Information security is a hot button issue these days, with cyber terrorists, spies, and computer hackers stealing highly sensitive and confidential information online – and making front-page news in the process.
Information security (or “InfoSec,” for short) is the practice of defending information and computer networks from unauthorized use or attack. Also known as computer security or network security, InfoSec protects computer networks both large (a Fortune 500 company, for example) and small (a home computer or personal smart phone).
Most governments, militaries, corporations, organizations and private businesses store important data about their employees, customers, products, research and finances on electronic computer systems connected to a single or multiple networks. Because this confidential information may be vulnerable to theft, damage or public dissemination by hackers and competitors, many organizations employ information security specialists to help protect their computer systems and networks.
In addition to protecting confidential or proprietary information, an organization may be required to use InfoSec protocols for legal or ethical reasons (for example, an insurance company needing to protect customers’ private health information according to HIPAA laws).
Interesting Facts about Information Security
Hackers may seem like an invisible enemy, but they pose legitimate threats to consumers and organizations everywhere.
You may be surprised to learn about the toll information and cyber security threats take on their victims.
Cyber incidents cost consumers billions of dollars every year. A 2011 report reveals that the cost of global cybercrime (including identity theft and online scams) is $114 billion annually.[i]
Cybercrime costs the world significantly more in financial losses and time lost than the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined ($288 billion).[i]
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) receives millions of attempted breaches by malicious cyber actors every day, including attempted attacks against America’s nuclear infrastructure, advanced military weapons systems, water treatment facilities, credit card companies, financial institutions and the NASDAQ stock exchange.[ii]
About 10% of all social media users have received a cyber threat, and more than 600,000 Facebook accounts are compromised each day.[iii]
59 percent of people surveyed in a Symantec Corp. study admitted to stealing confidential company information and data from their former employers.[iv]
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Information Security: Controversy in the News
Major advances in computer and internet technology are changing the way humans communicate and conduct business. However, an increasingly digitized world goes hand in hand with computer hacking, cyber espionage, and other major security breaches that can impact millions of people across the world.
Several recent incidents have thrust information security to the forefront of international news and politics. Some headline-making stories include:
Edward Snowden, a former CIA computer analyst, caused a firestorm of controversy when he released thousands of classified U.S. government documents in 2013. These documents revealed the National Security Agency’s extensive surveillance program of U.S. citizens. Although some consider him a “hero,” the United States government has charged him with espionage. He currently lives in asylum in Russia.
Julian Assange, a former hacker and computer programmer, is the editor-and-chief of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. Assange is also under investigation by the U.S. government for publishing military and diplomatic files in 2010 leaked by a former U.S. Army soldier.
The Heartbleed bug, a security bug that puts web users’ passwords at risk, affected over 500,000 websites in 2014. Web users were urged to change some or all of their passwords for their online accounts in an effort to evade hackers. As a result, many organizations have increased their information security efforts to prevent future attacks.
Information and cyber security will continue to be a hot button issue as more people, organizations, businesses and governments store confidential and highly-sensitive data online. Due to the growing demand for more effective information security products and protocols, you may want to consider pursuing an education or career in this exciting field.
If you are interested in this field, browse available Cybersecurity and Network Security programs here.