Thwart Hackers and Build a Future as a Cybersecurity Expert

Corporations and governments are focused on finding cybersecurity experts. In fact, they want them so badly that a national public-private partnership is trying to promote cybersecurity skills in teenagers to help ensure a ready supply of talent.

The demand will only get greater. According to job site CareerBuilder, cybersecurity specialists will be one of the top 10 hot jobs of the future. Candidates will need an information management degree, but also more exposure to advanced technologies and procedures. That’s because the challenge facing experts is immense.

Hackers recently broke into the systems of RSA, the security division of data storage giant EMC. RSA claims to have as clients more than 90 percent of the Fortune 500. Its products are supposed to add an extra layer of protection to a corporate network to make it even more secure.

Another major security consultancy, HBGary, found itself hacked in February. Attackers released confidential emails so scandalous that Congress will open an investigation into the company’s practices. Rubbing salt into the wound, the person who pulled off the breach may have been a 16-year-old girl.

If security experts can find themselves successfully hacked, so can anyone, and IT managers know it. That’s why corporations and government agencies need to hire cybersecurity professionals with skills to protect their systems and networks from relentless forms of attack.

Attackers range in the level of threat they pose. On the low end, those who try to break into computer systems may have limited skills and use do-it-yourself malware kits. But even they can be successful if organizations have failed to properly maintain computer systems and install effective defensive systems.

Those looking to break into a corporate or government system may instead work for a national security agency, which has software engineers ready with the latest techniques. Such groups can just as easily target a corporation as a rival government. The British security agency, MI5, has warned U.K.-based companies for years that Chinese officials directed an attempt to break into their systems.

The U.S. Department of Defense has requested a budget around $3.2 billion for cybersecurity, both this year and next. According to IT analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group, one of the top five spending intentions of IT departments is information security initiatives.

With the level of threat that exists, cybersecurity experts should at the minimum have an information systems security degree. They must also master information systems skills, including computer networking, systems administration, and operating systems, in addition to the specific technologies used in both attacking and defending systems.

The additional good news for those in the field is that not only is demand strong today, but with the constant change in tactics on the part of attackers, chances are that challenges, and paychecks, will be around for the foreseeable future.

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