a blog from CenturyLink

Cybersecurity 101: What it is and why it matters


What is cybersecurity? It plays an essential role in keeping our digital spaces safe. According to the Department of Homeland Security, it’s the “art of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information”. That’s a pretty dense definition, so in this article, we’re explaining Cybersecurity 101, including how and why you must secure your data, devices, and network.

A person connects to the VPN on their laptop, which can help keep their data encrypted.

The infrastructure of the digital world

Did you know that the digital world has infrastructure, just like the physical world? Our online spaces may not have bridges or roads, but they do have networks, devices, and data. Like infrastructure in the physical world, they help us connect to one another. They also need maintenance to keep it safe.

Devices and networks are made up of hardware and software, and they transmit data. Depending on how and who constructed the network or device, that data may be vulnerable to attack. That’s because even though reputable companies test their devices, software/hardware, and networks regularly, there’s always some risk of cyberattack.

Being aware of the risks

It is often up to us, as consumers and employees, to be aware of the inherent risks of using computers and networks. We must take steps to protect our personal information, devices and networks. Basically, “If you connect it, protect it.”

So what areas are you at risk in? Let’s explore three main areas you need to focus on to keep yourself, your family and your company safe from cybercrime.

A stack of papers that say "personal records".

Cybersecurity 101: Data, devices, and networks

 Your data

Your data is your personal information. It’s the stuff you use to sign up for accounts on social media or an email service provider. It includes sensitive information, like your date of birth or social security number. But it can also include your phone number, gender, or even your location.

Data and information is usually what hackers and cybercriminals are after. Data allows criminals to gain access to accounts, shop online, transfer money out of your account, or even steal your identity. It’s the reason why data breaches happen regularly and pharming sites exist.


Your devices

Your devices, including laptops, smartphones, and tablets, contain your data. Some devices have better built-in security than others. Smartphones, for example, are often fairly secure devices compared to personal computers. But all devices should be protected from cybersecurity threats.

Many devices also have applications. Applications on your phone, tablet, or computer use software to run. Though application developers put in a lot of work to make sure their tool is safe to use, applications still have vulnerabilities. Take, for example, the video application Zoom, which came under fire last year. Due to a flaw in the software, hackers were able to steal passwords on Windows devices.

A person connects to a secure WiFi network on their smart phone.

Your networks

Networks are everywhere. Your smartphone uses a cellular network. Some networks link computers all over the world. As you read this article now, you’re probably connected to an internet network. Your devices connect to networks to transmit data.

Unsecured WiFi networks are vulnerable attack, and so is any data that is transferred by that network. For example, unsecured WiFi networks may be susceptible to a man-in-the-middle attack. In a man-in-the-middle attack, a hacker intercepts data sent between two devices over a network.

How to protect your data, devices, and networks

Now that you know that hackers target data, devices, and networks, let’s go over the next part of Cybersecurity 101 or how to protect those targets. Follow the tips you absolutely must know for cybersecurity:

  • Audit the accounts you have (wherever you have a username and password). Delete any that you no longer use.
  • Review the privacy settings on your social media accounts. Some hackers will scrape your personal details, like your job title, to send you targeted spear phishing emails.
  • Because passwords are often leaked in data breaches, use a unique password for every account. It’s also a good idea to use multi-factor authentication.
  • Don’t give out your date of birth or social security number unless it’s absolutely
  • Use a VPN to encrypt your data. Encryption helps protect your data by using a hash, or what is essentially a code, to scramble your information. If it falls into the wrong hands, the attacker has to decrypt it, which may be nearly
  • Secure your home WiFi to prevent piggybacking or a hijack of your network.
  • To keep your devices safe, keep an eye out for social engineering attacks. Social engineering includes tactics like tech support scams or romance scams.
  • When a new update becomes available for any operating system, app, browser, plug-in, or other software you use, be sure to install it as soon as possible.
  • Only download programs and apps that have good reviews and a consistent track record of software updates.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware software, like CenturyLink Security by McAfee.

Last words on cybersecurity 101

As we go forward into a world run on the internet and our networks, it’s time to take cybersecurity seriously. By taking steps to secure your data, protect your devices, and manage control of you network, you can help keep your digital spaces safe. For more on cybersecurity, check out our top articles:

CenturyLink will never call a customer or email a customer asking for financial information, account login information, password, or social security number. CenturyLink will never ask you to download software or ask you to pay your bill via wire transfer or by online gift cards. If you suspect you may be the victim of a scam, hang up and call back official CenturyLink representatives to verify the call.

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<a href="https://discover.centurylink.com/author/kirstenqueen" target="_self">Kirsten Queen</a>

Kirsten Queen


Kirsten Queen is the Senior Content Marketing Manager for CenturyLink and Quantum Fiber. Since she started writing professionally, Kirsten has dabbled in nonprofit grant writing and communications, social media marketing, and now writes content about life with technology. In her free time, Kirsten likes to cook, garden, and hike in the mountains of Colorado. Her name rhymes with first, not cheer.