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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

A closer look at cybersecurity

Hacked accounts and compromised data are the bane of individuals and corporates alike. Major companies were in the news for the wrong reasons in 2017, with security breaches at Equifax, HBO and Uber being cases in point. The WannaCry ransomware infected computers across 150 countries in a matter of days last year. Europol’s 2015 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) demonstrated that cyber crime is becoming aggressive each day, and incidents of ransomware and data breaches are rising at a dramatic rate. Ransomware attacks block access to private data on a personal computer until ransom is paid. In a data breach, an attacker breaks into a cyber environment to steal and monetize information, whereas ransomware is a direct transaction whereby the cyber criminal infects a user’s machine and collects ransom.

Cyber security consists of techniques that protect networks and devices from unauthorized access and attack, such as WAF. The worldwide spending on cyber security is galloping each year, from 71.1 billion in 2014 to 75 billion in 2015, and this is expected to reach 101 billion by the year 2018. Forbes expects the global cyber security market to touch 170 billion by 2020, thanks to security initiatives such as ‘bring your own device (BYOD) and internet of things (IoT)’ cloud-based applications and data protection norms such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and National Institute of Security Technology (NIST) Cyber security Framework.

Kinds of Cyber Threats

The main aim of cyber security is to protect information and systems from cyber threats such as the following:

Cyber terrorism: Terrorist organizations make use of information technology to advance their ideological agenda by attacking computer networks and telecommunication infrastructure.

Cyber warfare: Cyber warfare is gaining prominence as the fifth domain of warfare in addition to land, sea, air and space. Operating under the aegis of nation-states, cyber warfare attackers do not shut down a target country’s computer networks, but rather intrude into these networks to compromise valuable data and impair infrastructural services.

Cyber espionage: Cyber espionage is the practice of obtaining secret information by means of cracking techniques and malware penetration, with the aim of gaining strategic and military advantage.

Scope of Cyber Security

Cyber Security encompasses application security, information security and network security.

Application security includes measures adopted during the development life-cycle to protect against flaws in application design, deployment and maintenance. 

Information security protects information from unauthorized access and identity theft through identification, authentication, authorization and cryptography.

Network security prevents threats from entering and spreading on a network. It includes anti-virus and anti-spyware firewall to block unauthorized access and intrusion prevention systems to identify threats.

To conclude, prevention is the most effective antidote to cyber-threats and a means of reducing cyber-security risks within manageable limits. The common thread is people – cyber-criminals themselves, end-users, policy makers and security experts. Cyber-security is ultimately a people problem and has to be dealt with, accordingly.

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