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What is cyber security?

What does cybersecurity mean

Cybersecurity is the practice of defending computer systems, networks, cloud infrastructures, and more from cyber-attacks. Cyber-attacks have increased with the expansion of the internet and digital services such as cloud computing, data storage, and digital applications. This increase in digital activity opens the door for individuals to commit a wider range and more profitable cyber-crimes. This involves actions like phishing, email spam, account takeover fraud, and more.

Cybersecurity involves the integration of people, technology, and processes to defend against cyber threats. People must understand cybersecurity principles, be vigilant, and adhere to strong practices such as using robust passwords and being cautious with email attachments.

Organizations need a robust framework to handle cyber-attacks effectively, ensuring they can identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover from incidents. Technology plays a crucial role in this defense, providing tools like firewalls, malware protection, and antivirus software to safeguard endpoints, networks, and cloud systems. Together, these elements create a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity.

Why is cybersecurity important?

A cyber-attack can cause an organization or individual harm in the form of financial loss, identity theft, legal liability, reputational damage, and more. To maintain company integrity, cybersecurity has become a mainstay in modern business and a form of literacy for individuals who are actively connected to the internet.

Cybersecurity provides numerous benefits, including meeting regulatory compliances and enhancing work confidence by ensuring a secure environment. It prevents unauthorized access, protecting sensitive data and networks from breaches. Cybersecurity also safeguards end users from identity theft and fraud, while ensuring critical infrastructure remains operational. Additionally, effective cybersecurity measures improve recovery time after a breach, minimizing downtime and financial loss.  

By protecting against types of cyber threats, organizations can maintain their integrity and trust with customers, ultimately supporting a safer digital world. This includes addressing challenges of cybersecurity and providing examples of cybersecurity measures to combat various security threats.

What are cyber-attacks?

A cyber-attack occurs when an individual hacker or a group of hackers compromise a digital system. In rare instances, however, cyber-attacks may be accidental, like when insider threat leads to unintentional data leakage.  

Cyber-attackers have different motives. Mostly, a cyber-attacker is seeking financial gain, but it is not uncommon for an attacker to be motivated by political reasons also known as “hacktivisim,” and personal recognition or achievement.  

Types of cyber threats

A cyber-attack occurs when an individual hacker or a group of hackers compromise a digital system. In rare instances, however, cyber-attacks may be accidental, like when insider threat leads to unintentional data leakage.  

Cyber-attackers have different motives. Mostly, a cyber-attacker is seeking financial gain, but it is not uncommon for an attacker to be motivated by political reasons also known as “hacktivisim,” and personal recognition or achievement.  

The threats countered by cybersecurity are three-fold:

  1. Cybercrime: This involves single actors or groups targeting systems for financial gain or to cause disruption.
  1. Cyber-attack: Often politically motivated, these attacks aim to gather sensitive information.
  1. Cyberterrorism: These attacks are intended to undermine electronic systems, causing panic or fear.

Common cyber attacks


Malware is malicious software designed by cyber-criminals to infiltrate a device or system and disrupt, steal, or exploit sensitive information. There are many types of malware and each involve a different method of exploitation. However, in most cases the cyber-criminal wants to access the sensitive information to financially benefit themselves through the form of ransom or identity theft.


Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts valuable files on a victim’s device, denies the account holder access, and demands money in exchange for the encryption key. Ransomware has been increasingly difficult to deal with, especially with ransom payments made in crypto currency, which is largely untraceable. Ransomware can enter a system by clicking a link dangerous or downloading malicious files.

Supply chain attacks

A cyber-criminal can target a supply chain by developing an understanding of business operations and associated parties/vendors to compromise one or multiple parts of the chain. To do so, cyber-criminals use a variety of tactics to solicit information, obtain account details, or install malware on a victim’s device. Once access to the supply chain is obtained, the cyber-criminal can begin to spread malicious content or cause disruption throughout the supply chain.  

Identity theft

Identity theft occurs when a cyber-criminal solicits sensitive information that certifies a victim’s identity. This could include a social security number, driver’s license information, credit card numbers, account passwords, and anything else that helps verify the victim’s identity to third parties.  


