What You Need to Know About Cybersecurity Training
Modern society is heavily digital. Of the 4.79 billion people with Internet access, approximately 4.11 billion conduct Google searches every day. Meanwhile, the world’s 1.8 billion websites engage these users—introducing new multimedia, social media landscapes, digital stores, and more.
As companies invest more in online business, and as more shoppers turn to e-commerce for custom-tailored, easy-access products, cybercrime becomes more complex. Because most of us are constantly connected to the Internet, cybersecurity isn’t only a digital safeguard but also a necessity.
What Exactly is Cybersecurity?
In the past, simply protecting one’s computer with a password provided reliable safety. As online platforms grew in number, however, new avenues for Internet user exploitation emerged. Today’s cyber threats can target a variety of Internet ‘access points,’ as well as areas of data, to gain information about individuals online. Even if this information isn’t highly valuable itself, it can still be utilized to obtain information that is—such as banking information, medical records, and social security numbers.
Cybersecurity is the practice of counteracting threats. It involves implementing techniques designed to protect networks, computer systems, software applications, and sensitive data from cyber threats—and those who commit them.
Other types of cyber-related, network-related, and information-related security exist, too—spanning across a mind-boggling number of industries. The National Institute of Standards of Technology (NIST), for example, combines the study of industrial technology with a focus on digital security. As other industries evolve, cybersecurity training for employees becomes even more comprehensive.
Cybersecurity Career Paths
Understanding the many responsibilities of the cybersecurity workforce takes time: Even those learning cybersecurity from scratch eventually take cybersecurity training courses. However, this particular career path has plenty of opportunities, so most prospective workers eventually get hands-on cybersecurity training. Even cybersecurity training for veterans exists—extending long-term career options to any individual intent on defending public safety.
In any event, cybersecurity awareness is the first goal to achieve. Before engaging a comprehensive cybersecurity training curriculum, a soon-to-be student must understand the inherent computing, travel, and teleworking risks involved.
Before we dive deeper into cybersecurity career workers, let’s take a look at the threats they face.
The Reality of Modern Cyberattacks
The term ‘cyberattack’ is a general one: It encompasses a variety of digital crimes. While each crime tends to be unique, it’s possible to further define cyberattacks by identifying several key categories. These include:
- Data system tampering
- Unauthorized system access
- Email phishing
- Information theft
- DDoS attacks
Each type of cybercrime, while different, doesn’t occur in a specific part of the Internet. Email phishing might target average Internet-goers, but it’s frequently attempted on robust business email accounts.
Similarly, unauthorized system access attempts might be more common in commercial settings—but they’re also committed against those with simple home networks.
Cyberattacks are particularly worrisome due to their constant growth in complexity. As Internet technology innovations make our digital world more detailed, cybercriminals gain new tools to exploit users. As cybersecurity countermeasures are implemented, the same cybercriminals work diligently to disarm them.
A number of digital protection innovations have been developed over the years—each designed to protect us before, during, and even after a cyberattack is attempted. Fortunately, advancements in information technology have made these countermeasures incredibly swift. In most cases, digital security tools are constantly present, working passively in the background. Firewalls, VPNs, and antivirus software are incredibly effective—and incredibly common.
Still, it’s important to understand the different types of cyber threats. Even if a computer, mobile device, or tablet is protected with up-to-date technology, they’re not impenetrable. Additional risks arise due to a user’s day-to-day digital behavior, too. While Internet habits tend to have the highest risk, simple offline habits—like not having a desktop password—can leave one’s information vulnerable.
Fortunately, understanding even the basics of digital security greatly enhances a person’s digital safety. By learning how, where, and when cyberattacks occur, a user can practice prevention—which is the safest security tool one can have.
Let’s examine these cybercrimes to practice prevention ourselves. Then, we can view today’s most effective cybersecurity approaches—learning more about the careers that implement them.
The term ‘hacking’ is commonly used—and for good reason. It’s a catch-all term for the many types of security threats. These are defined as: “the act of misusing, exploiting, damaging or even destroying digital defenses, to access, steal, corrupt or destroy a system’s data.”
Hacking can be enacted in many ways—but a hacker’s primary goal is to access information in the form of login names, passwords, and other credentials. One of the simpler forms of hacking is called a ‘code break,’ which is the use of numeric code strings to bombard digital security systems. Once a system’s structural code is broken, the hacker can access its data and, thus, valuable information.
It should be known, however, that not all hackers are criminals. While the act of hacking serves to breach digital protections, hacking can be used to help gauge a network’s overall security. These hackers, commonly called ‘white hat hackers,’ primarily serve to spot system weaknesses and test digital resiliencies.
‘Black hat hackers,’ of course, do the opposite—thus committing the cybercrimes discussed above. Unfortunately, both white hat and black hat hackers reveal just how vulnerable many systems are. It’s imperative that any network owner, whether it’s commercial or residential, incorporates the best digital defense strategies available.
