Working in Cybersecurity
What’s It Like and How to Get Started
What do you think of when you hear the words “cybersecurity” or “hacking?” Does it invoke an image of a nerdy (but evil) man hidden in the shadows with a computer stealing your personal data? It’s possible. It might also bring up thoughts of things like the ever-present rumors of election hacking, because even the U.S. government has flaws in their infrastructure. While we tend to think of the United States as one of the most advanced countries, we also suffer the highest rate of all ransomware attacks worldwide.
In fact, it’s projected that by 2021, the damages related to cybercrime will hit a whopping $6 trillion. Efforts to stop cybercrime start with those educated to protect our systems. Jobs in cybersecurity are on the rise.
Before we talk about cybersecurity, let’s talk about the evil man stealing your data. Why do hackers hack? The term hacker doesn’t always imply illegal activity. There are white-hat hackers whose sole purpose is to protect the public’s best interests. They hack as a means to examine weak spots in the system.
Black-hat hackers are those who try to gain access to networks and systems to steal data, profit from ransomware, or just exert general disrupt to systems to get their five minutes of fame. It’s important to point out that sometimes hackers don’t have to work very hard to gain access to “secure” systems. One of the weakest links in an organizations’ cybersecurity plan can be their employees. Common employee errors such as using the same password for every account or losing unsecured digital devices can be all it takes for a hacker to gain access to a system.
What is cybersecurity?
We have to have police to protect the public from crime. The same is true in cyberspace. Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting networks, systems, and programs from attacks. This isn’t always a simple task. Cybersecurity must be approached as a multi-layered system that examines and identifies potential risks and then comes up with a plan to mitigate those risks.
Cybersecurity Job Outlook
Cybersecurity Ventures predicts there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs open by 2021. There are a few ways to break into the industry. With each of the cybersecurity career pathways come different levels of education or certifications that are required. While the job outlook is good, the wages might even be better. An entry-level cybersecurity specialist makes around $75,000 a year. As you climb the ladder into advanced-level positions, the salaries quickly rise to over $100k annually.
Because of the risk of hackers and continued technological advancements, professionals in cybersecurity are in demand. There are several ways to get into the industry. One interesting approach is to pursue a Bachelor’s in cybersecurity which combines crime fighting with information technology. Folks with this degree are prepared to protect businesses and government systems from those trying to gain unauthorized access to networks and social media accounts.
If working in an office protecting a system doesn’t sound glamorous enough for you, there are several other options. Graduates of cybersecurity programs can go into private investigation, homeland security, law enforcement, and fraud investigation.
Best Private Sector Opportunities
Going to school and getting a degree is great. However, you have to make sure that there are plenty of jobs and employers out there looking for someone with your skills. The job outlook is good, but you have to consider what job prospects look like in your part of the country.
Some of the best tech companies to work for in America are names you will recognize. Texas Instruments is located in Dallas, Texas and was rated as one of the "Bests Places to Work in 2017" by Glassdoor. One of the most notable tech companies in the world is Apple. It’s based in Cupertino, California and offers a high rate of job satisfaction according to current employees. Other heavy hitters in the tech industry are Facebook, Google, and Symantec.
Cyberattacks against the United States government are on the rise. According to Western Governors University, the number of cyberattacks grew from 5,000 to 77,000 annually over nine years. The Russians pulled off what’s called the worst cyberattack on a government agency, and sensitive American data remains at risk each day. Attacks that come in the form of cyberbots, cryptojacking, and ransomware are real and serious attacks that must be counter-attacked by those in the cybersecurity industry.
Almost all government departments have cybersecurity needs that must be filled by experts. You can work as an ethical hacker, security architect, or an information officer. Each of these titles plays an integral role in implementing software, installing cybersecurity programs, and protecting national documents and targets.
A Crime Fighting Career
If you’re looking to fight crimes in the cyberworld, a career in cybersecurity might be right for you. Whether you start in an entry level position with a certificate or grab your backpack and head to college, there is a spot for you in the cybersecurity industry.