The process of sending fraudulent emails while posing as legitimate sender to convince people to reveal sensitive information such as passwords, social security numbers, bank account information, and more.  


Smishing, short for "SMS phishing," is a cyber-attack that uses text messages to trick people into revealing sensitive information or installing malware on their devices. Smishing attacks often involve sending fraudulent messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank, social media site, or other trusted organization.

Account takeover

Account compromise refers to a cyber-criminal’s gaining control of a legitimate account. This can happen when a threat actor successfully obtains an individual’s login credentials. Account takeover can be detrimental to business operations at any organization because with a legitimate account, attackers can operate covertly and credibility and authority, depending on who’s account is compromised.


Short for “robot network” a botnet is a network of devices that are under control of an attacker or attacking party. When a system or computer is compromised it becomes a “bot” and is controlled by the “bot-herder” or “bot-master.” The devices in the botnet can then be used to commit Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

DDoS attack (Distributed Denial of Service)

A DDoS attack occurs when an attacker floods a server with traffic using a botnet, making that server inaccessible to users. This is particularly harmful to organizations who have public facing sites through which they conduct business activity, such as e-commerce businesses.

SQL Injection

An SQL (Structured Query Language) injection attack involves inserting malicious code into a database through a vulnerable data-driven application. This gives cybercriminals access to sensitive information within the database.

Man-in-the-Middle Attack

In a man-in-the-middle attack, cybercriminals intercept communications between two parties to steal data. For example, on an unsecured WiFi network, an attacker could intercept data being transferred between a victim's device and the network.

Additional Cyber Attacks


Trojans are a type of malware disguised as legitimate software. Once installed, they can cause extensive damage by stealing data, disrupting operations, or providing backdoor access to cybercriminals.


Adware displays unwanted advertisements on a user’s system. While often annoying, adware can also collect data without consent and serve as a gateway for more malicious software.


Spyware secretly monitors user activity, capturing sensitive information like login credentials and financial data. This information is then sent to the attacker, often without the user’s knowledge.


Formjacking involves injecting malicious code into online forms, such as those found on e-commerce websites. When users enter their payment details, the data is captured and sent to the attacker.

Cybercrime, Cyber-Attacks, and Cyber Terrorism


Cybercrime includes activities where individuals or groups target systems for financial gain or to cause disruption. This can range from identity theft and fraud to more sophisticated operations like ransomware attacks.


Cyber-attacks often have political motivations. These attacks aim to gather sensitive information, disrupt services, or undermine the target's operations. Governments and large organizations are common targets of such attacks.


Cyberterrorism aims to cause panic, fear, or significant disruption. These attacks can target critical infrastructure, financial systems, or public services, intending to cause widespread damage and chaos.

Types of cybersecurity

Cybersecurity involves a range of practices and technologies aimed at protecting systems, networks, and data security from various threats. Knowing the different types of cybersecurity is essential for creating a strong security strategy that can handle a variety of cyber-attacks. This includes understanding data security, the types of cyber threats, and the challenges of cybersecurity, as well as recognizing effective examples of cybersecurity in action.

Email security

Email security is the practice of protecting email communication and accounts from unauthorized activity, account compromise, phishing scams, spam emails, and more. Because email is one of the primary forms of communication for businesses, maintaining a strong email security posture is critical for the continuity of a modern business. Securing email systems can be done in several ways including: educating members of an organization to recognize common threats and best practices to prevent cyber-attacks, using Secure Email Gateways (SEGs), and purchasing advanced email security solutions like Darktrace/Email.

Network security

A network is a combination of devices that share information. To protect devices within a network, organizations can implement network security measures. This includes detection and response systems that will notify or stop an attack, VPNs, firewalls, or preventative measures, and more.  

Application security

Applications are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that perform a specific function. Application security involves protecting these applications from being exploited by a cyber-criminal. These applications can be attacked through software vulnerabilities to steal data or install malware. Because these devices can be exploited through unpatched systems, it is vital to keep these applications up to date.

