The “World Wide Web” and the Subsequent Importance of Cybersecurity
Cyberspace is a domain generated from the interconnection of computers and telecommunication networks around the world. It is used to store, modify, and exchange data via networked and related physical structures globally, regardless of physical geography.
A major challenge to cyberspace is security. Cyberspace greatly depends on informatics and telecommunication for nearly every service and activity. Constant threats to citizen lives, citizen activities, and government systems therefore pose a huge challenge to the effective functioning of cyberspace.
For instance, digital consumers increasingly depend on the web for communication, with people using email, cell phone, and texting to remain in touch with friends and family across the world. But with constant threats such as hacking and data theft, this freedom to communicate is curtailed.
And it’s not just communication. There are several other aspects of our lives that increasingly depend on the Internet, including finance (bank accounts, loans, electronic checks), education (visual classrooms, research, online report cards), medical (medical records, medical equipment), and government (social security, birth/death records, tax records). With all these activities dependent on a safe cyberspace, any threats to its security must be taken very seriously.
The easiest way to look at it is to imagine how much information you store in your computer or someone else’s system. If you’ve taken a loan at your bank recently, that information is most definitely stored on a computer system. If you’ve been treated at a hospital recently, the same applies. Where you work or go to school, they will also have your personal information stored on a computer for identification purposes. Cyber criminals pose a threat to all this information. Whenever an attack occurs, the criminals can steal all this data and do with it whatever they please.
Which brings us to the importance of cybersecurity, which is all about maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of online information. It is defined as “all activities and operations aimed at reducing and preventing cyber threats and vulnerabilities.” And it’s something that should be a high priority for everyone living in today’s technologically dependent society.
Risks to Cybersecurity
We’ve mentioned hacking as one of the most common cyber threats. But there are several other threats that we need to guard against. For example:
- Denial of service (DOS) attacks
Denial of Service attacks successfully prevent or impair the authorized functionality of a computer system or a network by exhausting resources. For example, an attack could shut down a government agency website, thereby preventing citizens from accessing information. DOS attacks can go on for days or even weeks, causing untold losses.
- Malware, worms, and Trojan horses
Email, malicious websites, instant messaging, and infected non-malicious websites mostly spread these. Some websites that will load a malware without the user’s intervention or knowledge, while others require the user to click a button or a link. However, with these guys, all it takes is one wrong click to compromise your computer’s security.
- Botnets and zombies
Robot Networks (botnets) are aggregations of compromised computers connected to a central controller. The individual compromised computers are called zombies. Botnets are very complex and can be used for very strongly encrypted attacks that are extremely difficult to detect.
- Social network attacks
Finally, social network attacks are becoming increasingly common, probably because of the large number of social media users (more than 1.6 billion and growing) and the sheer amount of personal information available on social media.
Efforts to Maintain Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity organizations and professionals rely on policies for protection, data assurance, incident response, recovery, law enforcement, and military and intelligence operations to uncover potential attacks, minimize damage, and speed up recovery in case of an attack.
However, everyone needs to play an active role if cybersecurity efforts are to reap any rewards. Since we are all affected, we must join hands in trying to keep cyberspace strong and secure.