What is Cyber Security? How to Get Started in This Trending Career Field

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By DeVry University

April 28, 2021
6 min read

These days, news about cyber security breaches and risks is constant. According to an FBI IC3 report, in 2019 businesses and individuals reported 467,351 incidents of cybercrime, resulting in the loss of $3.5 billion. These computer-based crimes include:

  • Hacking: Exploiting weaknesses in computer systems or network security to access sensitive data.
  • Malware: Software designed to disrupt or damage devices or networks (think: viruses and worms).
  • Phishing: When scammers get sensitive data like passwords or credit card info by impersonating a trustworthy source.

In our increasingly online, cloud-based world, preventing cybercrimes is relevant to everyone from individuals and businesses to major government organizations. The topic is progressively more important to every sector, and as a career field, is growing rapidly.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of information security analysts is expected to grow an impressive 31% between 2019 and 2029.1 If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the rapidly expanding field commonly known as cyber security, now might be a good time to start preparing.

So, what is cyber security? What roles are available and what skills are required? Read on to learn more.

What Is Cyber Security?

Cyber security, sometimes called information technology security or electronic information security, refers to the protection of devices, data, programs and networks from any form of unauthorized access. Cybersecurity crimes range from stealing data, identities or money to disrupting business processes and services.

Why Is Cyber Security Important?

In any form, cyber security attacks are a serious threat to organizations and individuals alike. Storing and transferring data on devices and across networks has made private and business transactions more efficient. However, the increased reliance on cloud- and web-based connection means virtually everyone is vulnerable to cybercrime.

As we digitize medical records, sensitive personal and financial data, corporate intellectual property and government processes and records, cyber protection becomes a greater priority. Breaches in security can leave individuals and organizations open to damaged reputations and big financial losses. Cyber security is the important work of preventing and repairing these breaches.

What Types of Careers Are Available in Cyber Security?

The need for cyber security spans industries and touches everything from apps and company networks to commercial appliances and our handheld digital devices. Professionals focused on managing and preventing cyber threats are needed wherever data or assets must be protected and secured. And you may be surprised by the range of potential employers.

Because cyber-attacks are so widespread and affect every sector, not every job will be in the tech industry. That means there’s a broad variety of career opportunities available to qualified professionals. Experts are often hired to work in business, finance, government agencies, healthcare and anywhere security is at risk.

Many cyber security jobs focus on protecting confidential information and preventing costly data breaches. Here are some common roles:

  • Information Security Analyst: Responsible for designing and implementing IT security systems to protect an organization's computer networks and systems from cyber-attacks.
  • Data Security Administrator: Installs, administers and troubleshoots security measures that protect an organization’s databases and other data repositories.
  • Cybersecurity Technician: Repairs and protects computer systems from data theft and other threats by updating systems, applying patches and handling first-line incident responses.
  • Computer Security Specialist: Responsible for designing and implementing safety measures and controls, monitoring systems and networks to identify vulnerabilities, and investigating and defending against attacks.
  • Information Security Manager: Assesses risks, develops policies and procedures to safeguard systems and data and manages all aspects of cyber security including disaster recovery, database protection and secure software development.

What Do Cyber Security Professionals Do?

Cyber security professionals are integral to an organization’s safety. They take preventative measures to protect confidential information and prevent costly data breaches. This responsibility means they have a more varied and expansive role than many people may realize. The work falls largely into two categories: prevention and security, and disaster recovery and continuity planning.

Prevention and security

A top priority for cyber security experts is prevention. They focus on finding vulnerabilities before attackers do and shoring up security. In order to succeed, they must be up to date on potential threats—like known hackers and malware—that can infiltrate systems.

They also:

  • Prioritize security by looking for potential weaknesses and addressing them quickly.
  • Analyze systems and processes to identify key assets and potential threats.
  • Test for vulnerabilities and implement the best methods of protection.
  • Put plans in place to ensure organizations adhere to safety protocols and best practices.

Disaster recovery and continuity planning

Experts help organizations create plans for continuing business if a breach or other adverse event does occur. A large part of the job is ensuring business carries on safely with as little disturbance as possible.

In the event of a cyber-attack or other disruption, professionals are tasked with carrying out these plans to respond to the immediate threat and improving security going forward. Following a data breach, malware attack, or even a natural disaster like a fire, flood or earthquake, experts implement measures to minimize damage and keep mission-critical functions working. They then identify the problems and work quickly to find solutions so normal operations can resume as soon as possible.

Across all their work, cyber security professionals handle a range of tasks, which may include:

  • Protecting assets and identifying potential security threats.
  • Monitoring networks and systems to identify and fix any weaknesses or breaches.
  • Implementing security measures like firewalls and data encryption programs to protect data.
  • Performing routine tests and inspection of hardware, software and networks to eliminate weaknesses before they are exploited.
  • Investigating any violations and handling the cleanup.

How Can I Get Started in Cyber Security?

To pursue a career in the field, it’s important to develop the right skills and make sure you have the proper training and qualifications. For example, many information security analyst positions typically require a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, such as computer science, information assurance or programming. Other positions may require specific industry-recognized certifications.

Cyber Security Degrees and Certificate Programs

There are plenty of options to help you become a qualified professional. The path you take depends on what the specific role you’re considering requires. However, earning a certificate or degree is a great way to prepare yourself for a future in the field.

At DeVry, we offer an online Cyber Security Certificate program that can teach you the fundamental skills needed to combat cybercrime in as little as 16 months. Qualifying credits can be applied toward a higher-level degree as you further your education. You can also build expertise in this field by pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree specializing in Cyber Security Programming or Cyber Security.

What Will I Learn in Cyber Security Classes?

Through projects and assignments, cyber security classes can help you develop the essential skills needed to be a data defender capable of designing strategies to protect information, infrastructure and brands against the threat of cyberattacks. You can learn:

  • Strategies to safeguard networks and systems.
  • Information assurance policies.
  • Ethical and legal guidelines for the selection of security solutions.
  • Ethical hacking practices as a means of rigorously investigating systems.

Ready to Pursue a Career in Cyber Security?

If you’re looking for an exciting career where you can help protect your employer and their customers, cyber security may be the path for you. Learn more about how our online classes work or contact us to start building your personalized education plan today.

 

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Related Information


1Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-1