IT/OT security

IT/OT refers to the intersection between information and operational technology. Industrial environments such as energy grids, water systems, transportation systems, and more require the operation of physical machinery. These machines are controlled through technological systems and these technologies require unique security parameters that have distinct visibility and synergy between systems to avoid cyber-attacks.

Endpoint security

Endpoint security solutions can be effective against attacks that involve malware on the host. They can detect and block malicious software from running on the device.  

Cloud security

Cloud-based environments are computing services that are connected to the internet and can be accessed on demand. Cloud security focuses specifically on data, procedures, and controls within these cloud-based environments. The data and applications in cloud environments are controlled by a third party, and modern security solutions may require integration features to help security teams protect information stored there. Some cloud providers offer their own inbuilt or optional security solutions.

Zero Trust

Zero trust is a cyber security paradigm designed for data and resource security amidst the growth of the remote workforce and cloud-based data storage. A zero-trust model implies no digital activity should be trusted and that all access and digital activity need to be continuously validated through authentication measures. The goal of zero trust is to protect data and services from unauthorized access.

Internet of Things (IoT) security

IoT security refers to the protection of IoT devices in a network. These internet-facing devices can allow cyber-criminals to gain entry into an organization’s network and are particularly vulnerable to cyber-threats because of their limited native security features. For example, IoT devices include lighting systems, home appliances, industrial control systems, or medical devices.

AI security

AI-powered security solutions can detect and block cyber-attacks in real-time, using machine learning algorithms to identify and respond to threats before they can cause damage or spread to multiple devices. Some AI security systems have autonomous detection and response systems that have the capability to stop an attack from escalating by identifying and containing infected devices without human intervention. Similarly, Self-Learning AI can be used to analyze an organization’s “pattern of life” and identify unusual behaviors that may indicate a cyber-attack.

How do organizations protect against cyber attacks?


This is a method of security which ensures that only the intended recipient of an email will be able to read its contents. This is done by converting the contents of an email message into a coded language that can only be deciphered by someone with the decryption key. This way, if the email is intercepted while being sent, the information remains secure.


This is a system that protects the network from unwanted traffic. Based on what the organization or security operators have identified as unwanted, the firewall system can stop all traffic that corresponds with these rules.

Secure email gateway (SEG)

A SEG or a secure email server (SEC) is a type of email security software that sits between inbound and outbound email communication. Every email that is sent to and from an organization passes through this gateway to ensure that its contents are not malicious or a sign of a data leak. It prevents unwanted emails in user inboxes like spam, phishing emails, emails containing malware, etc. In many ways, email gateways are the first line of defense for email security.

Penetration testing (pentesting):

Penetration testing is a method that organizations use to identify vulnerabilities in their networks and systems by simulating cyber-attacks.

Automated detection and response

Nuanced, AI-powered cyber-security solutions offer automated detection and response systems that are able to spot cyber-threats and respond to attacks in real time. This can greatly benefit an organization’s overall security posture and provide substantial support to security teams as they defend against sophisticated cyber-attacks.  


Cyber-attack prevention involves the steps organizations take to harden their security systems before an attack happens. This can include penetration testing, attack path analysis, vulnerability checks, updating software, security awareness training, and more.  

Security and awareness training

Most organizations implement security awareness training to keep their employees up to date on the best practices to avoid cyber risk. This involves educating users on how to recognize and avoid phishing attacks, create strong passwords, determine what information is safe to share with people outside the company, and other practices.

What are vulnerabilities?

A vulnerability, in cyber security, refers to an aspect of a digital system that is exposed or at risk of a cyber-attack. Cyber-criminals specifically look for vulnerabilities in systems and can infiltrate and damage systems or networks through vulnerabilities.

To manage vulnerabilities, it is ideal for security teams to have clear visibility of their attack surfaces, including third-party technologies used, and any potential attack paths that attackers may exploit to enter the systems. Preventative cyber security measures like attack path analysis, penetration testing, or vulnerability scanners can help defenders identify their vulnerabilities and beef up their defenses.  

Darktrace PREVENT™ is Darktrace’s preventative security product that allows defenders to see their most critical attack paths and understand potential vulnerabilities through an analysis of both internal and external facing assets. Watch the Vixxo customer story video to learn more about Darktrace PREVENT.

