What Is Cybersecurity?

what is cybersecurity

As the world and businesses continue to get connected through the internet spurring innovations both individuals and businesses are understanding the need for cybersecurity to protect their sensitive and valuable data, from hackers and prying eyes. According to cybersecurity analysts, global cybercrime costs will grow by 15 percent every year for the next five years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025 – this is up from $3 trillion in 2015. This is why you need to know what is cybersecurity so you can fully protect the online presence of your business and personal information.

Most small business owners might not consider themselves as prominent targets of hackers and cybersecurity threats because of their small size. They often believe government organizations and large businesses are the targets of cyber-attacks but in reality, cybercriminals are opportunists. They’re interested in valuable targets, they also can tweak their practices to attack easy targets to steal employee and customer records, bank account information, access business finances, and gain access to larger networks.

Customer Personally Identifiable Information (CPII) was the costliest record type accounting for 44% data of breaches. Through the breaches, businesses lose an average of $180 per stolen record which drives increased customer turnover, lost revenue due to system downtime, and the increasing cost of acquiring new business due to tarnished reputation.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Simply put cybersecurity protects systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks or cyberthreats. Cybersecurity is used by individuals and businesses to protect against unauthorized access to data centers and other computerized systems from external threats.

If your business has a strong cybersecurity strategy then you can protect yourself from malicious attacks designed to access, alter, delete, destroy or extort your systems and sensitive data. In addition, cybersecurity can help prevent attacks that aim to disable or disrupt a system’s or device’s operations.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Why Is Cyber Security Important?

In today’s connected world, everyone can benefit from having a cyber security policy in place. If you are an individual, a cybersecurity attack could result in you having you’re your laptop or devices malfunctioning, your identity stolen, personal files compromised or being extorted.

If you are a small business, cybersecurity may include ensuring that credit card data is properly protected, customers’ data is not stolen, or malicious software is destroying your database. According to a study by IBM and the Ponemon Institute, data breaches in small businesses saw an increase from $2.35 million in 2020 to $2.98 million in 2021, a 26.8% increase. Globally ransomware attacks and cyber crime cost businesses an average of $4.62 million and affect close to 8% of businesses.

Besides the financial security from cyber threats some other benefits of cybersecurity include:

Good for Your Company’s Reputation

In addition to the products and services you offer, your customers come to you because they trust you. If your business is negatively implicated with cybersecurity issues then it can affect your reputation and drive customers away over fears of safety and security. Customers expect the personal information which they shared with you to be private and protected.

When cyber-attacks occur confidential information on customers can be stolen and sold. Confidential information could be personal information, company plans or orders, secret recipes, bank accounts, and social security numbers that could then be sold or even uploaded on various social media platforms to defame the business. Hence, cybersecurity comes in handy for your business reputation and this is one of the biggest reasons why it’s becoming so important

Provide More Security

Cyber-attacks and ransomware attacks have been increasing in frequency in recent years. Your mission-critical operations dependent on computer and communication systems have to be protected against breakdowns caused by viruses and hackers. This includes customer data and process control software, call centers, customer records, payment systems, data storage centers, and other operations  An effective cyber security program can provide a much more secure environment and safeguard all your business-related and personal information from any threat.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Improve Productivity

Another benefit of cybersecurity is that it improves your business’ productivity. System downtime can cripple businesses. When your system is plagued with viruses and trojans it does not work efficiently and is prone to frequent breakdowns. You and your employees will also have a tough time trying to work with systems that are slow due to a cyber attack. With cybersecurity measures, you can prevent virus attacks on your system, and reduce frustrations in the workplace.

Inspire Confidence in Your Customers

If your company can prove that your business is effectively protected against all kinds of cyber threats, you can inspire trust in your customers and clients. They will not have any doubts about purchasing your products or using your services.

