Ransomware has become a multibillion-dollar industry. Instead of kidnapping a person, cybercriminals place malicious software on computer systems blocking their use until a monetary ransom is paid. Globally, 68.5% of businesses suffered a ransomware attack this year, according to Statista.
Organizations lose $17,700 every minute due to phishing. Designed to trick people into revealing sensitive data via email, Google had identified more than 2 million phishing sites as of January 2021.
Cybercrimes are skyrocketing everywhere because criminals make money by infecting devices with viruses, issuing threats, getting access to government or company data and much more.
That is why the need for people with cybersecurity knowledge, to help take down these cyber criminals, is so massive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 32% growth in information security careers through 2028.
“Cybersecurity has been a growth field for a while,” says Cris Ewell, chief security and privacy officer at NRC Health and associate faculty at City University of Seattle. “In the past 5-10 years companies have taken more interest in protecting their businesses against cybercrimes and they need people to do this work.”
Insurance companies, stakeholders and shareholders are also putting pressure on companies to protect their data, he says.
A multitude of available careers
The opportunities for specialized work in cybersecurity are varied. You can start off by working as a security analyst, an architect or engineer and then move up to management level, says Ewell. After that, perhaps a promotion to chief security officer.
“There’s also general security control, forensic analysis, incident investigation experts, code analysts and lots of other avenues,” Ewell says. “Get a basic knowledge of cybersecurity and then determine where your passion lies.”
All industries need skilled cybersecurity workers. Government, law enforcement, transportation, health, finance, higher education, energy, small- and medium-sized businesses, all have a demand for employees that can fight off cyber criminals. To help with the struggle, teaching cybersecurity in high school and even in middle school has become essential.
“We need high school students who understand cybersecurity,” says Morgan Zantua, associate professor and program director of CityU’s School of Technology and Computing. “By educating the teachers we need, we can gear the students toward careers in cybersecurity and increase the supply of workers in the field.”
CityU recently received a $700,000 grant from the National Security Agency to educate regional high school teachers in cybersecurity. In two years, a consortium will recruit 70 high school teachers to learn cybersecurity content and principles online. Local, regional and national organizations, government agencies and military organizations will be called on to support this network to increase the number of high school graduates who take a cybersecurity career path.
Preparing for a cybersecurity role
Zantua suggests potential workers in this field assess their career interest first and then start educating themselves on the technical aspects required for the job they want.
“At a minimum, you should know a general-purpose programming language like Python and understand both networks and operating systems,” says Zantua. “Adding certifications to your resume also helps get you hired.”
Ewell says there are lots of avenues for these career paths – that’s what is so interesting and fascinating about this field – the sky is the limit. However, you do need to enter this occupation with certain talents.
“You must have great communication and people skills, be a fantastic problem solver and possess good analytical abilities,” he says. “The rest I can teach.”
Ewell says one good place to start is to obtain a Security+ certification. This is an entry level cybersecurity credential offered by the nonprofit association CompTIA. It’s often the first certification earned by an IT professional.
Most jobs in this field require an undergraduate degree, says Ewell, but you may be able to get your foot in the door by working as an intern, without a degree. But as you move up to manager or director, a graduate degree will be required. Higher level positions could necessitate a doctoral degree, he says.
Zantua says there could be a role for anyone, from teenager to second-career adults, in the cybersecurity field. Currently this career boasts zero unemployment.
This article was originally published on The Seattle Times.