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What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting computer systems and networks from cyberattacks. It covers everything from password management to computer security tools driven by machine learning. Cybersecurity makes it possible to reliably trade, chat, and browse over the internet.

Cybersecurity works like a shell around users, protecting them from various online threats
The Huffington Post
Cybersecurity shields laptops, phones, smart appliances, and other devices from attacks

Why is cybersecurity important?

Cybersecurity is important because it keeps the services that the modern world is built upon functioning as they should. Most systems that manage services we take for granted have moved online, from financial organizations and medical care to electrical grids that power whole cities. Cybersecurity is the defensive wall that keeps these systems safe from cyberattacks.

Data leaks can give criminals sensitive information to blackmail users or break into their accounts

Without adequate IT security, your banking information, private messages, or online activities would be out in the open for anyone to see (this is where cybersecurity tools like a VPN can help). These aren’t hypothetical situations, either — the brief history of cybersecurity shows that hackers have infiltrated United States government systems, disrupted national power grids, and blackmailed billions of dollars out of people and companies through ransomware attacks.

Real data on real threats

Nord Security experts closely monitor cybercrime statistics and regularly publish professional cybersecurity research to raise public awareness.


Types of cybersecurity

Cybersecurity can be broadly divided into five types, although they aren’t set in stone — cybersecurity tools can easily belong to more than one category.

Critical infrastructure cybersecurity covers networks that are required for society to function

Critical infrastructure cybersecurity

Critical infrastructure cybersecurity guards key systems required to keep society functioning (such as power grids and hospitals) from cyber threats.

Network security products like NordVPN protect devices on a network from internal and external threats

Network security

Network security keeps intruders out of internal computer networks, such as your company’s servers.

Cyber security tools can shield home appliances, routers, and smart gadgets from cyberattacks

Internet of Things (IoT) security

IoT security protects the IT elements in physical objects, such as smart gadgets, security cameras, and Wi-Fi routers.

Devices linked to the cloud need to be protected from cyberattacks by cloud security tools

Cloud security

Cloud security protects the data stored in and the services provided through the cloud.

Applications on phones, PCs, and other devices must be protected from malware and other threats

Application security

App security keeps apps safe from outside threats, starting with secure development practices and ending with dedicated hardware solutions.

Types of cybersecurity threats

A cyberattack or cyber threat is any malicious act seeking to damage, steal, or secretly alter data. Here are the most common cyber threats.

Malware can cause crashes and steal data unless removed with specialized cybersecurity tools


Malware is any malicious software that takes advantage of the user. It can range from programs that flood your device with ads to keyloggers that record every stroke of your keyboard.

Ransomware locks up the data on a device, holding it hostage until the victim pays a ransom


During a cyberattack, ransomware infects a device encrypting all its data. If the attack victim wants to access the data on their device again, they have to pay a ransom.

Social engineering experts manipulate their victims like puppets to obtain what they want

Social engineering

Social engineering is a set of techniques that manipulate the victim into doing something that the hacker wants. It’s an umbrella term that includes phishing, vishing, catfishing, pretexting, and more.

VPN servers hide your IP, shielding your devices from distributed denial of service attack

Distributed denial of service

In DDoS attacks, a network of infected computers overwhelms their target with enormous amounts of traffic. It can slow websites to the point where it’s impossible to use or take them down for some time.

Hackers can try to insert themselves in their victims’ communications to steal information

Man-in-the-middle attacks

In MITM attacks, the criminals intercept user’s device communications to observe, manipulate, and steal the victim’s data traffic.

Criminals can tricks websites on the world wide web to reveal visitors’ sensitive information_alt

SQL injection

Hackers work malicious code lines into database management systems to trick websites into revealing all sensitive information they contain.

Hackers can peek at what users are doing by inserting malicious scripts into websites

Cross-site scripting

Criminals insert a malicious script into a regular website. The software can then record your sensitive information like what you type into login fields when accessing your online bank account.

Criminals run specialized software to try common words and popular phrases to guess your password

Dictionary attack

In a dictionary attack, a hacker uses a predefined list of words and phrases to guess your password. Most attacks utilize password-cracking software that can take millions of guesses from a list of most common passwords.

Criminals can take information obtained through other methods to crack open a victim’s account

Credential stuffing

Hackers use login information obtained through social engineering or from leaked databases to crack every account you have. For example, if a criminal gets their hands on your email password, they’ll try to access your other accounts using the same credentials.

Check out our glossary for more cybersecurity terms

Find definitions, examples, and prevention methods for all things cybersecurity.

Cyber threat actors

A cyber threat actor (also known simply as a “threat actor”) is a person or group that carries out or aids cyberattacks on devices, systems, and networks. Here are the five most common cyber threat actors today.

Cyberattacks let criminals steal your sensitive information from the comfort of their own couch


Hackers working outside of the law, usually for profit or revenge. Cybercriminals are the most common threat actor in the digital world, with most cybersecurity measures designed to prevent unauthorized access to your system or sensitive data.

Some hackers carry out cyberattacks to advance political, social, or environmental causes


People who are already embedded in an organization, such as company employees. Insiders have access to the organization’s internal networks and possess information (or other resources) that outsiders do not.

Insiders abuse their access privileges to sneakily steal confidential data from their employers

Nation-state actors

Nation-state actors are hackers backed (or at least permitted) by the state to engage in cyberattacks against geopolitical entities, usually to steal military secrets, sabotage infrastructure, or spread disinformation.

Cyberattacks can target cities or infrastructure objects to spread terror and discredit governments


Hacktivists target governments, corporations, or individuals to promote social and political agendas. A hacktivist may attempt to leak damaging confidential information to the public or disrupt the target’s activities with DDoS attacks, for example.

Governments hire hackers or turn a blind a blind eye to cybercriminals as part of hybrid warfare

Terrorist organizations

Hackers may be affiliated with known terrorist organizations. Their cyberattacks typically target the infrastructure, credibility, or population of particular nations (such as the United States) or are used to aid terrorist attacks in the real world.

Nord Security’s role in cybersecurity

Nord Security is active in educating internet users about the benefits of cybersecurity and good online habits. Our products (like NordVPN) help you protect yourself against many common online threats.



NordVPN improves your privacy and security on all of your devices. It encrypts your data traffic with next-generation encryption so no one can eavesdrop on your online activities.



The NordPass password manager enables you to store and organize your logins securely. Create robust passwords and never worry about forgetting them again.



NordLocker’s file encryption tool lets you back up your your data on a private cloud so that no one can access your files without your permission.



NordLayer is an adaptive network access security solution for modern businesses — from the world’s most trusted cybersecurity brand, Nord Security.

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Frequently asked questions