From the halls of universities to the Oval Office, the issue of cybersecurity is occupying an increasingly central role in everyday life. The major growth in cybersecurity efforts in organizations of all types is undoubtedly due in large part to the havoc that hackers wreaked in 2014. During last year, we got accustomed to seeing new breach headlines every couple of days it seemed like. Hopefully, though, 2015 will be the year we take significant steps toward keeping those attacks at bay. With the work currently being done by educational and government institutions, it looks like preparedness will be the word in 2015.
What was your college major? History, biology, psychology? Well, for today's undergraduates, you can add one more option to the list: cybersecurity. Starting next fall, the University of Tampa will begin offering a cybersecurity major to its undergrads, according to The Tampa Tribune.
UT's effort hardly represents the only push among educational institutions to equip students with important (not to mention highly employable) computer security skills. In fact, there are even other universities in the immediate Tampa Bay area that are rolling out similar programs.
At Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Florida, for instance, the school began offering a Master of Science in Cybersecurity back in August. So what exactly does a cybersecurity grad student do? Not surprisingly, much of the work toward the degree isn't confined to the classroom alone. Saint Leo's program has its graduate students actively work to research and defend against all the threats that circulate the cybersphere. When a student comes out of the program, the expectation is that he or she will have a sophisticated understanding of information security, and will be able to be an invaluable resource to governments or other organizations in need of protection.
As far as employment prospects for people who graduate from cybersecurity programs — well, as UT professor of information and technology management Kenneth Knapp pointed out, there's no worries there.
"The demand is very high," he said. "I've had students get into cyberspace companies with just one security class, never mind an entire major. With all of the high-profile breaches over this last year or so, more focus has been on security than I've ever seen, and I've been doing it since I was 21 years old in the Air Force."
For those interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity, there's not only the moral conviction of knowing that you're doing good work that should rope you in. There's also lots and lots of money. In 2013, there were almost 210,000 job postings for cybersecurity-related work, representing a 74 percent increase in such postings since 2007. And as far as the average pay for one of these jobs went, it was a cool $93,028. For someone just coming out of college, that's nothing less than a boatload of cash.
But the burgeoning cybersecurity workforce doesn't just have money to look forward to — there's also the prestige of working in a field that's as topical and vital as today's headlines. As the Department of Homeland Security points out on its website, cyberthreats "could derail our way of life and compromise national security. These threats change in number and sophistication daily." In short, cybersecurity workers aren't just well-paid experts — they're also potential defenders of our country.
A search of "cyber" jobs on USAJOBS.com reveals an eclectic mix of positions — budget analyst, information tech specialist and attorney-adviser among them — the common denominator among which is a need to know the intricacies of cybersecurity.
As Sri Sridharan, managing director and chief operating officer at the Florida Center for Cybersecurity on the campus of the University of South Florida, put it, cybersecurity is "a hot topic — A very hot topic."
Colleges and universities aren't the only places where cybersecurity action is happening. The impetus to defend our computing presence extends all the way to the Oval Office.
According to PCWorld, President Barack Obama is planning on announcing a series of efforts the country is undertaking to combat cybersecurity threats. The President's announcement has been spurred on by several recent large-scale cybercriminal attacks that went beyond compromising data and actually threatened national security. In one major hack on a movie studio, for instance, the group responsible reportedly threatened violence on theaters showing a specific film.
According to Bloomberg, here are some of the efforts that Obama's cybersecurity proposals will encompass:
Soon you'll be seeing more and more people graduating from college with a specific focus on cybersecurity. And at the governmental level, you'll witness a boost in attention toward regulating computer security. With these efforts in place, the question becomes a simple one: Is your business keeping pace?
The proactive mindset among educational and government institutions will hopefully inspire companies that aren't taking the proper cybersecurity measures to step up their commitment to overall safety. Fortunately, cybersecurity isn't a hard thing to ensure if you have the proper tools. With two-factor authentication, for instance, your business can take a significant step toward ensuring that only legitimate individuals log in to the company server.