4 Essential Cyber Security Tools and Techniques

If you're considering a career in cyber security, it’s important to start by understanding key topics and terminology. Read on to learn about four essential cyber security tools and techniques that can help you build your knowledge and skills as you prepare to fight cybercrime. We'll explain the uses for these tools and what they do as we cover the following topics:

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Firewalls

If you've spent any time around IT professionals or even just watched a sci-fi film, you've probably heard about a firewall. Firewalls are a security system within a network that monitors the flow of both incoming and outgoing data. While looking at the data moving along its borders, it uses 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.

Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software is used by most computer users, whether or not they have any experience using cyber security tools. It's generally advised that everyone keep some type of anti-virus software on their computer to prevent these dangerous types of software from infecting your device.

Today, the most powerful anti-virus software is known as next-gen software. This software type has been in use since 2014 and is marked by a shift towards signature-less detection. In many cases, this kind of anti-virus software integrates tools such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, behavioral detection and cloud-based file detonation.

Cyber security professionals need to have a strong grasp of the latest developments in the world of anti-virus software in order to keep their companies safe. Because viruses are constantly evolving, it's essential to keep your anti-virus software up-to-date and to upgrade to newer types of security when necessary.

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.

Learn to Use These Cyber Security Tools and Techniques

If you want to learn how to use these cyber security tools and techniques, we can help. Our Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security Specialization can teach you the basics of programming and cyber security to help you better understand how to keep systems secure.