Also called XSS, cross-site scripting is a digital code injection attack: The attacker attempts to execute malicious, damaging scripts within a web browser, web application, or another network-connected area. The actual attack occurs when the breached area is visited by a user—existing as a ‘trap’ beneath otherwise familiar, commonly used online resources.
Malicious content, hidden in the above-mentioned areas, can access all objects within an online page. Because this includes a user’s cookies, it gives the attacker access to their temporary website ‘access identity.’ The attacker can impersonate the user, perform malicious actions beneath the guise of a false identity.
Domain Name Spoofing
Also abbreviated as ‘DNS,’ domain name spoofing is altering a domain’s records to redirect user traffic. Redirected users are unknowingly redirected to a fraudulent website, wherein they go about their regular business. Some fraudulent websites simply exist as low-security Internet environments—thus increasing the odds of successful attacks to come.
In most cases, however, these fraudulent websites specifically impersonate websites that use some form of user login. When victims attempt to access what they think is their account, the attacker’s fake website logs the information they type.
Unfortunately, a majority of Internet-goers use the same password across many platforms. Because of this, a single, successful redirect can compromise every account a user has—no matter its security level.
The term ‘malware’ is an abbreviation of ‘malicious software.’ It’s a blanket term for viruses, worms, trojans, and other digital-based tools of attack. Hackers use malware to wreak destruction, compromise system security, and gain access to otherwise safeguarded digital locations.
There are several ways to categorize malware. The first of which is by how it spreads. Even though viruses, worms, and trojans are all used to compromise digital security, each is used in specific ways—and within different digital avenues.
A virus is a piece of computer code inserted within the code of a separate program. By forcing the program to take malicious actions against its user, the virus can replicate itself across the system’s architecture—gaining access to even the most secure information.
A worm, meanwhile, exists in the form of standalone software. Even though it ultimately spreads in the same fashion as a virus, it also spreads from computer to computer—rather than remaining in its original host. This can happen from computer file transfers, but it can also occur if multiple users share a device via several user profiles.
Finally, there is the trojan: a program unable to reproduce itself, but capable of masquerading as another program. This disguise is normally a program that victims are likely to activate. Once they have, the damage can spread across their system.
As for the malware hacker’s intent: A majority use malware in the form of spyware. Spyware remains hidden within a computer to ‘spy’ on the computer’s owner—to gather valuable information like passwords.
Another type of malware is the rootkit: a program or collection of software tools, which gives the attacker remote access to the victim’s computer—often gaining complete control.
While phishing is ultimately a form of hacking, it’s sometimes considered to exist alongside hacking due to its different approach to information theft. While hacking involves using exploits to gain direct access to protected systems, phishing attempts to trick users into providing valuable information, themselves.
At its core, phishing is about masquerading as a trustworthy entity—such as a business, financial provider, insurance agent, so on and so forth. Phishing attacks are normally attempted through emails, but it’s not uncommon to see a phishing attempt in messaging apps, website content, or even online advertisements.
By masquerading as another entity, the phisher ‘baits’ victims into surrendering their information. This is typically done through fake warnings and information requests. An example of this would be a phisher pretending to be a banking provider. They might contact a user via email, stating that—ironically enough—the user’s account has been compromised. In this case, the phisher would conclude the warning by urging the user to reset their banking password. The phisher would provide a false link to the platform, hoping the user will click it. If they do, the link’s malicious code will gain access to their computer and valuable data.
Even though most data is pursued for monetary reasons, some cyber attacks are driven by espionage: the pursuit of valuable information for information’s sake. More often than not, it’s information about corporate secrets and similar assets that might benefit another party.In most cases, however, the attacker might target specific information for blackmail—even holding it for ransom. This is done through ransomware—which is a subset of malware. Ransomware encrypts the victim’s files, barring access to them. Then, the attacker demands a ransom to restore access to the data.
Ransomware attackers often give users instructions about how to pay for the decryption key. The demanded cost varies widely, but it tends to fall within the range the victim is capable of paying. A common delivery system for ransomware is phishing—as a successful phishing attempt can easily result in a victim unknowingly downloading a fake program.
Because malware, its subtypes, phishing, and fake identities are so common, they also share an overarching commonality.
They tend to employ the art of social engineering, which exploits a potential victim’s psychology to access information. While most social engineering methods are ultimately used to entice dangerous clicks and downloads, some methods are used without any technical tools.
For instance: Instead of trying to identify a software vulnerability, a hacker can impersonate an IT worker—then tricking the victim into freely providing a password. Some social engineering methods can even take form in the psychology which drives ransomware attacks—tricking the victim into believing they’re in intangible, inescapable danger.
The Best Practices of Cybersecurity
Today’s businesses face challenging digital dangers. Between network-level threats, external hacking attacks, and personal computer security risks, they need to leverage a number of defensive strategies.
Understandably, the diverse types of digital attacks require a diverse approach to protection. More often than not, a network’s security team is categorized by defense specialties. While one team might focus on the protection of system programs, another might prioritize the defense of a network’s weak spots.
