In 2022, market and consumer data firm Statista reported that cyberattacks would cost individuals and companies $8.4 trillion globally that year. By 2027, it projected, the cost would rise to $23.8 trillion. Cyberattacks occur when individuals gain unauthorized access to digital systems and information for malicious purposes. Their enormous cost to people and organizations makes it critical to protect systems, software and data against those attacks.
The term “cybersecurity” refers to efforts to protect corporate or personal electronic equipment against these costly attacks. Understanding the vulnerabilities that can allow unauthorized and damaging access to digital systems is a key component in cybersecurity research. An advanced degree in information security management can help professionals learn how cybersecurity risks are evolving, what cybersecurity risks to look for in their own organizations and how to address them.
Cybersecurity research focuses on reviewing digital tools and processes to reveal potential vulnerabilities. Research on cybersecurity topics ranging from the Internet of Things (IoT) to work-from-home (WFH) information security can help people and companies stave off data breaches in those key areas.
Cybersecurity professionals can rely on computer science research tactics such as testing web browsers and online applications to uncover areas that a hacker could exploit to gain unauthorized data access. They can also turn to empirical research that examines issues related to cybersecurity from various angles, from criminal science to international relations, and that offers approaches to address those concerns.
In fact, conducting research about potential security threats and information technology (IT) trends is a key responsibility of cybersecurity professionals, such as information security analysts.
The value of cybersecurity research is growing due to the proliferation of connected devices that allow cybercriminals to access digital information — and as the costs associated with successful cyberattacks increase.
The origin of cyberattacks can be computers and the systems that run them, but it can also be any of hundreds of everyday devices that use technology to collect and share data. From smartphones to medical equipment, the tools that cyberattackers can compromise generate or store a staggering amount of data.
Statista reports that the amount of data created, copied, downloaded and read globally in 2010 was 2 zettabytes. By 2025, Statista predicts, the capacity of the data in use around the world will reach 181 zettabytes.
The growth in the use of data is occurring alongside a host of issues, from COVID-19-related disruptions to geopolitical events, that can make the technology that shares and stores it more vulnerable to attack. Conducting research on cybersecurity topics can assist IT professionals in protecting these large amounts of data during challenging times by helping them:
Today’s most pressing research topics in cybersecurity go beyond password protection and firewalls. A global pandemic, geopolitical events and technological advances are also behind some key topics that are now driving cybersecurity research. Below are five of those top cybersecurity research topics.
Artificial intelligence (AI), in which machines complete tasks that traditionally had required humans to perform, today is helping computing professionals observe and analyze activity related to large amounts of digital data. The efficiency of using AI for cybersecurity can lead to significant savings as organizations respond to data compromises. The shortened response time led companies to an average of $3 million in savings in those situations, according to a 2022 report from IBM.
One key research topic for cybersecurity professionals is how best to use AI to find potential vulnerabilities and remove them — before cyberattackers use that same technology to find those security risks and exploit them.
However, AI in the wrong hands can also present a cybersecurity risk. AI can also be a tool for misusing data, with cybercriminals relying on this technology to create inauthentic emails and phone messages to trick users into providing personal data. The increasing reliance on AI makes this issue even more important for cybersecurity researchers, with Statista projecting in 2022 that the AI software market would reach $126 billion around the world by 2025.
Digital supply chain systems monitor and evaluate the functions of each party in the chain, to help them produce and distribute products more efficiently. Hackers can exploit the technology used in this process, making cyberattacks an additional threat to supply chains already experiencing disruptions related to the pandemic.
For example, technology research firm Gartner, predicted in 2022 that by 2025, a total of 45 percent of companies would suffer digital attacks on their supply chains. This percentage is three times higher than the percentage from 2021. A 2022 report from cybersecurity company Venafi found that 82 percent of chief information officers feared that their organizations’ supply chains were vulnerable to this type of attack.
Cybersecurity professionals today are investigating potential digital security risks in supply chains, while corporate leaders are seeking out suppliers that focus on researching — and correcting — these vulnerabilities.
