Those who chose a career in cybersecurity might think they have a steep hill to climb, initially because most people don’t know exactly what cybersecurity is. They’ve seen stories in the news or a very sheepish email from somebody they’ve purchased from previously, telling them their data has been compromised.
The image that springs to mind in most people’s minds is of some sort of geeky awkward character, but those with a cybersecurity qualification like a cybersecurity masters are as varied as any other profession, and as you will find out, the demand for qualified individuals is at an all-time high.
To learn more about what a cybersecurity professional does, and why their role is so important in modern society, you should first be clear about what cybersecurity is.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the protection of data systems and the hardware and software associated with them that communicate over the internet. Cybersecurity is used by both businesses and individuals to protect their data from cyber threats, and attacks. They will employ a team of qualified professionals to put measures in place to stop this from happening.
These professionals guard against attacks that aim to harvest, manipulate or erase secure or sensitive data. Effective cybersecurity measures also guard against malicious attacks designed to disable a company’s IT systems and bring the business to a standstill.
The increasing number of users needing to access data remotely, especially in the current pandemic where more people are working from home than ever, make the risks obvious. Coupled with the ever-increasing amount of data being transmitted via the internet anyway, you do not have to have a cybersecurity masters qualification to see the vast amount of opportunities for hackers.
This highlights how vital effective cybersecurity measures are and how that importance is likely to increase going forward, especially when you consider that hackers and cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated on an almost daily basis.
What Makes an Effective Cybersecurity Strategy?
An effective cybersecurity strategy works on many levels, all of which need to work together to provide protection against a number of cybersecurity threats.
These levels will include at the more technical end, network, and application security, right down to educating the end-user, which is where you will see the weakest link in the chain exists.
As discussed, this strategy needs to evolve at the same rapid rate as the attacks that threaten firms on a daily basis, so a professional with a cybersecurity masters or similar qualification faces a daunting task.
It is also an expensive quandary for the corporations who have to implement measure after measure to keep on top of the threats to their sensitive data. The alternative is to have ineffective or inadequate cybersecurity, which will usually work out more expensive if an attack is successful.
The same is true of reactive cybersecurity procedures, which concentrate on reacting to a leak as soon as it happens. These have been supplanted in the main by proactive procedures as even a small leak can substantially damage or even ruin a business
These measures include constant real-time assessments of threats and measures to counter them, as well as employing qualified individuals to implement them. This approach is recognized as more effective and has been widely adopted, but has resulted in a deficit of qualified individuals. With these people in place, even a breach can be dealt with more effectively, so that disruption to the normal running of the business is minimal.
As many businesses, even those outside the IT sphere, are both data-driven and huge repositories of the masses of customer data used for effective marketing are targets of cyberattacks, a good cybersecurity strategy, implemented by cybersecurity professionals with a cybersecurity masters certification is now mission-critical to almost every business.
What Is a Cyber Threat or Cyber Attack?
Threats and attacks are becoming even harder to detect, as they are evolving as fast as the technology they target. Some of these threats will look familiar to you, and they include:
Malware is probably the most renowned (or infamous) cyber threat and is commonplace. There is plenty of software to guard against it, and there is almost certainly some running on the device you are using to read this. Malware usually arrives as an email attachment or as a tempting link for the user to click, which will mean they are an unwitting accomplice in the attack.
Almost all regular users of IT devices are aware of malware, which has been around for many years, however, they are more likely to fall victim to the more sophisticated form of malware called ransomware.
This type of cyberattack, if triggered, will use encryption to lock or disable a single device or a whole network unless a ransom is paid to decrypt it. Ransomware will often erase data if the ransom is not paid within a certain period of time.
You have almost certainly received a phishing email yourself, which has the intention of harvesting your login details to a secure site or your credit card details. The email will do its utmost to look authentic, and inject a note of urgency by telling you of a problem with your account or payment method. Some successful phishing attempts are not noticed for some time as the details are not used immediately but instead sold on to be used by another party.
Any phishing emails that have arrived in your inbox are probably among hundreds of thousands sent en-masse and are quite easy to spot. In some circumstances, this type of cyberattack can be more detailed to look more authentic and sent to target a handful of particular users or a single company. This more sophisticated tactic is known as spear phishing, and in situations such as this, the role of a cybersecurity masters qualified professional is vital.
#3 Social Engineering
This technique requires the victim to become a willing participant by using human nature against them. For instance, leaving an infected flash drive ‘lost’ where the target is likely to find it – their curiosity as to what the drive contains will lead them to put the flash drive into their computer and unwittingly install the virus or worm.
