The Cybersecurity Industry is vital to our privacy, security, and safety. And it needs non-tech people.
Let’s play a game of word association: I say “Cybersecurity.” You say, “Nerds working at rows of computers in a windowless room.”
Forbes says, “The fastest growing job with a huge skills gap.”
We say, “This gap has your name on it.”
The cybersecurity industry is broader and more relevant than ever. Within the last 24 hours, a Ransomware attack dubbed “Peyta” has affected computers globally, one of many attacks in what experts are calling a “cybercrime epidemic.” You may remember when the credit information of 70 million Target shoppers was stolen in the holiday season of 2014, or when the personal data of 18 million federal employees was breached by an attack in 2015. Because so much of our life and work resides on the internet–from your photo library, to your purchasing preferences, to government secrets–that means it’s all subject to hackers and cyberattacks.
But never fear! The cybersecurity industry is here, and it’s not just for computer science majors. Those who work to protect the identity of individuals and the data of companies are the real-life version of guardians of the galaxy, the superheroes of cyberspace, if you will. Their work is rewarding, multifaceted, and important–they keep your and everyone else’s data safe and private. Could working in cybersecurity be the perfect fit for you?
Cybersecurity is Growing Like Crazy
The unemployment rate for cybersecurity professionals is currently 0%, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. Let that sink in for a moment. The demand for the cybersecurity workforce is projected to reach 3.5 million by 2021. Currently, there are 1 million unfilled jobs in this industry. If you get a foot in the door now, you’re not likely to be unemployed in the future.
A Brief History of Cyberattacks
The concept of cybersecurity was born long before the internet. During the Cold War, the U.S. government’s need for information security inspired the technology that gave rise to the world-wide web. The 1970s brought the first self-replicating computer viruses, followed by “Trojan” viruses that hid inside non-threatening programs, initially created by curious non-malicious coders. By the 1980s, more mischievous “hackers,” as we know them today began breaking into computer networks. Seventeen-year-old Herbert Zinn famously hacked AT&T’s network from his bedroom in Chicago in 1987, and was allegedly steps away from shutting down all of America’s telephone networks before he was arrested. In the late 90s and early 2000s, email bugs such as the famous ILOVEYOU subject-line virus were storming computers. Today’s most vicious scams like Ransomware sweep entire hospitals and government offices, blocking user access to all files until a hefty fee is paid to the hackers.
The Stuff of Science Fiction
Recently, as the Internet of Things (IoT) brings us must-have devices like smart egg cartons and bluetooth forks, it has also increased the threat of cyberattacks. When your toaster and your umbrella are on the same network as phones and computers, they become a less-secured backdoor into more sensitive things. By 2021, experts predict the existence of 30 billion IoT devices. Many recent major cyberattacks, like the one that disrupted Twitter, Paypal, Netflix, and others last year, have operated through a “botnet” of exploited IoT devices. And the danger isn’t just online. In 2014, hackers hijacked a wifi-connected furnace in a German steel mill causing physical damage and shutting down the mill when it overheated. And as new technology develops, cybercriminals are exploiting it faster than we can secure it. The Economist remarks that “a criminal marketplace has been created that supports a thriving business of theft, blackmail and corporate espionage.”
Cybersecurity needs diversity
It takes more than computer nerds to fight the cybercriminal marketplace. While there are certainly roles for the technologically-inclined in cybersecurity, there’s also a huge need for diversity of talent and perspectives. The industries most prone to cyberattacks (and most in need of
superheroes security specialists to protect their data) are Finance, Manufacturing, and Defense. That means many of those million unfilled positions require knowledge of a field outside of tech. People are needed from a diverse range of backgrounds and disciplines–those who can understand human behavior, business, the needs and vulnerabilities of each industry, and the potential consequences of different security breaches.
…and Cybersecurity needs you!
This versatility needed for a security specialist to understand both an industry and the technology it uses fits perfectly with the interdisciplinary background and adaptability that liberal arts students already possess. Security Specialist isn’t the only job title in cybersecurity, either: it’s an industry just like any other that needs talent in marketing, HR, communications, sales, etc. If you have a knack for conveying technical jargon into terms of business value, you too can work as an undercover superhero fighting cybercrime.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the cool things you could do in cybersecurity. Are you fascinated by crime shows or investigation of Russian interference? The cybersecurity field calls for people interested in risk, ethics, and law to be part of their line of defense against online crimes–and to educate the public about device safety or create government policy.
What it Takes
David Jarvis, senior security analyst at IBM is busy brainstorming ways to include people outside of the tech field in cybersecurity. In an interview with TechRepublic, he lists the five qualities IBM and similar companies are looking for in employees:
If you enjoy the satisfaction of solving mysteries, fighting crimes, and safeguarding information, work in cybersecurity could be as fulfilling as it is practical.
How to Get on Board
While the industry is pushing for more non-technical people, it’s never a bad idea to tech-ucate yourself. Take an online coding class. Subscribe to a cybersecurity journal. Stay up-to-date on how cybercrime changes with new technology. You could be the one to protect against the next major cyberattack like Peyta!
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