Cybersecurity solutions

Implementing effective cybersecurity solutions is crucial for protecting your organization from evolving threats. Below are some powerful tools designed to enhance your security posture:

Darktrace ActiveAI Security Platform

Delivers a proactive approach to cyber resilience in a single cybersecurity platform, providing preemptive visibility into security posture, real-time detection, and autonomous response to known and unknown threats.

The ActiveAI Security Platform understands your enterprise data in real time to deliver preventive and live threat detection, with targeted autonomous response to shut down known and novel threats without disrupting business operations.

Darktrace pioneered the use of AI that continuously learns from your day-to-day business operations, applying context from your enterprise data ingested from internal native sources including email, cloud, operational technology, endpoints, identity, applications and networks; and external sources of third-party security tools and threat intelligence.

Through this approach, Darktrace provides the ability to visualize and correlate security incidents uninhibited by the siloed approach of individual point solutions.

Challenges of Cybersecurity

The challenges of cybersecurity are ever-evolving, presenting significant hurdles for organizations striving to protect their systems, data, and networks. One of the primary challenges of cybersecurity is dealing with the types of cyber threats that constantly change and become more sophisticated. Evolving threats such as ransomware, phishing, and IoT attacks require continuous adaptation of security measures.

Skills and Workforce Gaps: There is a notable shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals, which exacerbates the challenge. Organizations often struggle to find qualified personnel who can effectively manage and respond to security threats. This skills gap leaves many vulnerabilities unaddressed, making systems more susceptible to attacks.

Lack of Employee Training: Another significant challenge is the lack of comprehensive cybersecurity training for employees. Human error remains a major cause of security breaches, and without proper training, employees may inadvertently expose the organization to risks through actions like clicking on phishing emails or using weak passwords.

Vulnerabilities and Data Collection: Cybersecurity also faces challenges related to identifying and patching vulnerabilities in software and hardware. Many attacks exploit these weaknesses to gain unauthorized access to systems. Additionally, the vast amount of data collected by organizations can be a double-edged sword. While data is valuable, it also needs robust protection measures to prevent breaches and misuse.

Novel or unknown threats: Novel threats in cybersecurity refer to new, previously unknown, or emerging threats that exploit innovative techniques, technologies, or vulnerabilities. These threats often bypass traditional security measures, making them particularly dangerous and challenging to defend against.

Organizations must implement a holistic approach that combines technology, processes, and people. This includes deploying advanced security solutions, enforcing strict access controls, and fostering a culture of security awareness. Regular audits and continuous monitoring are essential to adapt to new threats and ensure the resilience of cybersecurity defenses.

Examples of cybersecurity best practices

Protecting yourself and your organization from cyber threats requires proactive measures. Here are essential tips to enhance your cybersecurity:

  • Update Your Software and Operating Systems: Regular updates provide the latest security patches and improvements, protecting against vulnerabilities. Examples of cybersecurity include patch management and system updates.
  • Use Anti-Virus Software: Install and maintain reliable anti-virus software to detect and remove threats, ensuring it’s always updated for the best protection. A common cybersecurity example is using software like Kaspersky or Norton.
  • Use Strong Passwords: Create strong, unique passwords that are hard to guess. Consider using a password manager to generate and store complex passwords securely.
  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Enhance security by requiring multiple forms of verification before granting access to accounts.
  • Avoid Using Unsecure WiFi Networks in Public Places: Use a virtual private network (VPN) when accessing public WiFi to encrypt your internet connection and protect against man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Do Not Open Email Attachments from Unknown Senders: Verify the sender's identity before opening any attachments to avoid malware.
  • Do Not Click on Links in Emails from Unknown Senders or Unfamiliar Websites: Avoid phishing attempts by verifying the legitimacy of email sources.
  • Educate Employees: Conduct regular training sessions to raise awareness about potential threats and best practices.
  • Implement Network Security Measures: Use firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and regular penetration tests to safeguard network integrity.
  • Secure Your Applications: Regularly update and patch applications to protect against vulnerabilities.