at work, your internet service provider, or another. They will copy legitimate businesses to dupe you into entering your personal identifiable information, PII.
Users can evade this kind of attack by counterchecking provided links (hover over them), analyze emails you receive, analyze email headers and sandboxing.
If a hacker accesses your password, it is highly likely that they will have access to your account. Hackers can get access to your password through brute-force, where they guess so many random passwords that one eventually works. They can also use a dictionary attack where they use common passwords from a dictionary. They can do so by copying an encrypted file that contains a password and applying the same encryption to many passwords to see which password matches the encryption.
Cross-Site Scripting Attack
Jobs with cyber security deal with cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks a lot. Here, attackers use scripts loaded on the HTML of the victim’s website. When a user requests access to a page on the website, the page transmits the attacker’s script to the victim’s browser. The browser then executes the malicious script. Such a script might send the victim’s cookie to the hacker’s server from where the attacker can use the cookie to hijack sessions.
Not only will the attacker hijack sessions but also exploit additional vulnerabilities in the victim’s security system, including log keystrokes, collect network information and capture screenshots.
With such threats to deal with, no wonder the salary for cyber security and the cost of cyber security certification are high.
Malware is malicious software installed on the victim’s system without their consent or knowledge. Here are the top types of malware that the National Institutes of Standards of Technology or NIST warns against.
Macro viruses – these attack applications such as Microsoft Excel
File infector viruses – they attach to executable code, for instance, .exe files
Boot-record virus –attaches to the master boot record on the hard disk
Polymorphic viruses – conceal in different cycles of encryption and decryption
Stealth viruses – they take over system functions by compromising malware detection software
Trojans – these will hide in useful programs, but they have a malicious function
Worms – they attach to self-contained programs and are usually spread from email attachments
Droppers – this is a program that installs viruses to computers
Ransomware – a program that blocks access to data and threatens to publish the data unless certain conditions are met
Spyware – a program that collects users’ information
Social engineering attacks are among the most advanced persistent threats that organizations’ general data protection regulation works to curb. These involve leveraging on human psychology and weakness to gain access to protected security systems.
Social engineers follow the employees of a company and study their behavior online and offline. They learn who their friends are, their pets, spouses, children, parents, favorite hang-out spots and much more. Hackers can garner all the information by tracking employees’ social media activity. They can then use the information collected to conduct spear-phishing attacks or any other form of attack that threatens the employee into taking action. Organizations can fend off the impact of these attacks through cybersecurity training for employees.
Cybersecurity Best Practice
These are practices that help protect organizations against cyberattacks. Most organizations engage their employees in cybersecurity training to ensure that everyone plays a part in protecting the company. For a small business owner, search for cybersecurity training near me and learn a few skills. The practices include:
Data protection where employees are educated on how to keep company data confidential and destroy any data that is no longer needed.
Avoid clicking popups, unknown links in emails, and opening emails with unknown headers, to stay safe from phishing and spear-phishing attacks. If you open such links, do not enter any personal information or download any attachments.
Use strong passwords and authentication processes – a strong password should be at least eight characters with numbers, letters, and special characters.
Only connect to secure Wi-Fi, one which is encrypted and hidden. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect your IP if you are working remotely. Avoid public Wi-Fi networks.
Enable Firewall protection, whether you work from home or the office. Firewall protection keeps unauthorized users from accessing websites, mail services and any other information from your computer.
Invest in quality security systems and programs such as antivirus software, and malware detection software.
Update software often, this includes anti-malware and antivirus programs.
Hire a cybersecurity professional in your IT department. You can also pay for cyber security training courses for some of the IT professionals to make them better at identifying vulnerabilities and sealing loopholes.
Limit employee access to customer information by employing third party controls. Companies need to take care of former employees, consultants and anyone else not part of the company.
The company should embrace training. By covering the cyber security training cost, a company encourages employees to learn.
Training for a Career in Cybersecurity
Today, most cyber security professionals have studied Computer Science, Software Engineering, IT and related courses. Although a college degree is not a necessity, you need to learn:
- Security and networking basics
- Logging and security monitoring procedures
- Network defense
- User access and controls
- Web application security techniques
If you are interested in learning cyber security from scratch, you can get in-depth, hands-on training with the University of Central Florida Cyber Defense Professional Certificate program. In less than a year, you can learn the skills you need to land a job and excel in your new cybersecurity role.