What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity, also known as digital security, is the practice of protecting your digital information, devices, and assets. That includes your personal information, accounts, files, photos, and even your money.

CIA

The acronym "CIA" - no, not the Central Intelligence Agency - is often used to represent the three pillars of cybersecurity.

Confidentiality - Keeping your secrets, and ensuring that only authorized people can access your files and accounts.

Integrity - Making sure that your information is what it's supposed to be and that nobody has inserted, modified, or deleted things without your permission. Such as maliciously changing a number in a spreadsheet, for example.

Access - Ensuring that you can access your information and systems when you need to. An example of an access issue would be a denial of service attack, where attackers flood your system with network traffic to make accessing it nearly impossible; or ransomware that encrypts your system and prevents you from using it.

Security is a process, not a product

Though security apps and devices, like antimalware software and firewalls, are essential, it's not enough to just plug those tools in and call it good. Digital security requires that a set of thoughtful processes and practices be put in place as well. Those include:

  • Data backups - Important data should be stored in a secure location, and you should be able to restore a good, tested, copy of that data in the event something bad happens to the file.

  • Good cyber habits - Don't open unexpected links or attachments that you might receive in email or text, even if they appear to come from a trusted sender.

  • Keep your software up to date - Operating systems like Windows, MacOS, or Android, as well as apps and browsers should be kept up to date with the latest patches and fixes from the manufacturer.

  • Use strong, unique, passwords - Good passwords should be at least 12 characters long, should not be English words, and should not be reused across multiple accounts.

  • Use Multi-Factor Authentication - Whenever possible, both at home and at work, enable multi-factor authentication to keep your accounts more secure.

  • Lock your devices - Make sure that your devices require a password, PIN, or biometric authentication like a fingerprint or facial recognition in order to sign into them. Lost or stolen devices can be a goldmine for criminals if they can easily access the data from an unlocked device.

Cybersecurity is a team sport

If you see something suspicious, or suspect you may have been hacked, reach out to a trusted advisor. If this is at work or school, report it to your organization's IT department as soon as possible. It's possible that it's a false alarm, but your IT administrator would much rather be relieved to discover that it's just a false alarm, than be alarmed to discover that something bad has happened and nobody reported it.

And don't be shy about sharing good security practices, tips, or resources with friends or family that you think may benefit. If you found them helpful, chances are that others will too.

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