Why a Degree in Cybersecurity Is So Valuable

This post is from guest author Daphne Stanford. Daphne is a DJ for Radio Boise. She writes poetry, nonfiction, and lyric essays. Other ways she enjoys spending her time include hiking, piano, singing at inappropriate times, and good conversation with friends & family. Follow her on Twitter.

Cybersecurity is a field that is dramatically understaffed, and the problem is growing by the minute. You should consider a career in cybersecurity because the number of job openings is nearly two to one, there is a variety of diverse industry opportunities, and future technology is only projected to need more experts in the internet of things (IoT), wearables, apps, smart homes, and user experience (UX). Moreover, if you happen to be a woman, you could help change that gloomy 11 percent industry statistic that just won’t go away.

Here are a few future trends in the cybersecurity industry, as well as reasons to get involved at the professional level.

  • Career Prospects in Cybersecurity

The first and most obvious reason why those interested in the tech industry should consider specializing in cybersecurity is the glaring industry shortages that only continue to increase. Specialized academic preparation like a BS in cyber and network security would be wise considering employment of information security analysts is projected to increase 18 percent by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To give you a better sense of the scope of the problem, the Palo Alto Research Center reports that, by 2019, the demand for cybersecurity professionals will increase to approximately 6 million globally.” And women, if you want to be a force contributing to the reversal of dismal gender statistics in the tech world, the positive correlation between more women in executive positions—as well as throughout the company—and better company performance and ROI has been demonstrated.

However, as with any industry, it’s not as simple as earning a few credentials and then scoring a sweet gig in Silicon Valley making 90K right away. As Keirsten Brager explains, you’ll need to network, join industry associations, get involved with open source projects, and share your knowledge via online portfolios that demonstrate concrete, real-world experience. Moreover, Brager writes, “Talent shortages are regional and product specific. You have to understand your local job market and skill up accordingly.”

  • Diverse Industry Needs & Global Security Risks

The data security risks across multiple industries and fields are well-documented and only increasing from year to year. Furthermore, many global business concerns stem from internal lapses in education on the best policies and procedures in risk assessment. Major data security risks include internal data protection and insecure fax machines or email servers. Solutions include employee training and development sessions, cloud faxing options, email encryption, and secure file exchange platforms. The creation of basic security policies and procedures, as well as better communication between IT, security, and other departments, would also help.

Let’s take one of the items on that list that is probably utilized more often than any other: email. According to Digital Trends, “Email was not designed with any privacy or security in mind.” That fact in and of itself should strike fear into the heart of most CIOs. However, it’s good to be aware of such weak points, since awareness is the first step toward increased security. As Cesar Cerrudo writes, there is “…[A] lack of knowledge and awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. Some companies don’t care … while others care but don’t know what to do or how to do it.” This lack of understanding and urgency, coupled with the speed of new technology acquisition, is only compounding the problem.

Moreover, in addition to cyber criminals and hackers, now there are potential hacktivists, cyber terrorists, and nation states to worry about. Cerrudo points out the need for businesses and cybersecurity professionals to work together on a global level to change the precariousness of the situation. One area of particular concern is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which explicitly protects electronic health records (EHRs) and medical data. More industries outside of tech and healthcare must get onboard the information security bandwagon, however, before it’s too late. This may mean an increase of internal training in risk assessment, specific cybersecurity applications and software, or a diversion from standard HR recruitment conventions that focus too heavily on ROI and industry experience and too little on employee training and advancement.

  • Current & Future Technology

Smart homes, wearable technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and IoT have made quite the proverbial splash in the tech world, as of late. They will only continue to do so in the cyber and information security sector, as well. According to Dan Tynan, AI may be the key to our impending cyber security crisis. Since machines can identify potential threats more easily than humans, they may become integral to the information security field—provided the data used to train them is solid, as well. That kind of stability requires—again—good communication between various players in IT departments, as well as increased awareness of the need for more uniform federal security regulations and built-in security measures in devices such as smart appliances and apps for wearable technology.

To return to Cerrudo’s points on the matter, there are already a large number of IoT-connected devices on the global market, and “…By 2020 there will be 200 billion connected things.” His list of demonstrated vulnerabilities is long, but it includes cars, smart home alarm systems, pacemakers, power grids, dams, mobile banking apps, and smart city traffic systems. The potential confidentiality problems are extensive, and they are only projected to continue—especially if internal security controls are not improved from the get-go—rather than externally added-on later, as an afterthought. Furthermore, if you’re not interested in the private sector, the need for cybersecurity professionals in the government and national security sector will always be strong, as well.

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The need for cybersecurity experts and information security professionals is dire, and the demand is looming. Will you answer the call? Add your thoughts to the comments section below!

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