Reasons Why Cyber Security is ImportantDescription
Protection for IndividualsIn our interconnected world, cyber security safeguards individuals from laptop malfunctions, identity theft, personal file breaches, and extortion attempts.
Small Business Data Breach CostsSmall businesses face rising costs due to data breaches, with a 26.8% increase from $2.35 million in 2020 to $2.98 million in 2021, according to IBM and the Ponemon Institute. Globally, ransomware attacks and cyber crime cost businesses an average of $4.62 million and impact nearly 8% of businesses.
Reputation ManagementCybersecurity is crucial for maintaining a positive business reputation. Breaches can lead to trust issues with customers, who expect their personal information to remain private and secure. Cyber attacks can result in the theft and public exposure of confidential customer data, potentially harming a company's reputation.
Enhanced SecurityEffective cybersecurity measures protect mission-critical operations, customer data, and other vital systems from viruses, hackers, and breakdowns. This includes safeguarding customer records, payment systems, data storage, and more, ensuring a secure environment for both personal and business information.
Increased ProductivityCybersecurity improves business productivity by preventing system downtime caused by viruses and trojans. A secure environment leads to more efficient operations, reducing frustrations for employees and enabling uninterrupted work processes.
Customer Trust and ConfidenceDemonstrating effective protection against cyber threats builds trust with customers and clients. This trust translates into confidence in your products and services, as customers feel secure knowing their data is in safe hands.

Types of Cyber Security Threats

Cyber threats go after individual computer systems or business partners can have their network security hacked. Here’s a list of the types of security risks that could steal sensitive data. These attack smartphones, laptops, and other computers.


Phishing occurs when cyber criminals send you phony emails or advertisements purporting to be from reputable companies in order to get you to reveal your personal information, which includes passwords and credit card numbers.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is a scheme where scammers use psychological manipulation to trick users into divulging sensitive information such as a user’s identity, credit card information, or login information. Usually, they may pretend to be your boss, your supplier, customer support, someone from your IT team, or your delivery company to get you to give away sensitive information.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Third-Party Exposure

Third-party exposure in cyber security is when your customer database, financial information, and other classified data are stolen from other parties that store your data. These could be your suppliers, other business, or connected devices.

DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack occurs when attackers flood a server with internet traffic in a bid to slow the system or crash it and prevent users from accessing online services and sites.

Vulnerable Mobile Devices

With more and more of us relying on our mobile devices to connect and collaborate mobile security threats are ever more becoming common. You should be cautious of installing applications on our devices that could steal data from your devices or have spyware and malware that steal sensitive information. Equally important are network-based threats where cybercriminals can steal unencrypted data while you use public Wi-Fi networks.

Types of Cyber Security ThreatsDescription
PhishingCybercriminals send deceptive emails or ads, posing as reputable entities, to trick individuals into disclosing personal information, including passwords and credit card details.
Social EngineeringScammers employ psychological manipulation to deceive users into revealing sensitive data, often impersonating trusted figures such as bosses, suppliers, or IT personnel.
Third-Party ExposureCybersecurity breaches occur when sensitive data, like customer databases and financial information, are stolen from third parties that store this data, such as suppliers or connected devices.
DDoS AttacksDistributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks involve overwhelming a server with internet traffic, disrupting or crashing it to prevent users from accessing online services and websites.
Vulnerable Mobile DevicesMobile security threats are on the rise due to increased reliance on mobile devices. Threats include malicious apps that steal data, spyware, malware, and data theft over unencrypted public Wi-Fi networks.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Frequently Asked Questions

What encompasses cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity involves safeguarding systems, networks, and programs from potential digital attacks or threats. It includes the implementation of strategies to prevent unauthorized access to data centers and other digital systems.

Are small businesses at risk of cyber attacks?

Yes, small businesses are at significant risk of cyber attacks. Despite their size, they are attractive targets for cybercriminals who exploit the often inadequate security measures in place to steal sensitive data such as customer records and financial information.

What is the financial impact of cyber attacks on small businesses?

In 2021, data breaches cost small businesses an average of $2.98 million, a rise from $2.35 million in 2020. Each data breach incident costs about $180 per stolen record, affecting customer retention and increasing business acquisition costs due to damaged reputation.

How can cybersecurity benefit a company’s reputation?

A robust cybersecurity framework can uphold a company’s reputation by safeguarding customer’s confidential information against theft and unauthorized access. Customers value their privacy and are more likely to trust businesses that can effectively protect their personal data.

