With much of society's daily interactions, exchanges, and transactions relying on servers and online databases, the cyber world is susceptible to rising attacks. Cybersecurity exists to protect digital information, as well as networks, programs, and computer systems, from unauthorized access. Keep reading to learn about cybersecurity and how to get a job in this increasingly popular field.

What is cybersecurity?

Digital information stored in networks, the cloud, and computer systems cannot be left without security measures. Financial information, company records, and classified government intel are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. In addition, many businesses transmit private information across networks or various devices, which creates a rabbit trail of access points for malicious attacks. These attacks can come from outside and inside forces, people looking to disrupt business or use stolen information for exploitative gain. Cybersecurity is critical in protecting sensitive information from those sorts of attacks.

Companies are at risk of breaches, which leads to sometimes colossal financial losses. But companies employing rigorous cybersecurity measures–utilizing analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence–stand a greater chance of discouraging these breaches before they occur. That's where cybersecurity professionals come in.

These professionals are finding no shortage of job opportunities. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have had to make rapid adjustments to their business models, creating more freedom for remote work. This has led to a greater need for cybersecurity since the increase in remote jobs means more communication and business is happening across networks and in the cloud. Because of COVID, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is high, with a projected growth of 33% by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That outstrips the average growth across all professions, which is around 8%.

Over 80% of cybersecurity professionals have seen this shift in their responsibilities as companies seek more robust security measures. The gap in the workforce means there's plenty of opportunity to get into this field, which the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency calls essential to the post-COVID scene. 

Types of cyber attacks

Cyber attacks take many forms and happen at every level, from end users to company servers. Not all attacks are after the same thing, either. Some are smaller, with one victim, while others disrupt millions of lives. These are some of the most common cyber attacks. 

  • Malware: These breaches exploit a network vulnerability. Trojan, adware, and spyware attacks can come from downloading attachments that contain viruses. Users who click random pop-up ads or open strange email attachments risk malware attacks. Firewalls and antivirus software are crucial for preventing malware attacks.

  • Phishing: Sadly, phishers take advantage of users by posing as a legitimate source, like an email from a phone company stating that you have an unpaid bill. Phishers are usually after private information, like your login credentials. Cybersecurity protects users from this fraudulent activity through the use of anti-phishing toolbars.

  • Man-in-the-middle attack: These attacks happen when a hacker eavesdrops by taking control of communication between two parties. A hacker might commandeer an IP address to disrupt the interaction between the user and the server, thus tricking both parties into believing they're talking to the other. Encrypted devices and WiFi passwords can dissuade hackers from attempting these attacks.

  • DDoS: Distributed Denial of Service attacks involve malicious agents attempting to disrupt business services. They might do this by overloading servers with traffic, forcing websites to crash or slow down, thereby throwing a wrench in service requests. Prevention of DDoS attacks relies heavily on cyber security professionals, who must be able to recognize the warning signs and be ready with incident response plans.

As cybersecurity solutions strengthen, hackers search for new ways to infiltrate. Cybersecurity professionals must stay quick on their feet, predicting attacks before they come and making sure companies are equipped with software and hardware reinforcements. Through application security testing, cybersecurity professionals ensure protective measures are in place and running smoothly.

What are typical jobs in cybersecurity?

Cyberattacks affect people in a multitude of industries. Medical data, insurance plans, social security numbers, critical infrastructure, and company trade secrets are vulnerable to hacker exploitation. Because of this, cybersecurity professionals are needed in all fields to provide information assurance. They're hired to dig out potential threats and build protective measures to secure company networks.

Some typical jobs for a professional working in cybersecurity include:

  • Information Security Analyst

  • Cybersecurity Analyst

  • Security Architect

  • Chief Information Security Officer

  • Security Engineer

  • Cryptographer

  • Forensics Expert

  • Ethical Hacker

There are opportunities for cyber security jobs across every level of government, be that local, state, or federal. It's a highly sought-after field with ample room for growth and a well-paying salary.

What is information security?

Cybersecurity falls under the umbrella of information security. Often called "InfoSec," information security protects physical and digital information and data from malignant interference. Attacks can take the form of unauthorized access, deletion, corruption, recording, distributing, or handling information. InfoSec focuses on protecting the CIA triad: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. 

Information security vs. cybersecurity

People often mix up these terms, but the difference between InfoSec and cybersecurity is simple: information security is concerned with protecting all data mediums, whereas cybersecurity focuses on digital data security.

Information security professionals provide network security in addition to protecting hard data from unauthorized access disclosure. This protected information includes intellectual property, hardware, and online data. The CIA triad guides all InfoSec professionals as they seek to address concerns.

  • Confidentiality: As the name suggests, confidentiality means ensuring information can only be accessed by those with authorization. Those who need access must be given privileges while everyone else is kept out—the fewer eyes on the information, the less chance it becomes compromised. 

  • Integrity: This principle stresses the importance of having accurate and trustworthy data, like employee information, on a website. A hacker could damage a business's reputation by altering data. Encryption, digital certifications, hashing, and digital signatures protect information integrity.

  • Availability: This involves making data easily accessible, so business services aren't disrupted by compromised availability. Recovery systems must be in place for power outages or malignant interference.

What is the salary for a job in cybersecurity?

With such a need for cyber protection in today's digitized world, job opportunities are plentiful. Not only does the field promise job security and an intellectually engaging career–the pay is lucrative. Glassdoor estimates the annual income at $96,837. This includes competitive pay options in terms of profit sharing and cash bonuses.

How to get a job in cybersecurity

You might wonder what it takes to succeed in this highly sought-after career. Employers will be looking for specific soft skills. These include:

  • An analytic approach to problem-solving

  • Attention to detail

  • Clear communication

  • Leadership qualities

  • Proactive thinking

In addition, hiring managers want those who understand the basics of cybersecurity, such as threat modeling, security operations, IT project management–and, most crucial, the proper certification. Therefore, the internationally-recognized CompTIA Security+ certificate is an expected prerequisite for the field.

An entry-level job might not require a coding background, but you'll want to familiarize yourself with the common programming languages to help you advance. Languages like C, PHP, and Java lay a good foundation for cybersecurity.

Bootcamps are an excellent way to hone those core concepts. The University of South Florida's Cyber Security Bootcamp is entirely online and teaches you industry skills, all on your own time. The bootcamp includes over 30 technical labs and projects, including hands-on work. In addition, you'll have access to the 1:1 mentorship program and career coaches who will support your vision and share their tips. Graduate the bootcamp ready for the CompTIA exam after practice quizzes.

Fill in the workforce gap, and put your training to work protecting the digital world by pursuing a career in cybersecurity.