The United States is home to hundreds of thousands of cybersecurity job openings. This number represents ample opportunity for Master of Science in Cybersecurity graduates. But that’s just one piece of the equation. In a world under cyber siege, this is a field where every expert can find and develop their own well-paid niche, working to their personal strengths.
To learn more, check out the infographic below, created by the University of Nevada, Reno’s Master of Science in Cybersecurity program.
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The Importance of Cybersecurity
Cybercrime is on the rise around the world, with increased cost to victims.
The issue may be even worse than it appears. Risk Based Security logged 1,767 publicly reported breaches in the first six months of 2021, which collectively exposed 18.8 billion records. However, the actual numbers are believed to be much higher, as investigation length, slow reporting of breaches and attack speed have potentially caused reporting lags.
An increase in cyberattacks also means a concurrent rise in people worried about their cyber safety. According to the 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report, receiving an alert saying someone is trying to access their personal accounts makes people feel angry, stressed and vulnerable. What’s more, victims of cybercrime are usually affected materially. Victims spend an average of six-plus hours resolving problems, and nearly half suffer financial repercussions as a result.
Cybercrime is a widespread issue. Nearly 330 million adults in 10 countries have experienced cybercrime. The pandemic hasn’t helped: More than 2 in 5 feel more vulnerable than they did pre-pandemic. While half of adults don’t know how to protect themselves, 2 in 3 are trying their best. Americans, in particular, are more likely to try to protect themselves.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has led to a cybercrime spike, according to the FBI. The agency’s cyber division received 3,000 to 4,000 complaints every day during the pandemic, compared with 1,000 daily calls pre-pandemic.
Hacking attacks frequently feature malicious emails and efforts to trick people to click links. During COVID-19, mentions of the coronavirus were also common. These attacks can be expensive. 2021 boasted the highest average cost in nearly two decades: $4.24 million. Additionally, breaches cost $1.07 million more when remote work was a factor. Compromised credentials were responsible for 20% of these breaches. That said, there were elements that helped save money. Security AI, for instance, saved up to $3.81 million. Zero-trust security systems saved up to $1.76 million, and cloud mitigation contained breaches 77 days faster.
Cybercriminals typically target government networks and private companies. However, state-sponsored and state-targeted attacks are a key concern. In 2021, the Chinese government attacked Microsoft Exchange server users, compromising potentially thousands of individuals. The Russian government attacked the SolarWinds software platform that same year. As a result, at least 18,000 customers downloaded compromised code. These attacks are clandestine and covert, and unfortunately, the U.S. government’s response has been slow.
Top Cybersecurity Jobs
Thanks to growing cybercrime, cybersecurity personnel are in high demand. This means companies are looking to fill several key roles.
Information Security Analysts
Information security analysts develop the security measures organizations rely on to protect their networks and systems. They also protect sensitive proprietary information, finding security flaws and recommending fixes. The median annual salary for the role is $103,590, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects a 33% increase in jobs for information security analysts between 2020 and 2030.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
Computer and information systems managers plan and coordinate a company’s overall tech needs, in addition to selecting hardware and software. They also explain technical details to those without technical training. The median annual salary for the role is $151,150, and the BLS projects employment in this field to increase by 11% between 2020 and 2030.
Computer Network Architects
Computer network architects build the networks that humans rely on, such as local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and intranets. The median annual salary for computer network architects is $116,780, and the BLS projects the number of jobs for these professionals to grow by 5% between 2020 and 2030.
Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers
Software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers find problems with programs and applications, reporting uncovered defects. This role requires strong communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, along with advanced coding ability. The median annual salary for the role is $110,140, and the BLS projects software developer jobs to increase by 22% between 2020 and 2030.
Chief Information Security Officers
Chief information security officers represent the top of the security food chain. Also known as vice presidents of security, they tend to have at least five years of work experience. The median annual salary for chief information security officers is $165,291, and the BLS projects the number of jobs for this role to grow 8% between 2020 and 2030.
The Future of Cybersecurity
The future is here: Computer technology is being incorporated into military hardware, making protection against hackers and cyber gangs crucial.
For example, the F-35 fighter jet is nicknamed a “flying computer” because of its AI sensor fusion and advanced logistics systems. As sophisticated as the “flying computer” is, it also illustrates why developing stronger protections is so vital. The F-35 jet is at risk of being hacked, potentially losing flight path control and the ability to aim weapons at targets.
What You Need to Know About Cyber Gangs
Cyber gangs are technology-exploiting groups looking to make money using URL hijacking, typo-squatting and ransomware. They often set up shop outside of legal reach of the countries they target. Noteworthy gangs include Cosmic Lynx, Exaggerated Lion, FIN7 and The Florentine Banker.
Cyber gangs often target the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects billions of physical devices around the world. The IoT is particularly vulnerable because hackers can gain control of whole devices, sometimes even stripping a device’s owner of control. If security holes aren’t quickly plugged via software updates, devices can be used as an entry point to penetrating more secure networks the device was connected to.
How Cybersecurity Professionals Provide Front-Line Defense Against Attacks
Cybersecurity professionals must stay vigilant. Hacking can often be concealed within widely used operating systems, such as Windows and Linux. While the initial solution to this problem may be to turn on logging and script-blocking, the ongoing solution requires distinguishing between legitimate system use and illegitimate system use within organizations.
Furthermore, organizations should regularly inventory their hardware and software, including on-premise assets, mobile devices, cloud services, containers and application programming interfaces. They should also weigh their supply chain risks.
Maintaining a Secure Landscape
Organizations need to employ people with the technical know-how to detect threats and defend against them. But as national labor analytics firm Emsi makes clear, the number of cybersecurity positions on offer is at least twice the supply. That affords prospective analysts, programmers and testers a lot of career opportunities.
Agari, “Cosmic Lynx: A Russian Threat Hits the BEC Scene”
Agari, “Exaggerated Lion Threat Dossier: BEC Check Fraud Ring”
CFO, “Spotting State-Sponsored Cyberattacks”
Check Point Research, “The Florentine Banker”
CNet, “Working From Home Makes You Vulnerable to Hackers. Here’s How to Stay Safe”
CSO, “How the CISO Role Is Evolving”
CyberSeek, Cybersecurity Supply/Demand Heat Map
Digital Guardian, “What Is a Security Analyst? Responsibilities, Qualifications, and More”
The Hill, “FBI Sees Spike in Cyber Crime Reports During Coronavirus Pandemic”
IBM, “How Much Does a Data Breach Cost?”
Interesting Engineering, “Cyber Attacks More Likely to Bring Down F-35 Jets Than Missiles”
National Public Radio, “A ‘Worst Nightmare’ Cyberattack: The Untold Story of the SolarWinds Hack”
New York Times, “Thousands of Microsoft Customers May Have Been Victims of Hack Tied to China”
Norton, 2021 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report Global Results
PayScale, Average Chief Information Security Officer Salary
Reuters, “EXCLUSIVE Governments Turn Tables on Ransomware Gang REvil by Pushing it Offline”
Security Magazine, “Data Breaches in the First Half of 2021 Exposed 18.8 Billion Records”
Society for Human Resource Management, Computer and Information Systems Manager
Society for Human Resource Management, Software Developer Applications
TechRepublic, “How Do I Become a Network Architect?”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Systems Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer Network Architects
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives
ZDNet, “These New Vulnerabilities Put Millions of IoT Devices at Risk, So Patch Now”
ZDNet, “What Is the IoT? Everything You Need to Know About the Internet of Things Right Now”