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What Is Cybersecurity?

What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity professionals protect computer systems and networks from bad actors who disrupt services or steal sensitive information. Their responsibilities typically include:

  • Educating a company's stakeholders on the importance of cybersecurity and information security
  • Planning responses to cybersecurity breaches
  • Closing gaps in computer network security
  • Defending against various cyberattacks
  • Mitigating known vulnerabilities in software
  • Disaster recovery

Cybersecurity as a concept covers everything from network and application security to operational security and business continuity.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at cybersecurity, what cybersecurity professionals do, common cyber threats and their various countermeasures, and more.

What are the preventive plans and measures involved in cybersecurity?

Cyberattacks use several methods to penetrate vulnerabilities in computer networks. Some of the most common include:

  • Bypassing user authentication or passwords
  • Preventing a computer network or system from working
  • Eavesdropping on network communications to gather intelligence
  • Acquiring username, password, and financial information through "phishing"
  • Installing malware that can take over a computer system and give control to the attacker
  • Using "spoofing" or social engineering (similar to phishing) to pose as an authorized user or otherwise infiltrate a network
  • Exploiting known vulnerabilities in software to gain access or privileges.

Cybersecurity professionals need to know how these methods work and stay up to date on them as they evolve to stay ahead of cyberattackers.

They also may educate their coworkers on the importance of cybersecurity and keep them informed of best practices. This can involve working with management to raise awareness, training employees, and establishing open internal communication to address issues as they come up.

Along with helping their companies understand the importance of cybersecurity, cybersecurity professionals also defend against cyberthreats with countermeasures like:

Security architecture

Security architecture is the framework for security controls, including the design of how various components work together in a security system.

Security measures

Security measures are used to prevent, detect, and respond to threats in a computer system. This is done through user account controls, firewalls, and detection systems.

Some security measures have started using big data platforms to make data more accessible while keeping it secure. Others use machine learning to detect cybersecurity threats.

Management and reduction of vulnerabilities

Cybersecurity professionals can achieve this by scanning computer systems to find open ports, unsecured software, and gaps susceptible to malware. Sometimes these are tested by outside auditors.

Protection of hardware

There are several methods used to protect hardware, including:

  • Using computer case switches that detect when a case is opened
  • Applying cryptography to access devices
  • Hard drive locks
  • Disconnecting peripherals
  • Implementing two-factor authentication

Security of operating systems

Securing operating systems can be achieved by following standards like ISO/IEC 15408. Plus, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has a cybersecurity framework for constant monitoring to prevent malicious code from spreading.

Access control lists and training

This involves setting permissions for access to computer systems and education about issues like password strength and keeping sensitive data or attachments out of emails.

When employees take these measures, they defend themselves and their computer systems from getting infected with computer viruses.

What's the difference between cybersecurity and information security?

You can't have information security without cybersecurity. Cybersecurity professionals protect computer systems and the information they contain. Think of them as the outer layer of protection of companies' and organizations' information.

On the other hand, information security is about making sure data is correct and accurate. It also involves managing access to data and ensuring it's available to those who need it.

The difference between information security and cybersecurity is that system breaches aren't always the reason for data issues. Sometimes they're caused by human error or other faults.

How do cybersecurity professionals respond to issues?

If the measures listed above fail to prevent a data breach or system failure, it's a cybersecurity professional's job to minimize damage. After confirming that a security issue has occurred, they need to develop a plan of action and notify anyone who might've been affected.

To resolve a cybersecurity issue, a cybersecurity professional may take any of the following steps:

  • Containing or isolating affected systems
  • Wiping out the attack, which can include removing malware and affected systems, as well as kicking cyber intruders out of the systems
  • Restoring the affected systems and data

In short, cybersecurity involves:

  • Analyzing cybersecurity issues
  • Finding their causes
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of your response
  • Updating response plans accordingly

What are some job titles in cybersecurity?

As you can see, cybersecurity can be pretty complicated. As a result, there are many roles within the field — each with its own responsibilities. At the upper levels, you have:

  • Chief Information Security Officers
  • Chief Security Officers
  • Data Protection Officers

People in these roles manage information and cybersecurity staff. They also ensure compliance with data protection regulations, policies, training, and audits.

At a lower level, you have:

These professionals analyze issues in systems, develop new and better ways to protect them, and ensure that cybersecurity operations run smoothly.

How much do cybersecurity professionals make?

On average, salary expectations for cybersecurity professionals in the U.S. range between $74,807 and $100,473. Still, as in most industries, you'll earn more as you gain more experience. Research shows that C-level cybersecurity professionals can earn as much as $420,000.

The competitive salaries for cybersecurity professionals are due to the rising demand for their skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for professionals in the field will rise by 31% by 2029.

How to get into cybersecurity with no experience

Now that you have a working knowledge of the fundamentals of cybersecurity, ready to enter the field? With its rising demand and competitive salary expectations, a career in cybersecurity can be lucrative — even if you don't have any experience.

First, you'll need to learn one of the programming languages used in cybersecurity. These languages include:

In our forums, one of our Curriculum Developers, Carolyn Y., explains why learning these languages is so important:

"We call Python a high-level language because it abstracts away the direct communication with parts of the computer. C and C++, on the other hand, are low-level languages that directly access RAM and system processes. Advanced, more precise malware is often written in C/C++, so they are important to become familiar with to keep up with hackers.
For web security, knowing JavaScript and how HTML works is key. JavaScript is the language that powers the web experience and now has a place in every part of the stack. Learning JavaScript gives you an understanding of how vulnerabilities in a web application can be targeted by cross-site scripting attacks. You can identify where a hacker might be able to modify site elements and manipulate event handlers or forms."

Along with the languages listed above, Carolyn also recommends learning SQL for the language's use in database security and PHP to defend against DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks.

Lastly, you can take our introduction to cybersecurity course to learn more about its fundamentals and best practices. Not sure where to start? Take our quiz and take your first step down a new path.


Cybersecurity Courses & Tutorials | Codecademy
Cybersecurity is a fast-growing field that addresses the security risks of our increasingly connected digital world. Learn cybersecurity, and you will learn how users, companies, and even governments protect themselves and recover from, cyber threats and attacks. Start defending yourself, or your or…

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Michael Shashoua

Michael Shashoua has covered data management and analysis operations issues as a journalist and now produces content about the field for leading financial services data companies.

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What Is Cybersecurity?
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