The IoT refers to the ability to connect almost any device with the internet and with other connected tools. From kitchen appliances to wearable fitness gadgets, numerous products and tools are part of the IoT. Statista reported in 2022 that more than 11 million devices were digitally connected in 2021. The firm also projected that more than 29 billion devices would be IoT connected by 2030.
The many devices that rely on the IoT measure and process vast amounts of data, and the networks and cloud systems that hold and share that data present a host of security risks. A key area of cybersecurity research has been tracking these vulnerabilities. Manufacturers, consumers and governments have begun using the knowledge gathered by cybersecurity researchers to establish practices and policies that safeguard against the risks these researchers are finding.
Cyberattacks from government actors seeking state secrets are nothing new, but a growing trend is for hackers seeking this unauthorized access to target organizations and individuals with no government affiliation. The ultimate goal can be intelligence, technology theft, supply chain disruption or even influencing internal politics through disinformation.
A 2022 Forbes article noted that in 2023, more than 70 nations were set to conduct elections, and the digital activities related to these events, including reports about them, are a frequent target of hostile government actors. Additionally, countries involved in armed conflicts increasingly rely on cyberattacks to gain advantage over enemy governments, even when it involves interfering with the work of private companies and citizens.
These trends have made it critical for cybersecurity researchers to learn more about potential vulnerabilities in government networks, attacks on private companies that can impact critical infrastructure, and the security of elections.
Fueled by pandemic restrictions, the number of WFH employees exploded in recent years. The number of remote workers will reach more than 36 million in the U.S. by 2025, according to 2020 projections from freelancing platform Upwork.
The many employees based at off-site locations have made managing data security difficult for companies, whose workers may use unprotected devices to access and transmit business information. That leaves the employees vulnerable to attacks that target sensitive data or threaten malicious activity unless the company meets the hackers’ demands.
Adding to the security risk is the proliferation of work and other activity that requires the use of the internet and internet-based tools like videoconferencing. A 2021 Pew Research Center survey showed that 40 percent of Americans had relied on these types of tools and processes in new ways since the pandemic began in early 2020. Cybersecurity professionals are studying how best to protect employees — and the corporate data they use in their work — from cyberattackers.
Cybersecurity research can shed light on issues with data protection — and the tools and processes that provide it. If you’re ready to help guide your organization’s response to cybersecurity issues, explore Augusta University Online’s Master of Science (MS) in Information Security Management program.
Through online courses focused on Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification elements, students can gain the knowledge to help their employers navigate today’s cybersecurity challenges. Explore how AU Online’s MS in Information Security Management can help you reach your career goals.
Built In, “What Is Artificial Intelligence?”
Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Cyber Threats and Advisories
Forbes, “The Top Five Cybersecurity Trends in 2023”
Gartner, “7 Top Trends in Cybersecurity for 2022”
IBM, “Cost of Data Breach 2022: A Million Dollar Race to Detect and Respond”
IBM, What Is Cybersecurity?
Journal of Cybersecurity, About the Journal
Microsoft, What Is a Cyberattack?
Network World, “What Is IoT? The Internet of Things Explained”
Oracle, “Digital Supply Chain Explained”
Pew Research Center, “The Internet and the Pandemic”
Statista, Estimated Cost of Cybercrime Worldwide From 2016 to 2027
Statista, Number of Internet of Things (IoT)-Connected Devices Worldwide From 2019 to 2021, With Forecasts From 2022 to 2030
Statista, Revenues From the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Software Market Worldwide From 2018 to 2025
Statista, Volume of Data/Information Created, Captured, Copied, and Consumed Worldwide From 2010 to 2020, With Forecasts From 2021 to 2025
TechRadar Pro, “Why Cybersecurity Research Is Now More Important Than Ever”
The Conversation, “5 Ways the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Forever Changed Cybersecurity”
Upwork, Upwork Study Finds 22% of American Workforce Will Be Remote by 2025
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts
Venafi, “Study: 82% of CIOs Say Their Software Supply Chains Are Vulnerable”
Vivaldi, “An Insight Into Security Research and Ethical Hacking”
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