Stories of cybercrime are becoming more prevalent every day, and they aren’t just stories. They affect us personally, especially when it is our identity information that is stolen and falls into the wrong hands. There are also cyberattacks that involve ransomware, such as the 2020 Sunburst attack that gave hackers access to Pentagon, U.S. Treasury, and Department of Homeland Security data through a backdoor breach of their common network monitoring software. Or the July 2021 REvil extortion attack on over 1,000 businesses whose IT systems were locked and held hostage by a $70 million ransom demand.
What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security can be defined as the collective technologies and practices that keep electronic data and computer systems safe, whether of individuals, companies, cities, or nations, by protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use. It also involves ensuring the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information1.
When asking, “What is cyber security?” it’s important to understand that cyber security threats encompass a wide swathe of criminal activity, such as digital identity theft, phishing scams, malware that erases entire systems, large-scale data breaches, and cyber terrorism. These cybercrimes can target digital devices like our smartphones, video games, computers, apps, and social media accounts; our infrastructure systems, such as the electric grid and transportation systems; commerce, whether personal online shopping, credit card companies, or major corporations; medical institutions, such as hospitals; our military and national security systems; educational institutions; food processing facilities; and an almost unlimited number of additional digital access points.
With the amount of digital data and number of digitized systems growing at an exponential rate across the globe, the vulnerability to a cyberattack grows with it. So, why is cyber security important?
Why is Cyber Security Important?
Let’s look back at the REvil ransomware attack of 2021. In that particular case, the good guys actually won when the REvil ransomware infrastructure was hacked back by law enforcement and the threat was nullified. Without a cyber security team to find and combat the attack, those 1,000 businesses would likely have had to pay millions of dollars to regain access to their critical IT functions.
The reality is that most cyberattacks do not end that well. They happen all too often – and are often successful. There is a cyberattack every 11 seconds3, and each one of those attacks is costly. In 2020, the average cost of a data breach globally was over $4 million, whereas in the US the average was far higher, at over $9.4 million5. Collectively, cybercrime inflicted more than $6 trillion in damages annually in 20216, making it more lucrative than the global illegal drug trade.
More Reasons Cyber Security is Important
Beyond the sheer numbers of cyberattacks and the economic debilitation they cause, there are additional reasons why cyber security is important. First, more and more personal and professional business is done online. Today’s digital technology connects billions of people across the world for nearly every common function, whether it be entertainment, transportation, cloud storage, applications that operate our smart appliances, file sharing, face-to-face digital meetings, business or financial transactions. Every entry point to the internet provides nefarious actors with an opportunity to steal or compromise others’ digital data. In fact, many believe cybercrime is the greatest threat of our time, eroding our personal privacies, making us susceptible to fraud, contaminating our devices with viruses and spyware, and making businesses vulnerable to data breaches that can cripple them.
Another major threat posed by cyberattacks is to national security. When the government’s databases, networked systems, and infrastructure are exposed to foreign nations, terrorists, and extremist groups, the very safety of our nation can be compromised. As we have witnessed in recent years, the ability to steal military and technology secrets, undermine intelligence efforts, and gain access to valuable information has been costly on the national and world stage.
Cyber security is important because it defends against these skilled hackers who employ constantly changing and highly sophisticated cybercrime technologies. These cyber criminals have the knowledge and resources to rival many IT companies and are an even greater threat to the average organization without the resources to defend against their attacks. However, organizations with a robust cyber security strategy can combat these threats more quickly and effectively by employing well-trained personnel, incorporating best practices, and using advanced analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
How to Get into Cyber Security
Even though many cyber security professionals get their start through entry-level IT roles where they build their on-the-ground technical skills, most cyber security positions require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, or related field with a focus on cyber security. Having such a degree will create more career opportunities and make you more competitive as a job candidate.
Ottawa University’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Science is the answer for how to get into cyber security. The degree offers a concentration in cyber security that explores a wide spectrum of security activities, methods, methodologies, and procedures, with emphasis on practical aspects of information security. It also covers information forensics, including detection techniques to recognize and mitigate cybercrime vulnerabilities. Students examine cryptography concepts and available data protection solutions, along with ethical hacking and intrusion detection tools and techniques. Training in cloud security, programming, encryption, risk assessment, problem solving, and analytical thinking are other important cyber security skills that the computer science degree covers.
Beyond the degree, cyber security jobs may require specific certifications for particular knowledge and skills. There are more than 300 different certifications that can be earned as experience in the field is gained. And because there are so many different points of vulnerability in our digital infrastructure, many students choose to complete graduate-level cyber security education programs to specialize in specific technologies or techniques.
Types of Cyber Security Jobs
Cyber security is a promising career path for those who have the requisite knowledge and skills. With the consistent uptick in cyberattacks, the need for information (cyber) security analysts is expected to grow by 35% through 20307, which is much faster than the average for all jobs. Some expect the need to grow at a much higher rate.
What types of cyber security jobs can those with a computer science degree pursue? Needed in nearly every industry - particularly banking, finance, health care, insurance, law enforcement, telecommunications, and technology - some professionals help organizations meet the regulatory requirements related to their information or network security. Others specialize in risk mitigation, computer forensics, or ethical hacking. There are also many opportunities within the government, especially as it relates to homeland security. In fact, as of August 2021, there were more than 36,000 open public sector cyber security job across all levels of government9.
Regardless of the industry, cyber security teams generally employ those with skill sets for the following areas8:
- Security Operations
- Security Administration
- Risk Management
- Operational Technology Security
- Secure Software Development
- Penetration Testing
Some common titles for cyber security jobs include penetration tester, security architect, malware analyst, threat intelligence analyst, and digital forensics analyst. The average salary for those in cyber security positions was $102,600 in 20218.
Start Your Career in Cybersecurity
Being on the front lines of the world’s cyber wars will allow you to combat perhaps the greatest security threat of our time. Ottawa's accelerated, online bachelor's degree in Computer Science provides a path for students from diverse backgrounds to rapidly transition to computing and information system career paths by providing them with foundation and advanced undergraduate level courses in computing and information science. By adding a concentration in cyber security, you will be well prepared to start you career in this exciting, growing, and essential career. Call an enrollment advisor today to get started!
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