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With the development of computer systems and networks, external threats to them grew, as well. To combat the problem, software engineers have developed a variety of cybersecurity methods aimed at preventing unauthorized access and minimizing the damage that it can cause. The process is still ongoing, with new vulnerabilities, attack methods, and protection frameworks emerging. Due to the nature of cybersecurity, the attackers typically have an advantage, as they can work anonymously and in locations where they cannot be reached. Hence, a person who works with electronic systems has to leverage their advantages and existing technologies to their fullest extent. To that end, it is essential to understand the basic notions that contribute to broader interconnected security frameworks. This essay will consider the latest advances in encryption, software controls, policies, and physical security, as well as their roles in ensuring the integrity of the system.
Encryption is essential whenever transfers of information between distinct entities take place. These messages can be intercepted by a nefarious third-party, which would be problematic if they contain sensitive information. Moreover, due to current technology limitations, it is often impossible to detect that such leakage is taking place. Alternately, an invader can access files stored on a network-connected device, which are subject to the same problem. Encryption helps obfuscate the information in such a manner that only the holder of the secret cipher can understand the message. Having started centuries, if not thousands of years ago, encryption, both commercially available and military, has evolved to a state where attempts to decipher a message without a key are virtually impossible, even with a supercomputer.
With that said, while encryption is a vital part of most technology nowadays, it is not without weaknesses. As Gonzalez III and Kemp (2019), quantum computers may circumvent current encryption techniques in the future due to their ability to guess keys quickly via highly parallelized brute force attacks, and Internet of Things devices often cannot afford to include the processing power needed for encryption and decryption. With that said, quantum computers may also create new encryption methods that are resistant to such manipulation, and solutions are being developed to resolve IoT problems. In general, the current state of the technology is satisfactory, and encryption is adequate protection as long as the attacker does not obtain the key.
Attackers will often gain control of a particular application as opposed to the entire system, as it is easier and faster to do so. If the program has the authority to run any code that the third party inserts, then this degree of access is typically satisfactory. Conversely, if the application’s ability to perform specific tasks is limited, the attacker’s objectives may not be fulfilled, and the scope of the damage can be minimized. Software controls exist to ensure that this scene takes place. Programs can only perform tasks that directly pertain to their purpose, and any actions outside of their purview will be stopped and likely raise the alarm.
Another advantage of software controls is their promotion of activity logging, which records each action that every program takes. As Kohnke et al. (2016) note, a network intrusion attempt has to be detected within five minutes of its beginning for a chance of stopping it to remain. An automated warning system is more effective at noticing such a situation in time than manual reviews. With that said, computerized systems also have flaws, such as a limited range of actions that they consider unusual. As such, attackers can bypass them and operate undetected despite the protections. As a result, it is inadvisable to remain complacent and relies excessively on controls to the exclusion of manual analysis.
A variety of different policies can be employed to protect an electronic system from external invasion. Waschke (2017) lists two recent developments that are gaining prominence: biometrics and multi-factor authentication. The former typically involves a person’s data, such as their fingerprint, face, or retina image. Specialized scanners can process these and ensure that only the persons recognized can access the device, which is secure because such data is typically unique and almost impossible to replicate. With that said, Waschke (2017) also cites technological advances that may be used to create convincing fake faces and fingers. Still, as long as the person’s biometric information remains secure, biometric technologies should be effective as a protection measure.
Multi-factor authentication, on the other hand, is more of a broad policy where the user is asked to provide more than one method of identifying themselves. These various approaches can include biometrics or measures that require access to additional secured items, such as an email address or a phone. As a result, even if the attacker secures one’s password via an attack, they still cannot access the account unless they have also invaded the other authentication tools. However, Waschke (2017) notes that methods to bypass many common multi-factor authentication approaches have emerged, though some remain secure. The use of physical devices that cannot be compromised remotely is advisable wherever it is possible.
The simplest method of securing a system from remote cyberattacks is simply disconnecting it from any non-local networks. There is generally no way for a nefarious agent to influence such a system that does not involve physically accessing it. As a result, this approach is sometimes taken for critical infrastructure that has excellent physical security measures and can substantially disrupt people’s lives if compromised, such as nuclear power stations. However, it should be noted that the strength of this radical approach can also be its weakness if it is compromised through either malice or error. Remote troubleshooting cannot take place effectively, and a competent physical agent has to be present at the location. As a result, responses to problems can take inordinately long and incur extensive additional damage as a result of the delay.
Most essential cybersecurity measures rely on restricting the attacker’s actions to ones that are more easily detected and stopped. Physical security and various authorization policies prevent unauthorized access, and encryption and software controls stop the third party from causing damage once they have succeeded in their infiltration. With that said, none of these practices are sufficient on their own, as each has been bypassed in the past by determined agents. They have to be used together alongside other defensive measures to form a broader overall framework that prevents, detects, and stops intrusions. By understanding each of the components and using them appropriately, one can contribute to the security of their network infrastructure without jeopardizing overall operations.
Gonzalez III, J. J., & Kemp, R. L. (Eds.). (2019). Cybersecurity: Current writings on threats and protection. McFarland, Incorporated, Publishers.
Kohnke, A., Shoemaker, D., & Sigler, K. E. (2016). The complete guide to cybersecurity risks and controls. CRC Press.
Waschke, M. (2017). Personal cybersecurity: How to avoid and recover from cybercrime. Apress.