Why Is Cybersecurity Important?

Why is Cybersecurity Important

The increasing reliance on technology in today's world has made protecting sensitive information a more critical priority than ever before. From personal data to financial transactions, cyberthreats can disrupt businesses and impact individuals globally. Cybersecurity is an industry that encompasses various measures and practices that safeguard computer systems and networks from unauthorized access, damage or theft, and it involves implementing strong security protocols, complex encryption methods and proactive countermeasures.

By prioritizing cybersecurity, organizations can mitigate the risk of data breaches, financial losses and reputational damage. Whether you're an individual or an organization, understanding the importance of cybersecurity is fundamental to navigating the threat landscape safely and securely.

Understanding the Importance of Cybersecurity

With the vast amount of information available on cybersecurity, it’s sometimes easy to forget exactly why it’s important in the first place.

Cybersecurity is important for two very human reasons:

  1. Our identities are increasingly shifting online. From credit agencies and workplaces to the social media networks we use daily, our lives are becoming more intwined with the digital world.
  2. The supply chains that keep us fed and clothed are all managed through information technology.

As of October 2023, data breaches have exposed over 600 million records. The impact of major data breaches involving sectors and organizations, such as Healthcare, Twitter and MOVEit (customers), means something more than just having to change your password.

This means that individuals and groups are targeting the technology that essentially defines and supports you in the modern world. They are targeting systems that contain your personal data. In other words, attackers worldwide are targeting you. That’s why safeguarding our information systems is imperative.

Power, Presence and Privacy: Three Essential Factors

Information security is all about three key factors: power, presence and privacy. Modern technology is incredibly powerful, and the typical mobile device is more powerful than a traditional PC.

Additionally, tech is everywhere. We’re now wearing technology, like smart watches, which have the ability to gather sensitive data wherever we go. Cybercriminals are eager to obtain this information, and as a result, organizations that collect this data are held to strict standards.

What’s at Stake With Securing Data?

Primary Data vs Metadata

People truly love Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Designed to simplify people’s lives—from turning on lights around the house to ordering household essentials with a voice command—IoT devices make everything more convenient. However, these devices gather sensitive information and data about the users who actively rely on them. A portion of this information is called primary information, because it’s directly about you and your identity. This is also known as primary data or personally identifiable information (PII).

Here are some examples of primary information:

  • Username
  • Passwords
  • Bank account information
  • Credit card information
  • Social security numbers
  • Your health
  • Your purchasing choices

When combined, and in the wrong hands, this data can often lead to identity theft. When this data is captured, stored and processed, it is often called data analytics or business intelligence (BI).

IoT and other devices also capture indirect information about you, which is often called metadata. This data, which is seemingly insignificant, is generated as you and your devices move from place to place.

For example, contact-tracing applications and typical mobile devices are all capable of capturing this metadata. Metadata can include the cell phone towers and devices that your mobile phone or smart watch has connected to, the ISP you are currently using and your location.

Each time you connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot, an organization is collecting your data. This can include both the primary and secondary data you generate, all of which can be analyzed. This analysis allows organizations to make highly accurate guesses about your interests, future activities and even intentions. The responsibility to ensure that this personal information remains private, secure and ethically used lies with cybersecurity and privacy professionals, as well as the leadership of the organizations that collect this data.

Types of Cybersecurity Threats

There are many types of cyberattacks that countless organizations and consumers face. The following table outlines some of the most prevalent threats that occur globally.

Social Engineering

This is one of the easiest and most common types of cybersecurity threats. This type of cyberattack is often conducted in conjunction with other attack methods. Specific social engineering tactics used include phishing, vishing or smishing, which is where an attacker tricks a user into taking an action (e.g., clicking on a link) that breaches security.

Learn more about social engineering.

Ransomware Attacks

This is when an attacker holds the victim’s sensitive data hostage by encrypting it. The victim often must pay to obtain a decryption key to regain access to their data, especially if they don’t have good backups of that data. In some cases, ransomware actors will actually reveal sensitive information to the public, which can cause the victim organization to receive fines from government agencies.

Learn more about ransomware.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

This attack involves the misuse of native TCP and UDP protocols, which are used by internet applications. The aim is to consume bandwidth and overwhelm networks and systems, preventing them from providing essential online services.

Learn more about DDoS attacks.


Hackers create various types of applications, including spyware tools that log every keystroke and illicit servers that steal sensitive data from computer systems.

Learn more about malware.

Why Cyberattacks Happen

Both small and large businesses often skip essential steps when deploying technology. As a result, organizations occasionally create the conditions for cybersecurity attacks to occur without realizing it. One of those measures that can increase cyber risk is accumulating a large amount of technical debt.

Technical Debt

There are times when an organization consciously decides to skip essential steps in software development or other security processes. While code reviews are essential, they are time-consuming and often seen as less important than releasing a new feature or service on time. Organizations should regularly perform vulnerability assessment scans on all of their software systems, especially those they develop in-house. However, many organizations don’t always do this.

When organizations skip a step, they incur technical debt. This debt is similar to using credit cards to make purchases. This debt needs to be repaid quickly to avoid running the risk of building up debt and impacting your credit history. For organizations that incur technical debt, failing to repay it often leads to increased cybersecurity risks.

How Are Organizations Threatened by Security Issues?

