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/ What Is Cyberthreat Protection?

What Is Cyberthreat Protection?

Cyberthreat protection is a category of security solutions designed to help security professionals defend systems and networks against malware and other targeted cyberattacks. Such attacks attempt to infiltrate systems or networks to disrupt services or steal data, often to turn a profit for the attackers.

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What Is a Cyberthreat?

Let’s start by looking at what makes something a cyberthreat.

In short, a cyberthreat is anything that can harm systems or data—and by extension, the people and organizations associated with them—through destruction, theft, alteration, disclosure, or denial of access/service. Cyberthreats can be intentional or unintentional, but unintentional ones—such as weak passwords or other security loopholes—are usually called vulnerabilities.

The Evolution of Cyberthreats

In 1971, engineer Bob Thomas created Creeper, a program that could move from one computer to another. Creeper was a proof of concept with no malicious functionality (all it did was render a teletype message, “I’M THE CREEPER. CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.”), but it arguably birthed the concept of cyberthreats—and with it, the concept of cybersecurity, as well.

Cyberthreats have come a long way since then, as data and digital property have become more valuable and widespread. Solitary hackers out for bragging rights have given way to organized cybercrime enterprises out for profit. Quaint programs like Creeper have given way to sophisticated software and techniques that support various malicious ends. Let’s take a quick look at some of today’s common threats:

  • Malware is malicious software made to harm endpoints, networks, and/or data. This includes viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, spyware, adware, and more.
  • Ransomware attacks block access to data and files, usually by encrypting them, until the victim pays the attacker a ransom. A subtype, double extortion ransomware, gives attackers more leverage by stealing the data in addition to blocking the victim’s access.
  • Denial of service (DoS) attacks disrupt service by sending the targeted network or server a constant flood of traffic, such as fraudulent requests, to overwhelm the system and prevent it from processing legitimate traffic.
  • Phishing attacks deceive targets with fraudulent interactions and social engineering, often via email or social media, to trick them into divulging private or sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers.

There are plenty of other types of attacks, and as cloud technology and the internet of things (IoT) continue to evolve and change shape, threats do the same. In short, when a new attack surface appears, it’s never long before it becomes a target. What’s more, just as cybersecurity companies continue to innovate counter-threat technology, bad actors are devising new ways to infiltrate targets without being detected.

Sources of Cyberthreats

Where a threat originates from depends on the nature of the victim organization, the kinds of data it deals with, and the attacker’s motives. For instance:

  • Terrorists, hacktivists, and malicious nation-state actors tend to target government agencies or critical infrastructure providers to destabilize or disrupt their operations.
  • Threat actor groups or individual hackers, largely driven by profit, may target any organization that holds valuable data, such as payment information, personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI), or intellectual property.
  • Malicious insiders or corporate espionage agents may be driven by various motives, such as profit or revenge, and can have similarly varied goals such as theft or disruption.
External factors and security-specific threats are converging to influence the overall security and risk landscape, so leaders in the space must properly prepare to improve resilience and support business objectives.

- Peter Firstbrook, Gartner

How to Protect Against and Identify Cyberthreats

Industries and businesses that hold more sensitive data, or that attackers perceive as able to pay higher ransoms, represent more valuable targets. However, all organizations should take preventive measures as these attacks become more prevalent.

Types of Cyberthreat Protection

Today’s complex environments give attackers a wide variety of entry points, and no single security product is enough to cover them all. For effective cyberthreat protection, modern organizations need:

  • Firewalls to inspect incoming and outgoing traffic, blocking external threats while protecting users from malicious domains
  • TLS/SSL inspection to spot hidden threats embedded in incoming and outgoing encrypted traffic—a critical capability since most of today’s traffic is encrypted
  • Intrusion prevention system (IPS) to monitor for policy violations or security threats, including botnets, advanced threats, and zero days
  • Sandboxing to protect endpoints by “detonating” suspicious files in an isolated, virtualized environment and analyzing them for malicious behavior
  • Browser isolation to keep malicious content from reaching endpoints or the network by displaying a safe rendering of pixels to the users
  • Deception technology to deploy decoy assets that act as lures for attackers and gather intel, generate alerts, reduce dwell time, and speed up incident response

Cyberthreat Protection Best Practices

  • Keep operating systems and browsers up to date. Software providers regularly address newfound vulnerabilities in their products and release updates to keep your systems protected.
  • Protect data with automatic backups. Implement a regular system data backup process so you can recover if you suffer a ransomware attack or data loss event.
  • Use advanced multifactor authentication (MFA). Access control strategies such as MFA create additional layers of defense between attackers and your internal systems.
  • Educate your users. Cybercriminals constantly invent new strategies for carrying out their attacks, and the human element remains any organization’s biggest vulnerability. Your organization will be safer if all users understand how to identify and report phishing, avoid malicious domains, and so on.
  • Invest in comprehensive, integrated zero trust security. Cyberthreats have come a long way since Creeper. To best protect your modern hybrid workforce and reduce organizational risk, look for a proactive, intelligent, and holistic defense platform.

Zscaler: The Best Defense Against Cyberthreats

Legacy security architectures based on appliances and centralized hub-and-spoke networks can’t protect you in the modern threat landscape. Appliances are slow to update and subject to inherent performance limitations. Beyond that, it’s far too expensive to replicate a complete security stack at multiple branch offices. Critically, traditional security can’t extend your security policies to a hybrid workforce made up of users who expect to be able to work from anywhere.

The scalable, flexible protection you need can only come from a cloud native zero trust platform. Cloud native means built for the cloud—not just a virtual instance of a traditional appliance, subject to the same inherent limitations. Zero trust means putting aside the idea that your network perimeter defines what’s secure and what isn’t in a world where that perimeter has disappeared.

The only true cloud native zero trust platform is the Zscaler Zero Trust Exchange™. Powering a complete security service edge (SSE), it connects your users, workloads, and devices without ever putting them on your network.

The Zero Trust Exchange is a fundamentally different approach to cyberthreat protection, with unmatched attack surface reduction and AI-powered advanced threat protection. Users, devices, and workloads connect directly to the resources they need, with inline security controls that operate at the speed of the cloud. These capabilities help you:

  • Eliminate the attack surface: Applications sit behind the exchange, invisible to the open internet, preventing discovery and targeted attacks.
  • Prevent lateral threat movement: Users connect directly to apps through secure one-to-one tunnels, without network access, to isolate threats.
  • Improve user experience: Direct connections to cloud applications are intelligently managed and optimized, giving your users smooth, fast access.
  • Reduce costs and complexity: Management and deployment are simple, with no need for VPNs, complex firewall rules, or any new appliances.
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Find out more about the Zero Trust Exchange platform and the seven elements of a successful zero trust architecture.

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