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What is 'Cybersecurity'

Cybersecurity refers to the measures taken to keep electronic information private and safe from damage or theft. It is also used to make sure these devices and data are not misused. Cybersecurity applies to both software and hardware, as well as information on the Internet, and can be used to protect everything from personal information to complex government systems.

(See Also: 7 Cybersecurity Tips for Financial Advisors.)

BREAKING DOWN 'Cybersecurity'

Any information stored on a computer or electronic device or on the Internet can be hacked, and cybersecurity measures are put in place to prevent this from happening. As the world is more reliant on computers than ever before, cybersecurity has become essential. In order to ensure that a system is secure, one must understand the risks and vulnerabilities inherent to that specific device or network and whether or not these vulnerabilities are exploitable.

Types of Cyber Attacks

Threats to a computer system are classified by the method used to attack. While there are many types of cyber attacks, some of the most common types include:

  • Backdoor attacks: Exploits any alternate methods of accessing a system that don't require the usual methods of authentication. Some systems come with these backdoors by design, while others result from error.
  • Denial-of-service attacks: Prevents the rightful user from accessing the system. A common method of doing this is entering a wrong password enough times that the account is locked.
  • Direct-access attacks: Includes bugs and viruses, which gain access to a system and copy its information and/or modify the system.

Examples of Cybersecurity Measures

Cybersecurity ranges from simple to complex. As a basic preventive measure, most devices come equipped with password protection to prevent hacking. If a system is attacked or at risk of an attack, specific measures might be taken depending on the type of attack. For example, disk encryption is one way to prevent direct-access attacks. 

In order to be effective, cybersecurity measures must constantly adjust to new technologies and developments. Hackers adapt their methods to new forms of cybersecurity and render it ineffective, so the security programs must stay one step ahead.

Common Targets of Cyberattacks

While any individual system is at some level of cyber-attack risk, larger entities such as businesses and government systems are often the targets of these attacks. The Department of Homeland Security uses high-tech cybersecurity measures to protect sensitive government information from other countries, nation-states, and individual hackers. Any financial system that stores credit card information from its users is at a high risk, since hackers can directly steal money from people by accessing these accounts. Large businesses are often attacked, as they store personal information about their large network of employees. Other targets include systems that control infrastructures, such as telecommunications and energy networks, as attackers seek to control this equipment.