Topic.2 | Cybersecurity
Topic | Cybersecurity

Technologies in Cybersecurity

Chapter 03/07


Learn about several different cybersecurity technologies that are already in use to protect your passwords, purchases, identities, and communications.

Key Terms:

  • Two-factor authentication
  • Encryption
  • Algorithm
  • Firewall

As the world becomes more permeated by computers, information systems and the communications networks that allow them to transmit data around the world at lightning speed, the security of these systems will become ever more important—and ever more threatened.

Chain-link graphics flash across a digital monitor.

The proliferation of computers means that a hacker’s potential attack surface is proliferating, too. Fortunately, cybersecurity experts have developed an array of advanced technologies to protect our information systems from theft, damage or espionage.

Two-Factor Authentication

This security measure provides additional protection for user account login procedures. For a normal account login, you enter your username and password; two-factor authentication requires you to also use an additional credential to access your account. For example, the system could send an additional authorization code via text message to a phone that has been designated as a trusted device for your account. If you have access to the trusted device, you can receive the authorization code, enter it in the appropriate field and complete the login procedure. Biometric factors — such as a fingerprint, voice print or face ID — can also serve as the second credential in a two-factor authorization scheme. This technology is used by such IT stalwarts as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Twitter.

A user prepares to enter their credit card information on a mobile device.

Credit Card Monitoring

Thanks to U.S. federal consumer-protection laws, if your credit card is stolen and the thief uses it to make a fraudulent purchase, your liability cannot exceed $50. That means nearly all the financial liability for credit card theft and fraud falls on the card issuers, giving them an incentive to detect such crimes before they go too far.

To do this, card issuers employ automated fraud-detection algorithms combing through vast amounts of data collected from millions of transactions taking place every day. They then use sophisticated big-data analytics to parse the data for patterns that might indicate fraud.

For instance, if you live in Denver, go skiing at resorts in the Rockies and occasionally take vacations in California and Mexico, a set of weekend transactions at hotels and restaurants in San Diego wouldn’t look out of place. An unprecedented spending spree in Paris, however, would raise a red flag with your card issuer’s algorithm. The system would alert a human who would then call, text or email you to verify whether it was indeed you who bought that Cartier watch with the diamond-encrusted dial.

Network Security

If protect your devices and information by updating your laptop’s antivirus software and using a password-enabled lock screen on your phone, good for you. Those are solid forms of “endpoint security”: the practice of boosting security by focusing on individual devices. However, computer networks — whether your humble Wi-Fi system at home or an enterprise-level network with thousands of users — constitute a primary node of access for hackers. After all, if hackers can’t access your network, they can’t use it to access your machine or your data.

Cybersecurity professionals handle network security for large organizations, making sure they obtain and deploy the best firewalls, vulnerability scanners, malware detection software and other measures to harden the network’s defenses. At home, the best network security steps you can take include changing the default name of your router, setting a strong password for access and using a firewall, either by purchasing a router with a built-in firewall or installing one separately.

A scary person sits at a computer terminal.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Despite its name, a virtual private network (VPN) isn’t a form of network security; it’s a form of communications security. A VPN creates an encrypted internet connection between a user’s device and a secure network. Encryption is the process of protecting data by scrambling it to make it unreadable to any person or device without the encryption key. Thus, VPNs establish a secure internet “tunnel” between a device and a network, preventing hackers from eavesdropping on the data being transmitted through the tunnel.

Companies often use VPNs to allow their employees to work remotely by accessing the company network from wherever they are. The company’s network security procedures keep the employee’s network activity safe, and the VPN’s encryption ensures that all data transmission between the employee’s device and the company network remains secure.

Another security advantage of a VPN is that the encrypted internet connection keeps your device’s browsing history, IP address (the network ID used to route internet traffic) and physical location private, not only from hackers but also from the internet service provider you use and the websites you visit.

Next Section

Ethical Issues in Cybersecurity

Chapter 04 of 07

Learn more about emerging ethical questions, like the balance between security and privacy in the digital space.