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4 Essential Cyber Security Tools and Techniques

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If you’re considering a career in cyber security, then you’ll need to have a good understanding of the terminology of the industry as well as many of the cyber security tools and techniques that are used to fight cybercrime, including:


DeVry University’s Cyber Security curriculum is acknowledged and verified as an approved provider by NICCS.


If you've spent any time around IT professionals or even just watched a sci-fi film, you've probably heard about a cyber security tool called a firewall. Firewalls are a security system within a network that monitors the flow of both incoming and outgoing data. They evaluate the data moving along their borders and use a set of predetermined rules to decide what data can pass through the barrier and what data cannot.

There are a variety of different firewall types, but the three most common are:

  • Packet filter

    This is the original and most basic type of firewall that cyber security experts deploy. It inspects packets transferred between computers and permits or denies access based on an access control list. This list tells the firewall what packets need to be investigated and what information should result in a file rejection or deletion. These firewalls are older and cannot fully secure a network on their own, but they are still useful for filtering out low effort cyberattacks.

  • Connection tracking

    Connection tracking firewalls, also known as second generation firewalls, perform work in a way that is similar to first generation packet filters. They perform a similar type of packet inspection, but also record the port number each IP address is using to send and receive information. This allows the exchange of data to be examined in addition to the packet content.

  • Application/layer 7

    Application firewalls are significantly more powerful than connection tracking or packet filter firewalls. They are capable of understanding various applications such as file transfer protocol (FTP), hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP) and domain name system (DNS). This enables them to recognize non-standard ports or unwanted applications. These are also useful on the internet thanks to their ability to perform web filtering.

Anti-Malware Software

Anti-malware is a type of software-based cyber security tool that prevents malware (malicious software) from infecting a computer and removes existing malware from devices and systems. There are three common types of anti-malware software, each with its own method for identifying and removing malware:

  • Behavior-based detection

    This is a powerful type of software that implements technology like machine learning algorithms to identify malware through an active approach. Instead of examining how the malware looks, it focuses on how it behaves in order to stamp it out more quickly.

  • Sandboxing

    Sandboxing is a feature that places dangerous software in an isolated location. It can filter files out before they can cause damage to the system at large. Once isolated, the anti-malware can delete the dangerous software.

  • Signature-based detection

    Signature-based detection is most useful for eliminating common malware such as adware and keyloggers. It uses signature detection to identify common malware and delete it. Once it has eliminated a piece of malware, it will remove all types of malware with that same signature automatically.

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Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a cyber security technique that simulates a cyberattack on a system. This may also be known as a pen test or ethical hacking. The test is designed to identify weaknesses within a system and determine the likelihood of a breach. It also helps cyber security experts determine which parts of the system are strongest and do not currently require improvement.

To perform a penetration test, the ethical hacker will typically go through six different phases:

  1. Reconnaissance

    The cyber security professional gathers data on the system in order to better attack it. These tests are usually performed by someone who is not intimately familiar with the system in order to better simulate a realistic breach scenario.

  2. Scanning

    The attacker deploys tools that scan the network and open ports, further increasing the amount they know about the network.

  3. Access gain

    The hacker uses the data gathered from the previous two phases to break into the network. This could be performed manually or with software.

  4. Access maintenance

    Once they have broken into the network, the penetration tester needs to try and maintain their presence within the network to steal as much data as possible.

  5. Evidence removal

    After gathering the data and making their escape, the tester covers their tracks to ensure that they cannot be implicated for the attack. This is done by removing evidence on what data was gathered and eliminating log events to maintain anonymity.

  6. Pivoting

    Pivoting involves breaking into other machines on the same network. This process repeats steps two through five to obtain additional data.

Once completed, the ethical hacker compiles a report on how they were able to break into the system. The network administrator or cyber security expert at the company who owns the network will then use this information to bolster the network's defenses.

Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software is a cyber security tool that many computer user are probably familiar with, whether they have cyber security skills or not.. It’s generally recommended that everyone install some sort of anti-virus software on their devices  to keep dangerous software from infecting them and your files.

Currently, the most powerful anti-virus software is called “next-gen software.” It has been in use since 2014 and is known by a shift toward signature-less detection. This type of anti-virus software may implement machine learning such as artificial intelligence, behavioral detection and cloud-based file detonation into its programming.

Cyber security professionals need to keep up to date on the latest developments in anti-virus software in order to keep the companies they work for safe. Because viruses are constantly evolving, it’s essential that companies are aware of the most effective, cutting-edge anti-virus technology and make upgrades to existing  software when it becomes available.

Does Cyber Security Use Hardware or Software?

Cyber security professionals actually use a combination of both hardware and software to build security. While a good portion of their work does include employing using cyber security tools like anti-virus software or firewalls, using the correct type of hardware to build networks and infrastructure is important too. Just as they make recommendations for new security software upgrades, a cyber security professional can recommend that a company upgrade its hardware if it’s incapable of supporting the software.

Learn Cyber Security Tools and Techniques at DeVry

If you’re interested in learning how to utilize  cyber security tools and techniques to combat cybercrime, then DeVry can help. Our Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security  is a great way to get started, or to upskill if you’re already working. Or if you’re looking to learn cyber security techniques in a full-length degree program, our Bachelor’s Degree Specialization in Cyber Security can a can help you discover the basics of programming and cyber security so you can better understand how to keep systems secure. Classes start every 8 weeks.