In the digital age, it hardly comes as a surprise that hacker attacks seem to make headlines every other day. Data has become one of the most valuable and coveted assets for individuals and organizations alike – and while users are constantly trying to enhance their defenses, cybercriminals are also on the lookout for new ways to steal sensitive information. As modern hacking becomes increasingly sophisticated, what are the best methods to protect your data?
Why Cybersecurity Matters
Cybersecurity is a crucial issue for any business today – yet according to research, the current situation is far from desirable. It usually takes a good 6 months to discover a breach, while a company is successfully targeted by ransomware every 14 seconds. 31% of surveyed organizations have admitted that they have fallen victim to an attack on their operational infrastructure, while less than 40% maintain that they are ready to tackle a complex hacker attack vector. Meanwhile, cybercriminals seem determined to expand their reach, as the total cost of cybercrime globally is set to rise to a whopping $6 trillion by 2021, according to the same source. Companies, individual users, and government entities alike are struggling to keep up. For most enterprises, reinforcing their cybersecurity defenses means diverting substantial funds – but the cost of confronting a hacker attack unprepared and suffering the consequences could very well increase that cost exponentially.
Dealing with online security encompasses a wide range of measures and relies on a complicated balance between allocating time and resources to different aspects. A common first step is to install specialized cybersecurity software to keep hackers at bay. Tools like a computer firewall and comprehensive anti-virus programs will protect your company against a wide range of lower-level attacks. For more complex assets, like web applications hosted on the cloud, tailored solutions like a web application firewall are equally important. Yet as the main point of focus for most users is how to protect their valuable data from being exploited, techniques that render data inaccessible to hackers are a vital part of any cybersecurity strategy. That is why defense mechanisms like data pseudonymization are so important. Data pseudonymization sees sensitive information replaced with fictional yet realistic data that is set to throw hackers off their tracks. Since pseudonymized data cannot be linked to a specific individual without access to the pseudonymization key – which is to be kept separately – it also allows companies to comply with the requirements included in the new EU General Data Protection Regulation.
From VPNs to Encryption: Secure Your Data
Pseudonymization is an excellent choice for companies looking to maintain referential integrity and see their daily operations disrupted as little as possible. Yet when these issues are not on the table, then data anonymization might be a better option. Anonymized data is permanently de-linked from a specific data subject and thus cannot be reversed. This outcome is preferred, for instance, when it comes to sensitive data that has served its main purpose and no longer needs to be held, except for statistical purposes – such as data collected in the context of qualitative scientific research. One of the key techniques when it comes to securing data is encryption – which can also be used to anonymize data. Data encryption comes in many forms and plays a pivotal role in other cybersecurity tools. It is central for the function of Virtual Private Networks, which routinely use encryption to ensure that traffic between devices remains protected, even on a public or a shared network. Due to their reputation of not allowing tracking, VPNs are very popular with users trying to bypass service providers that use geolocation, like Netflix.
When it comes to choosing a particular technique, users are faced with many options. RSA is a data encryption method that is widely used for sending data over the internet. Named after the initials of its developers, Rivest, Shamir and Adleman, RSA is an asymmetric algorithm that uses a public key to encrypt and a private key to decrypt data. Triple DES is also widely considered a reliable algorithm and was once prevalent across a wide range of industries, but it is being gradually elbowed out by its counterparts. Blowfish and its successor Twofish are both symmetric algorithms that are beloved for their efficiency, as well as being free and available for anyone to use. Finally, AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) has received the stamp of approval of the US federal government and many other institutions around the globe. In fact, the US government has had a hand in its development and, in 2018, it announced that it had calculated its economic impact to amount to an impressive $250 billion during the previous 20 years.
By getting hold of sensitive information like banking details or IP, cybercriminals can make quick money and deal a catastrophic blow on their victim’s finances. In other instances, their profit comes from gaining unauthorized access to sensitive data and extorting their target in order not to disclose or destroy the information. Safeguarding your data across all locations and against as wide a range of attack vectors as possible should be a top priority as cybercrime rates keep climbing.