What Is Cyber Security And Why Is It So Important?

You may have heard that our high-preforming Lakota Local Schools is introducing a first of its kind program, Lakota Cyber Academy to their sophomore, junior and senior students for the 2019-2020 school year. To date, there are 150 students enrolled in the Academy which began in August. Why cyber security? With cyber-attacks on the rise and continuing to evolve at a rapid pace, so is the increasing demand for cyber security professionals. Together with global technological leader Belcan and other leading cyber-security companies from our region, Lakota will offer students a start on a successful career path while developing a local pool of future talented employees for our growing business community, in one the fastest growing professions in the world. Let’s learn more about cyber security, and why is it so important to all organizations today.

In recent years, headlines about cyber security have become increasingly commonplace, and it’s become something nobody can afford to ignore. Not that long ago, it was thought to be primarily something for only IT professionals to worry about. Even though the U.S. Government spends $19 billion per year on cyber security, cyber-attacks still have become a day-to-day struggle for businesses; thieves stealing customer security numbers from big corporations’ computer systems, hackers grabbing passwords and personal information from social media sites, or plucking company secrets from the cloud. Just in the past year, cyber-attacks have skyrocketed as evidence by these statistics provided by Industry Week Magazine:

  • An increase of 350% in ransomware attacks – a type of malicious software or malware designed to deny access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid

  • An increase of 250% in spoofing or business email compromise attacks – when a hacker impersonates another device or user on a network (tries to trick you) in order to steal data, spread malware or bypass access controls

  • An increase of 70% in spear-phishing attacks – the fraudulent practice of sending emails ostensibly from a known or trusted sender in order to induce targeted individuals to reveal confidential information is the most common type of cyber-attack

Research suggests that most organizations have unprotected data and poor cyber security practices in place, making them vulnerable to data loss. According to Security First – a data centric cyber solutions company, last year more than half of all businesses in the U.S. had their network or data compromised, and nearly half of them ended up paying ransoms to hackers. Also, 60% of small businesses who experience a major cyber-crime incident go out of business. For organizations of all sizes, keeping their information safe is a growing concern.

So what has changed? We’re living in a far more technologically-advanced world than we were as recently as a little over a decade ago. Consider this:

  • The iPhone has only been around since 2007

  • The iPad, only since 2010

  • The average broadband speeds have increased by roughly five-fold making it possible for businesses and individuals to do far more online

  • Cloud computing is everywhere which allows the user to store and assess data and programs over the Internet instead of their computer’s hard drive

  • Easy online document sharing, email that’s available on every device and databases that are accessible from everywhere

This increase of widespread use of technology brought with it a rise in cyber-crime. For hackers, the possibilities increased exponentially along with the potential rewards. The fact that cyber-crime now permeates every facet of society shows why cyber security is crucially important.

There have been many hacks and data breaches in recent years of some of the largest organizations in the world. Here are some examples of several larger data breaches: Source: CSO Online

  • Yahoo 2013 – 3 billion user accounts

  • Marriott International 2014 – 500 million customers

  • eBay 2014 – 145 million users compromised

  • Equifax 2017 – 143 million consumers

  • Target 2013 – 110 million customers

  • JP Morgan Chase 2014 – 76 million households and 7 million small businesses

  • TJX Companies 2006 – 94 million credit cards exposed

  • Uber 2016 – personal information of 57 million Uber users and 600,00 drivers exposed

  • Anthem 2015 – 78.8 million current and former customers

  • The Home Depot 2014 – 56 million customers

Cyber-crime costs the global economy now over $600 billion each year, with an estimate of a staggering $6 trillion per year by 2021. Though it is hard to quantify reputational damage to these organizations, each data breach could have been prevented and the cost of recovery was substantial, average of $5 million. Also of note, it is reported that there are now over 4000 hacks every single day using ransomware alone, proving that any organization is susceptible to a data breach.

A successful cyber security approach has multiple layers of protection spread across computers, networks, programs or data that one intends to keep safe. In an organization, people, processes and technology must all complement one another to create an effective defense from cyber-attacks. The term applies in a variety of contexts, from business to mobile computing, and can be divided into a few common categories:

  • Network security is the practice of securing a computer network from intruders, whether targeted attackers or opportunistic malware.

  • Application security focuses on keeping software and devices free of threats. Successful security begins in the design stage, well before a program or device is deployed.

  • Information security protects the integrity and privacy of data, both in storage and in transit.

  • Disaster recovery and business continuity define how an organization responds to a cyber-security incident or any other event that causes the loss of operations or data.

  • End-user education addresses the most unpredictable cyber-security factor: people.

An organization is hit by ransomware every 40 seconds and numerous studies point to a predicted increase in attacks with the financial losses even more breathtaking. Standing up to the threats by being proactive is essential. Here are some suggestions on how to protect yourself and your organization:

  • Keep your organization informed on the importance of avoiding (clicking on) suspicious links

  • Increase the amount of tools, resources and solutions beyond antivirus software

  • For all size organizations, get cyber security insurance

  • Recognize a data breach can also happen internally – eliminate weak spots in processes that expose data

  • Backups and disaster recovery can eliminate paying hackers a ransom

A cyber security professional’s job is to protect online data from being compromised. For a Lakota student that completes the necessary hours in the Cyber Security Academy, high pay, job security and the option to work in any industry awaits them. There are currently 1 million jobs in cyber security and with cyber-crime on the rise, it is predicted that there will be 3 million jobs available in cyber security in three years. To get more information on how to volunteer your time, talents and resources with the inaugural Lakota Cyber Academy, go to www.cyber@lakotaonline.com.

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