The importance of cybersecurity is universal. It isn't just a technical issue to solve for the organization. It involves everyone, from the consumers to the organizations themselves. When an enterprise skips essential steps or ignores the issue, it can lead to cyberthreats and security incidents that impact individuals, organizations, government entities, critical infrastructures, and in some cases, entire countries.

Threats to Individuals

Attackers are increasingly manipulating large groups of people by feeding them misinformation and luring them to websites and other resources that can steal their information. Today, cybercriminals are increasingly using social engineering to more effectively manipulate people into voluntarily giving them their personal information. Think about all of those innocent-looking questionnaires you see on social media. If you think about it, some of those questions are the same security questions you are asked to prove your identity on a website in the event you forget your password.

Threats to Organizations

Well-funded attack groups now profile and target both large and small businesses. The MITRE corporation is a U.S.-based non-profit organization that, among many other activities, tracks hacking groups from around the world to identify the techniques used in those attacks.

Many of these groups conduct sophisticated Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) attacks designed for long-term, illegal network access. Many of these groups are responsible for well-coordinated attacks on governments and organizations in the healthcare, telecommunications, energy and technology sectors around the world.

Threats to Countries

Nation states are a third major target. Attacks on national, state and local governments continue to occur, many with the goal to destabilize fundamental pillars of a particular country. Those pillars can include news and social media, utilities (e.g., water and electricity), election infrastructure and the finance and tech sectors.

  • In 2012, two separate attacks targeted the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a period between 2013 and 2105, eventually stealing the personally identifiable information of just over 22 million people.
  • In 2017, threat actors from Russia planted a version of wiper malware, eventually called NotPetya, on the servers of a Ukrainian tax preparation software website. Eventually, NotPetya spread around the world, destroying data worldwide.
  • In 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) and many hospitals experienced Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks.
  • In 2021, the Colonial Pipeline was a victim of a cyberattack while causing a massive disruption in the oil and gas supply chain within the Eastern U.S.

Attackers are also increasingly leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to gather information, target the most valuable opportunities and exploit the least-protected users.

How Cybersecurity Professionals Allow Us To Move Forward With Confidence

Security professionals are tasked with implementing all kinds of security systems. They work with real-time data to secure information systems and user identities, ensuring proper management of cloud services (e.g., AWS, Azure, Google Cloud), especially those containing sensitive customer data. They implement various types of security systems, including Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW), Security Event and Incident Management (SEIM) systems, endpoint security, Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) and other relevant security-based tools. IT security practitioners help manage cybersecurity risks by identifying errors, missed steps and methods employed by threat actors.

Today’s cybersecurity professionals collaborate with their peers worldwide to share information about security incidents. They also work with AI-enabled software services to help improve cybersecurity measures.

Future Outlook for Cybersecurity

Today, numerous laws and regulations exist to help ensure our privacy, and we need skilled professionals to help organizations navigate these with confidence. It is impossible to ensure privacy or compliance with standards unless an organization implements a security-first approach to protect its business and customers. However, implementing a security-first approach is easier said than done, especially when data and asset protection is critical. This is why the industry needs more talented and skilled cybersecurity professionals from all types of backgrounds.

Organizations need to ensure they are compliant with the laws and regulations that apply to their business.

Some of these laws include:

Intellectual Property

These are just a few of the laws designed to ensure that personal data remains, well, personal.

These regulations are also part of a worldwide effort to protect intellectual property and prevent identity theft. U.S. government agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), also provide frameworks and standards that are designed to ensure that organizations enact appropriate and robust cybersecurity measures.

Check out CompTIA’s State of Cybersecurity research report.

The Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Cybersecurity

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a surge of cybersecurity issues for countless consumers and organizations, and the majority of these scams involved social engineering.

Social engineering wasn’t the only type of attack that increased during the pandemic. The increase in people working from home, using computers not issued or controlled by IT departments, presented new opportunities for threat actors to launch malware, ransomware and ATP attacks. According to some researchers, Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks saw a staggering 200% increase during the pandemic.

Governments and businesses worldwide also transitioned quickly to the cloud to accommodate the largely remote workforce, a move that proved successful in many instances. However, the rapid pace of some migrations and deployments created opportunities for attackers. Furthermore, many organizations that were able to continue business operations successfully during the pandemic found that their overall revenue had still decreased. This led to reductions in IT and cybersecurity spending, often resulting in decreased cybersecurity maturity for the organization.

Cybersecurity and Your Career

If you’re interested in learning about how to become a cybersecurity professional, we have a wealth of resources for you. Over the years, CompTIA has worked with the IT industry to define a clear IT and cybersecurity education pathway, and it’s never too late to get started.

CompTIA cybersecurity certifications prove to employers that you have the skills needed to protect their organization from cyberthreats:

  • CompTIA Security+: A global certification that validates the baseline skills necessary to perform core security functions and pursue an IT security career.
  • CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+): For cyber professionals tasked with incident detection, prevention and response through continuous security monitoring.
  • CompTIA PenTest+: For cybersecurity professionals tasked with penetration testing and vulnerability management.
  • CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+): An advanced-level cybersecurity certification for security architects and senior security engineers charged with leading and improving an enterprise’s cybersecurity readiness.

Learn more about the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway.

If you want to learn more about cybersecurity careers available to you, check out the following resources:

  • Cyberstates: This site provides granular information about the IT and security profession. It provides information about the tech landscape in the United States.
  • CyberSeek: Information about job postings in the United States, based on research gathered around the world.

Read more about Cybersecurity.

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