As computers become more important in modern society, the need to protect them is paramount.

As the realms of possibility with modern technology are expanded, we find ourselves becoming increasingly more reliant on it as a source of storage, communication, and utility. Consequently, computers are now becoming a major target for criminals, due to the volume and value of private information that they store. As technology develops, how criminals look to exploit this information is becoming more sophisticated, and consequently the cybersecurity industry is becoming increasingly prominent in business and leisure. Cybersecurity is defined as ‘the state of being protected against the criminal or unauthorised use of electronic data, or the measures taken to achieve this’. As the digital age proliferates, security and protection are essential for business continuity since there is a duty to their customers’ data and an increased reliance on digital means to organise and develop their customs.

Cybersecurity has historically grown in tandem with technological developments over the digital era. The ARPANET, a precursor to the internet, was the subject of a research project in 1975 by Bob Thomas. He developed the ‘Creeper’ software, which moved around the ARPANET’s network leaving a breadcrumb trail wherever it went. Ray Tomlinson, creator of the email, developed a respondent programme called ‘Reaper’, which would chase and delete the ‘Creeper’ software, making it the first example of antivirus software. McAfee and other global brands then started to make their mark in the late 1980s and by the ‘90s malware had exploded into a phenomenon.

By the turn of the 21st Century, due to the proliferation of the internet and its key technologies – such as email – the threats had diversified immensely, with malware and viruses now being strategically hidden in the guise of legitimate webpages. By the 2010s, the threat of online attack was colossal, and many major companies and entities found themselves victim. For example, Yahoo admitted that all 3 billion of their accounts had been compromised when they suffered data theft in 2013 and the ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack in 2017 showed the world the danger that our online systems face. Furthermore, the US Government issued a warrant for the arrest of Edward Snowden when he leaked classified files from the NSA onto the website ‘Wikileaks’.

There are several different types of malwares which companies and individuals must be vigilant against. The most common types are worms and viruses. Worms inject malicious software into computers and look to steal data, as well as provide an easy backdoor for hackers, whilst viruses access a computer’s contact list and impersonate the host to proliferate itself on other systems. Similarly, Trojan Horses are malicious programmes that disguise themselves as legitimate files, only to modify data, spy on your device, and gain access to your network. Ransomware – which is becoming more and more common as the connectivity between devices increases – denies or restricts access to files and demands payment in return for entrance. Lastly, spam and phishing, probably the most simple and common type of malware, involves criminals pretending to be trusted people or entities to fraudulently acquire personal and financial information. Awareness and, consequently, action against these threats is the best way to remain vigilant and protect your corporate reputation by retaining the security of your data.

So, what is it you can do protect against these dangers and why should you do it? The latter part of that question can be answered simply: because these perils are everywhere, and your data is constantly under threat. It must be acknowledged that these risks are applicable at both a macro and micro level. At a micro level, malware can potentially compromise the finances of your family members, as well as open your children up to having their private data exposed, for example. On a macro level, unless the proper steps are taken, a crisis situation will occur; these threats can cause local blackouts, failure of crucial equipment, and breaches of national security. Accordingly, considering the digital age we live in, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that malware is a threat to modern life as we know it. Even the US Government admitted that 74% of its federal agencies were ‘at-risk’ or ‘high-risk’, conveying how difficult it is to remain constantly vigilant against cybercrime despite a wealth of resources and technology. Moreover, the threats are growing more serious as technology proliferates at a greater rate. Every organisation has risks that their IT cannot control, and business leaders continue to push the digital boundaries, meaning that the opportunity and means of being attacked increases as businesses pursue digitalisation as a way of saving costs.

There are many options to choose from when securing your data against criminals, both for your business and your family members, and having a response plan in place could be the defining factor in preventing a crisis scenario. The first and most important way is awareness. Awareness means you are ready and waiting for an attack that may come, meaning you can recognise it early and know what needs to be done to avoid or prevent it. It is also important to keep your software and systems up to date – updates are released with the intention of patching up weaknesses and gaps that are endemic to the system, so it is vital that you install them when they are released. If you are a business owner, it is important that you invest in a patch management system that will manage all software and system updates, which keeps your organisation resilient and up to date. There are also defences that can be put in place to cover the gaps in your digital processes. For example, ensuring Endpoint protection means that the access paths that are made possible through remotely bridged devices are covered, whilst a Firewall blocks any brute force attacks that are made against your device or network. Finally, simply backing up your data is also an effective way of mitigating the risk of a cyberattack, as any stolen information or data that is being ransomed can be easily recovered, thus demonstrating an effective crisis plan.

To conclude, cybersecurity is most certainly a booming business in the modern age. The proliferation of hardware across the world means people are becoming more reliant on digital solutions, thus creating more incentive for criminals to attempt. It also allows criminals better access to technology that can be potentially harmful to other systems, meaning the likelihood of attack increases as technological progression occurs. This highlights the importance of vigilance, as the effect of a data breach can be devastating for your business, your personal finances, and your mental health. To avoid a crisis, commitment to and application of the securities is a simple enough way of ensuring you are protected against the various forms of malware, however innovative solutions will need to be created to keep up with the sophistication of cybercrime in the modern, digital age to maintain effective business continuity.