Last updated: 01.03.21

Why is Cyber Security Important?

The importance of cyber security is a topic that has been increasingly featured across news and other digital platforms in recent years. Global connectivity and the use of cloud networks and systems means that digital data and information are more accessible than ever, but these developments have resulted in harm as well as good.

Whilst firewalls and anti-virus software used to be enough to keep hackers out of your software, those days are now long gone. Businesses in particular are finding that threats of a cyber attack are on the rise, requiring complex and multi-layered strategies to keep their data and customers safe.

This guide outlines the importance of cyber security and the need to comply with national measures to prevent cyber crime, as well as running through the most common kinds of cyber attacks and how you can prevent these. 

What is Cyber Security?

Cyber security is the practice of protecting electronic devices, online systems and networks and digital data from illegal attacks and damage. It may also be referred to as information technology security and is an important part of modern data protection.

Nowadays, the majority of personal information is stored online, and cyber security is used to protect this information and stop it from being illegally accessed, used and distributed. Unfortunately, instances of cyber crime and cyber attacks are on the rise, and as a result, cyber security is becoming more important than ever before.

What is a cyber attack?

A cyber attack is one of the main ways in which cyber security is breached, and involves a digital assault launched by one or more cyber criminals on single or multiple computers and networks. It could result in the theft of information, damage to an online system, or be the first move in a much larger cyber attack.

The Importance of Cyber Security

A huge proportion of modern life is now carried out online. Not only do we communicate and share our lives with one another over various digital platforms, but we also store huge amounts of personal data in online cloud services, such as bank details and passwords.

On a global level, critical and sensitive political, healthcare and government information is kept in digital systems and networks, and whilst complex security systems are in place they are not always impenetrable. Cyber security is growing more refined as technology advances, but unfortunately, the methods used by cyber criminals are also advancing as well.

It is our reliance on digital networks, systems and global connectivity that makes cyber security so important, particularly to businesses who are trusted with keeping their customer’s data safe. The consequences of an IT security breach can be devastating to both large and small organisations, with damage potentially being done to your reputation and economic status, as well as having to pay fines under data breach laws.

A growing awareness of the dangers of cyber attacks has been brought about with the introduction of things like GDPR, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and business compliance legislation. These changes have all highlighted the need for both individuals and businesses to increase the security of their online systems and learn more about cyber security so they can stay up to date with the latest news and security solutions.

Types of Cyber Attacks

Breaches of your cyber security can happen in a variety of different ways, which emphasises the importance of having a comprehensive set of measures in place to prevent any access and damage to your systems and data. It can be useful to know the different ways in which cyber criminals target businesses, particularly as their techniques continue to grow more advanced.

The most common types of cyber attack are:

  • Malware: Software such as viruses and spyware that usually enters a network by gaining access through an email link disguised as something else. Once inside a system, malware is used to harvest data or spread more damaging software through an online system, which can be very hard to totally remove.
  • Social Engineering: One of the most common methods of getting illegal access to a business network, done by manipulating people into providing access. This could be as simple as a criminal pretending to be someone else to get information or could involve blackmail and bribing.
  • SQL Injection: A structured language query injection is a piece of damaging code that is inserted into an online system and then used to control or remove data.
  • Phishing: One of the most frequent forms of personal cyber attack, phishing uses fake forms of communication (usually emails) to pretend to be a reputable company and gains access to personal information once a link in the email is clicked on.
  • Man-in-the-Middle Attack: When cyber criminals intervene in an online transaction by accessing an unsecured wifi source for example. This involvement can often allow them access to everything on an individual device, including important personal data.

Cyber Security Basics

The best way to ensure a thorough cyber security approach is to tackle the problem with multiple layers of defence so that there are no cracks that cyber criminals can slip through. On a business level, this involves training all employees in cyber awareness as well as implementing multiple levels of network security and having emergency procedures in place.

Staff Training

Cyber attacks can happen at any level of a business, and employees are often targeted by criminals as they are expected to know less about cyber security. The best way you can prevent this is by making sure that every member of staff has received cyber awareness training so that they know how to recognise scams, phishing emails, malware and other attempts to infiltrate a business’ system.

Criminals may also try to directly contact and bribe or blackmail employees in order to gain access to company information. The training you provide should include information on what procedures to follow if this does happen, so staff know what to do if this situation arises. 