Scareware plays on people’s insecurities and inexperience and targets users with repeated and even more hyperbolic messages that their computer is under attack, with the only answer being to install an ‘antivirus’ that in reality contains the malware.
Another cyber threat of this type involves the target being contacted by somebody pretending to be a work colleague and siphoning information to answer the ‘personal questions’ used when resetting a password by asking questions over time.
#4 Insider threats
Some threats occur where the human part of the equation is a willing participant in the attack, which is particularly hard to defend against as they will have more access to the network and devices than anyone trying to get in from outside.
Other attacks occur that do not require any human intervention, willing or otherwise. Messages are intercepted so that systems think they are talking to each other instead of supplying the attacker with data, which can go undetected for a time, as can viruses that have gained access but remain undetected because the stolen data hasn’t been missed yet.
Another cyberthreat you may have heard of is one where a server or network is bombarded with so many messages or data that it cannot cope and in effect shuts down. This threat is designed purely to disrupt operations rather than to harvest data.
These are the threats, that a cybersecurity professional, ideally with a cybersecurity masters certification, will able to deter.
Challenges faced by cybersecurity professionals
The challenges faced by cybersecurity professionals come from two sources: internal and external. The external challenges are the numerous threats posed by hackers (that have just been covered) but the internal ones can be more damaging when it comes to cybersecurity.
This does not mean threats from within as detailed above, but the slowness to adapt the cybersecurity strategy to the ever-changing threats from outside. This is due in the main part to the current increase in the number of people working from home due to the pandemic.
These people are working in environments where access is not as well controlled as in an office building, and the devices might be used for other purposes where security can be compromised.
This can also overlap with personal mobile technology, where the person is not working remotely but uses a device to answer work emails outside the usual office hours. These devices used outside may be infected due to other activities performed on them and then they may be connected to the company system.
This again highlights the role of the human as the weak link in the chain and the value of end-user education. This is an overlooked but vital part of the role of a security professional with a cybersecurity masters qualification and will help employees and customers maintain vigilance of their own contribution to the cybersecurity strategy.
Another reason why the cybersecurity strategy can be compromised internally is the shortage of qualified personnel to fill the necessary cybersecurity roles, or the reluctance of management to recruit what can be a very expensive employee.
Unfortunately, with more businesses being data-driven or storing more data than they ever did before, the need for cybersecurity qualified professionals has increased, to the point where demand has overtaken supply.
Despite the use of automation to take some of the weight off of the shoulders of those cybersecurity masters qualified personnel, so they can concentrate on more sophisticated tasks, the lack of specialist personnel could easily develop into a major problem.
Career opportunities in cybersecurity
Tthe need for cybersecurity qualified personnel in a variety of roles has outstripped demand and the need for them is still increasing due to the amount of data that needs to be accessed remotely and the number of new threats faced every day.
There are vacancies in CISO (chief information security officer) and CSO (chief security officer) positions. There are also more vacancies across the entire spectrum of cybersecurity roles, including security engineers and security architects as well as security analysts who together analyze test, and audit the security systems.
Their work is tested by ethical hackers who penetrate the system to test it and threat hunters who look for chinks in the armor. Other roles with more vacancies than applicants include security consultants, data protection officers, cloud security architects, cryptographers, and security administrators.
What qualifications do you need to become a cybersecurity professional?
All of these roles are ideally performed by qualified personnel, who enjoy the benefits of both a healthy salary and long-term job security. However, it should be pointed out that even in a situation like this, the more in-demand and higher-paid roles will go to the more qualified applicants
Those with ambitions for one of these roles should seriously consider certification such as a cybersecurity masters, which can be completed in as little as 18 months and done completely online, and will open up a wide range of vacancies in this field.
Unemployment in these roles dropped to 0% in 2016 and has remained there ever since. There is a predicted shortfall of over three million cybersecurity roles worldwide over the next 12 to 18 months, making cybersecurity an in-demand career, with a well-paid long-lasting career a definite prospect for qualified individuals.
With instances of cybercrime increasing daily, and the comparative lack of qualified personnel to deal with these threats, the role of a cybersecurity professional is becoming more and more important.
Those with the correct certification such as a cybersecurity masters are ideally placed not only to deal with these threats but progress into management and leadership roles, and the advanced remuneration and enhanced job security that brings.
After reading this, you will no doubt be aware of the vital role that cybersecurity plays, and the career prospects for those wishing to move into a cybersecurity role.