Organizational decision-makers must have a deep understanding of each specialization—as only a comprehensive approach to digital risk management is truly safe from cyberattacks. Those training for a career in cybersecurity must understand these differences, too. Malware detection, risk management, cybersecurity framework designs, and a keen approach to a business’s general data protection regulation are core necessities.
While each of these skills can be learned through security programs, cyberterror evolves so quickly that specialization is often a hiring requirement.
Cybersecurity is closely related to network security, yet both operate in distinct ways. Primarily, network security is a subset of cybersecurity: While cybersecurity involves protecting a network on an encompassing ‘cyber’ level, network security involves defense on, specifically, a ‘network’ level—as a location’s network is a common access point for cybercriminals.
Network security revolves around components like servers, routers, and connected wireless networks. The Internet of Things, too, must be considered—as it’s constantly connecting more items via Wi-Fi. A network’s cloud computing resources, while secure, can also be rendered vulnerable if certain information is accessed—leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of total defense.
The realities of network dangers grow even more when one considers mobile devices. Smartphones are generally secure, but their Internet connections beyond a network’s protection may not be. Every threat existing beyond the scope of a network, after all, can quickly become a critical threat if it gains access. For this reason, constant vulnerability assessments are conducted—to maintain security as users enter and exit the network.
Cybersecurity falls under another type of security, too. Information security, which involves the protection of valuable information, extends beyond the cyber realm. Still, most attacks on valuable information—and data, in general—do indeed occur in cyberspace. For this reason, both terms are used interchangeably.
As businesses adopt newer technologies, newer digital needs arise. Often, warehouses filled with confidential, physical documents must be converted for digital storage. When this happens, it’s up to information technology security teams to fortify new storage requirements. When it comes to protecting information, the value of information is an important consideration.
Personal information compromises not only a person’s financial accounts, but also their medical records, insurance information, family information, and more. Organizations adhere to ICA or integrity, confidentiality, and availability for this reason. It’s a well-known policy that guides information security throughout a business’s many daily functions—top to bottom.
This same model is a major study in cybersecurity training certification. Every aspect of a combined security effort has jobs with cybersecurity in mind—but information, itself, is the asset to be protected the most. Cybersecurity certification also verifies a prospective employee’s ability to adapt to any given environment housing these valuable resources.
As we’re about to see, some cybersecurity jobs take a diligent approach to the specific, day-to-day tools an organization uses.
When people think of hackers, malicious code, and compromised information, they often think about program hacks first. This is the application security expert’s realm of defensive expertise: the continuous monitoring of on-site programs, UIs, firewalls, and other standalone digital assets for potential threats.
A cyber threat can arise anywhere—even behind a network’s heavily secured access points. As we’ve covered earlier, dangerous malware can easily travel throughout an individual’s computer programs—eventually expanding beyond the scope of any singular device. An application security specialist must have high-value skills in technical areas, as these elusive, advanced persistent threats must be destroyed as quickly as possible:
If a single infected program comes into contact with a network—even cybersecurity management teams are at risk.
While an organization takes plenty of internal cyber defense measures, they need to stay protected beyond the scope of network-based security.
This is where operations security comes into play. Often referred to as OPSEC, operations security is the practice of examining day-to-day engagements with regular parties outside of an organization. Even if a business’s information is secure, seemingly benign, publicly available information might be exploited by those with ill intent.
While unlikely, the extrapolation of critical data from these sources does happen. The ultimate purpose of OPSEC is to protect smaller, individual pieces of data—data snippets that might be aggregated into a ‘bigger picture’ of information.
The best defensive practices a digital security team can foster revolve around neutralizing these risks before they’re ever exploited. OPSEC processes result in a number of technical and non-technical strategies as a result—providing additional jobs for cybersecurity newcomers and established professionals alike: A cybersecurity education, by and large, is best obtained through a combination of education and experience—and even the best business cybersecurity pros must stay informed about emergent threats.
Common OPSEC countermeasures include protecting an organization from external malware, data breaches, and data leaks resulting directly from the tactics mentioned above.
Training for a Career in Cybersecurity
If you’ve ever considered a path in digital defense or have browsed ‘cybersecurity training near me’ listings—you’re in luck:
Proof of cybersecurity education doesn’t necessarily need to be a cybersecurity degree. Many organizations prioritize experience much more than these certificates. Having a background in programming, IT, app development, or other tech-related positions goes a long way—and hiring managers do consider every applicant for their real-world skillsets.
That being said, some companies do indeed require one to have cybersecurity training certification. A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, or software engineering is a great qualification to have as well.
If you’re interested in this career path, consider contacting a cybersecurity training program for guidance. By learning the industry’s best practices while pursuing your credentials, connecting with an organization will be much easier—especially when it comes to negotiating a salary for cybersecurity expertise. As a digital professional dedicated to online safety, user integrity, information security, and organizational protection, you’ll inspire others to do the same.
The online world might face considerable risks—but those who protect it are well-equipped.