Comply with Legislation

There are several pieces of government legislation that have been recently brought in to help tackle the global problem of cyber crime. One of the best known is the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which outlines how business must store and handle personal information and has brought in rules about appointing a data protection officer and reporting cyber breaches immediately.

More information about relevant legislation can be found on the National Cyber Security Centre website

Cyber Security Policy

Having a clear cyber security policy is essential in following government guidance and ensuring every member of staff is aware of what measures need to be taken to protect themselves and the business. This policy must include details of every control put in place to prevent a security breach, information on how data will be backed up, and the procedures put in place for updating software and systems safely. 

Cyber security policies will differ between organisations, as some businesses will be more at risk than others because of the nature of their work. However, all policies should also include details of who is in charge of circulating and updating the policy, what training procedures will be used, and how the business will respond if they are the victim of a cyber attack. 

Identify Potential Breach Points

Assessing the risk of a cyber attack before you are affected by any criminal activity is a good way to prioritise where control measures are most needed. By mapping all the software, equipment and data that your business deals with, you can also identify everyone who comes into contact with important information and target your cyber security training to specific roles and departments.

This step will also be very helpful when it comes to creating a company cyber security policy, as you will already know where more effort is needed and what measures are already in place.

Protect Your Data

There are many different approaches to cyber security and data protection, and if you are in charge of a business’ cyber security then you should take time to research all the possible options to control and protect your organisation and customer data, to create a unique and effective plan. This may include installing security software, using encryption, implementing two-factor authorisation, frequently changing passwords, backing up data and ensuring that old data is entirely destroyed or disposed of.

Breach Detection Systems

In order to catch any cyber attacks before they can cause serious damage, you should have procedures in place to monitor all systems, networks and devices and detect any suspicious behaviour. This could be evidence of unauthorised access or it could be signs of unusual staff activity, but anything out of the ordinary should be promptly investigated to minimise risk.

Data Breach Plan

An essential part of cyber security and compliance is having emergency procedures in place if your business does fall victim to a cyber attack. This plan should cover everything from disconnecting devices that have been breached and stopping the spread of computer viruses, right up to identifying who needs to report the breach and how any customers are going to be notified.

Your data breach plan should also include steps for recovering after a cyber attack, such as repairing systems and retrieving data.

Vendor Security

As a business, it is not only your responsibility to make your own systems and data secure. You also need to check that any vendors and third-party systems that you work with are following cyber safety guidance, as your data and your customer data could be at risk if these suppliers are breached. 

Before working with any vendors, ask to see their cyber security policy and check that there are no obvious gaps in their controls or indication of a lack of compliance. As well as changing your policy and procedures as the landscape of cyber security changes, you need to also check that all your vendors are also staying up-to-date.


Why do we need cyber security?

Cyber security is vital in protecting digital information and systems from being attacked or tampered with, which can have serious consequences on large groups of people. We need cyber security now more than ever because as technology advances, methods of hacking into online systems and obtaining information are advancing as well, increasing the risk of a cyber attack.

What is a cyber security incident?

The National Cyber Security Centre defines a cyber incident as a breach of an online system’s security policy that affects its integrity or availability. A cyber security incident could also include unauthorised access or attempted access to online systems as outlined in the Computer Misuse Act (1990).

What is cyber security technology?

Cyber security technology is electrical equipment, software or online systems that are used to protect digital information from unauthorised access or attacks. This can take the form of a simple tool such as password protection and two-factor authorisation, all the way to complex encryption of personal information online.


More and more large businesses and corporations have fallen victim to cyber crime in the last few years, proving that nobody is immune to the damage that hackers and cyber criminals can cause. With no indication that our society will be moving away from a reliance on technology anytime soon, the continued threat of cyber attacks means that the cyber security industry will only continue to grow over the coming years.

The best thing that you can do to protect yourself or your business from cyber crime is to keep up-to-date on all the latest developments in cyber security and any regulations that are put in place to protect companies and their customers. Completing cyber security and compliance training is an excellent way to ensure you are meeting current regulations and doing everything you can to keep your business’ data safe.

Virtual College has a wide range of different business compliance and cyber security courses available online, including a beginner’s ‘Cyber Security Awareness’ course and a ‘Cyber Security for Leaders and Managers’ training package.