What Is Computer Security?

Computers and the internet have transformed almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Computers are vital to most modern businesses — but risk comes with that indispensability. Protecting business data is an important consideration for any organization, making computer safety a priority. Sensitive information is often valuable, making computer systems targets to thieves and hackers.

But what is computer security? Computer security refers to measures and controls that ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information processed and stored by a computer. This includes everything from protecting physical information assets, to data security and computer safety practices. Computer security ensures that a business’s data and computer systems are safe from breaches and unauthorized access.

Learning about computer security can help you build new skills to apply in your current role, or help you start on an entirely new career path. Computer security skills are incredibly valuable and will likely continue to be as computers continue to power the modern marketplace.

In this guide, we’ll discuss:

Basic Computer Security

Generally, basic computer security focuses on protecting computer systems from unauthorized access and use. For your own personal computer security, this can include steps like installing antivirus software, using a password generator and protecting the data you share online.

Computer security experts work to instantiate computer security (i.e., cybersecurity) best practices within organizations. This involves managing computer and network security and creating a security-focused culture within their organization. At its core, computer security functions as well as an organization’s people follow security protocols — many cases of unauthorized access and security breaches happen due to an employee clicking on a phishing email or disregarding security policies.

Computer security experts must also establish computer ethics best practices within their organization. Specifically, computer ethics refers to the ethical implementation and use of computing resources, according to Technopedia. This includes avoiding infringement of copyrights and trademarks, unauthorized distribution of digital content and the behavior and approach of a human operator, workplace ethics and compliance with the ethical standards that surround computer use.

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Types of Computer Security

There are several different types of computer security that impact various elements of an organization’s physical and digital infrastructure. As a result, there are many different types of security that professionals must focus on, including

Application security is the process of adding specific features to software that prevents a variety of cyber threats. Examples include two-step authentication, high-level encryption, logging, firewalls, intrusion prevention systems (IPS) and more.

Information security revolves around protecting company data assets from unauthorized use. Typically, information security involves the CIA triad model, which focuses on protecting data confidentiality, integrity and availability without impacting an organization’s productivity.

This type of computer security focuses on procedures network administrators implement to avoid unauthorized access, modification, exploitation or denial of the networks and their resources. Conducted effectively, these procedures block the majority of viruses, malware and other cyber threats from accessing or altering secure information.

Endpoint security is the practice of safeguarding individual network endpoints — individual devices that connect to an organization’s network. This practice has become more important in recent years as many people use personal computers, phones and other devices to access company information and networks while working from home. Ensuring that these devices can access needed information without compromising an organization’s security posture is a major concern in modern computer security.

Each of these types of computer security involve multiple components and can be considered their own specialized fields. For example, network security involves the physical components of a network (e.g., routers, servers, other network infrastructure) and the software components that protect an organization’s network infrastructure (e.g., firewalls, security policy). This involves a great deal of both broad-based and detailed knowledge, making each type of security a specialization of its own.

Computer security specialists, sometimes called cybersecurity specialists, must be up-to-date on a wide range of computer security topics in order to protect their organizations from the ongoing cyber threats they face every day. Read on to learn the answer to the question Why is computer security so important?

Why Is Computer Security Important?

Cybercrime is incredibly common — according to the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), 1 in 3 homes in the United States has a computer infected with malware and 600,000 Facebook accounts are hacked every single day. Many of these breaches could have been avoided with proper security practices.

Computer security protects individuals and organizations against cyber threats and the loss of important data. Becoming the target of a cybercriminal can be incredibly damaging and disruptive to daily activities, whether personal or professional. So, why is computer security so important? Because understanding the basics of computer security can help you avoid headaches and keep your data safe from others. Having your identity stolen or your accounts compromised can involve hours lost with account recovery — as well as significant financial losses.

Computer security is also an important component of computer infrastructure in an enterprise setting. Cybersecurity specialists are becoming increasingly important for organizations across the globe to protect their business infrastructure from outside threats. Becoming an expert in computer security can lead to a lucrative, exciting career.

Most personal and enterprise computer systems are enticing targets for hackers. Data theft involves accessing secured, private data assets for the purpose of stealing the data itself or gaining ongoing access to databases for the purpose of corporate espionage.

Denial of Service (DoS) attacks aim to shut down a machine or network with a flood of traffic to make service unavailable for targeted users. Along the same line, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are another common cybersecurity threat in which multiple systems orchestrate an attack on a single target. These cyber threats are very common and can be used to take down servers or render services inaccessible.

Short for malicious software, malware is a class of computer software designed to disrupt a computer system in order to gain access to, take control over, steal or damage digital assets. This cyber threat includes computer viruses, worms, trojan horses, ransomware and many other malicious programs. These types of computer threats require ongoing vigilance on the part of computer security professionals to keep systems safe, and to adjust as new types of malware constitute new computer security threats.

No computer system is perfect, and many pieces of software contain backdoors (i.e., unintentional vulnerabilities that can give bad actors access to a system without going through normal security procedures). Backdoors can be added for legitimate reasons, or they can be the result of poor development or configuration practices — either way, they constitute a cybersecurity threat that must be addressed. Finding, detecting and preventing backdoor access can be difficult, so proper development and configuration practices are critical.

A graphic highlighting four computer security threats.

Computer security is often considered an “arms race,” in that computer security experts develop tools and procedures to combat the top cybersecurity threats in the field, while bad actors come up with new ways to exploit computer systems. Anyone interested in working in cybersecurity needs to stay up-to-date on the latest types of computer security threats and how to defend against them, making the field a great fit for anyone who loves a challenge.