How does cybersecurity enhance business productivity?

Cybersecurity measures prevent disruptions caused by system downtimes, virus attacks, and other cyber threats, thereby improving the overall productivity of a business. A secure environment allows employees to work efficiently without the setbacks of slow or compromised systems.

What are the different types of cyber security threats?

The various cyber security threats include Phishing (fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information), Social Engineering (manipulating individuals into divulging confidential data), Third-Party Exposure (data theft from external storage sources), DDoS Attacks (overwhelming a system with traffic to cause a shutdown), and Vulnerable Mobile Devices (threats from installed applications or network-based attacks).

How has the trend of cyber attacks evolved in recent years?

Cyber attacks have escalated alarmingly, with malware incidents rising by 358% and ransomware increasing by 435% in 2020. Despite the rising threats, only 14% of small businesses recognize cybersecurity as a top priority, leaving them ill-prepared for potential attacks.

What measures can be taken to prevent a cyber attack?

To mitigate the risk of cyber attacks, businesses should invest in robust antivirus software and intrusion detection systems. Implementing strong password policies, multi-factor authentication, and secure VPNs can also enhance security. Additionally, appointing a data protection officer and implementing access management systems can further safeguard sensitive information.

How are mobile devices becoming a new frontier for cyber threats?

As workplaces increasingly depend on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, these devices present a growing security concern. Many lack adequate security software, and their use on unsecured networks can expose them to cyber threats, making them a preferred target for cybercriminals seeking to exploit their vulnerabilities.

Where can I find more information on cybersecurity?

For a comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity, you can explore additional resources on topics such as ransomware, malware, phishing, password management apps, and essential cybersecurity terms. It’s beneficial to stay informed with the latest statistics and trends to navigate the evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats effectively.

What Is the Impact of Cyber Attacks in 2022?

Cyberthreats continue to outpace societies’ ability to effectively prevent and manage them with attacks themselves becoming more aggressive and widespread. The toll that comes with a data breach includes brand damage, industrial espionage, identity theft, and intellectual property theft.

According to Kaspersky, the infrastructure security agency malware incidents have increased by 358% in 2020. Similarly, ransomware increased by a whopping 435%, with a four-fold rise in the total cryptocurrency value received by ransomware addresses. Even with the risk presented to small businesses from data breaches and malicious software only 14% consider cyber security threats specifically to be one of the top three risks to their organization.

This is despite the fact that 45% of small businesses don’t see themselves as well-prepared for cyber-attacks – implementing far fewer measures than larger businesses, such as a patch schedule to adequately serve their assets. The lack of preparation in businesses also comes from budget cuts as well as cyber security not being a priority, enough money is not invested to tackle the problem. This is against the background that 48% of companies say that they have felt an increase in the number of cyber-attacks.

Another security issue is mobile device vulnerability. This is an emerging trend as the workplace starts relying more on mobile devices such as cellphones and tablets. Besides the fact that these devices are harder for IT teams to control than PCs, many of these devices often have no security software installed exposing their vulnerabilities.

How Can a Cyber Attack Compromise Your Sensitive Data?

Even with a good threat response in place, sensitive information can get stolen. Data breaches happen when a hacker gets data from unauthorized access. This could happen when an employee uses a co-worker’s computer and access files without having the proper authorization permissions, insider threats, lost or stolen devices, or by hackers who use various attack tactics to gather information.

You can stay vigilant by boosting your online security and investing in strong antivirus software including intrusion detection systems across all your devices. Don’t forget to create strong passwords and frequently change them.  For added tier of protection, you might want to opt for multifactor authentication. Remember to deal with official sites and do not open links from suspicious emails. Hiring a data protection officer and putting in place an access management system and providing virtual private networks can also protect your data from prying eyes.


Image: Depositphotos

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Rob Starr Rob Starr is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 7 years. He is a graduate of Ryerson University in Toronto with a Bachelor of Journalism degree. His print credentials include employment with various Toronto area newspapers and three works of fiction: The Apple Lady (2004), Creekwater (2006) and Sophistry By Degrees (2008) published by Stonegarden Press In California.