Jobs in Computer Security

The demand for computer security professionals continues to grow, and jobs in computer security are available across a variety of industries. In addition, there are many subfields that someone interested in jobs in computer security can explore. Here, we’ll discuss some of the top jobs in computer security.

Information security analysts

Information security analysts focus on protecting an organization’s computer networks and systems. They’re in charge of implementing security procedures and policies, monitoring computer systems for breach attempts, maintaining security programs like antivirus systems and firewalls and reporting on breaches. These analysts often work closely with a company’s IT department to keep systems secure and recover information after a breach or other emergency.

Job prospects for information security analysts are incredibly strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for these professionals is expected to increase by 33 percent, annually, through 2030.

Computer systems analysts

Computer systems analysts focus on improving computer-related procedures and improving the efficiency of the systems themselves. Computer security is a major component of a computer system analyst’s role, as designing and improving system security is always a top concern. Computer systems analysts often work alongside cybersecurity professionals to develop security policies that impact the entirety of an organization’s network.

According to the BLS, the demand for computer systems analysts is projected to grow by 7 percent, annually, through 2030, which is on par with the average for all occupations in the United States.

Computer network architects

Computer network architects are responsible for designing, building and maintaining computer communication networks for businesses. These networks can range from small systems connecting a company’s infrastructure to massive cloud deployments meant for global enterprises.

While computer network architects focus primarily on deploying network infrastructure, computer and network security are at the forefront of everything they do. Building secure networks ensures that businesses can continue operating safely for years to come.

Job prospects for computer network architects are expected to grow at a rate of 5 percent annually through 2030, according to the BLS.

Protect Your Privacy Online

Many people have an image of hackers in their heads from movies and television shows — a hooded figure in a dark room typing away on a computer to hack into a vulnerable system. The reality is very different, with many hackers using personal information as a jumping-off point to steal a person’s identity or hack into their accounts or computers. Efforts to protect your privacy online are an important part of computer security in your personal and professional life.

Social engineering, the manipulation of human error to access information or systems that would otherwise be inaccessible, is one of the most common ways hackers gain access to personal information. Sharing things like your maiden name, address, where you grew up, your birthday or other personal information on social media can give hackers the information they need to reset passwords or get into personal accounts.

Taking steps to increase personal information security is critical to avoid the negative impacts of identity theft, social account hijacking and financial theft. Some ways you can protect your privacy online include

    • Sharing less personal information on social media
    • Using strong passwords
    • Avoiding password reuse between accounts
    • Using two-factor authentication when possible
    • Browsing with a virtual private network (VPN) to protect web traffic data
    • Removing unnecessary browser extensions and web applications
    • Reviewing privacy settings for online accounts and restricting unnecessary data

    Taking these steps can help protect your data online and prevent hackers from using your information against you. Learning how to protect your personal data can be a stepping stone to an interest in jobs in computer security, which apply the same types of principles on a corporate scale.

    Learn More About Computer Security

    Computer security is a dynamic field that offers competitive compensation and positive job growth in the coming years. There are many ways to learn about computer security, from traditional degree programs to self-guided learning and boot camps. Boot camps can be a great fit for learners with limited financial resources, those seeking real-world training in a short period of time and self-guided learners who want to take the next step in their career journey.

    Berkeley Cybersecurity Boot Camp helps students learn in-demand skills they can then practice in real-world group projects which populate their professional portfolios. Learners gain hands-on experience in networking systems, web technologies, databases, cybersecurity best practices and more. Whether students hope to apply their new skills in their current career or transition to a new one, Berkeley Cybersecurity Boot Camp can fuel career growth and change career trajectories for the better. Enroll today to begin your computer security journey!

    What Is Computer Security FAQs

    Cybersecurity is a term we commonly hear, but many people still wonder, “What is cybersecurity?”Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting mobile devices, computer systems and networks against cybercriminal attacks. It involves protecting the validity, integrity and confidentiality of organizational information, resources and other assets while managing hardware security protocols as well.

    Cybersecurity refers to the protection of hardware, software and data from unauthorized access. But, what is cybersecurity all about in terms of day-to-day activities? Cybersecurity professionals focus on protecting the network and physical infrastructure of a business, organization or governmental agency. They are constantly monitoring for cyber events and infiltration attempts, while making sure their organization is up-to-date on the most recent types of malware and how to defeat them.

    Computer security software helps protect systems from cyber threats. However, the best computer security software depends on your situation. Personal computer security like Norton, McAfee or Bitdefender is a good start, but it must be combined with user vigilance regarding sharing personal information online, password best practices and personal education regarding common social engineering attacks such as phishing or smishing.

    Many of us have heard of computer viruses and even seen movies showing their impacts. But, specifically, what does a computer virus do? Computer viruses are malware programs designed to interfere with a computer’s functions, delete files or steal information. Computer viruses spread through the internet or by plugging infected storage devices into a system. Securing against and removing computer viruses is an important part of many cybersecurity and IT-related positions.

    Summary

    Computer security is an important consideration for individuals and organizations alike. Understanding computer security can help keep your information safe both online and on your personal computer.

    For those with a more advanced understanding and interest, computer security can turn into a lucrative career. If you’re interested in computer security and want to learn more, Berkeley Cybersecurity Boot Camp can teach you the in-demand skills you need to succeed in a variety of jobs in computer security. Take the next step to begin your future career today!

    Reserve your spot in an
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    It only takes a minute to request information and receive a full curriculum overview. You will also be put in touch with an admissions representative who can answer questions and get your application started.

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