If you are a budding programmer, strategist, or sleuth, you should consider getting into one of the 21st Century’s most important fields: cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity might not be a very public-facing field, but it has a huge influence on the way networks of human beings communicate, do business and even vote. With humankind’s increasing dependence upon digital networks comes inherent risk. Hackers and spies use vulnerabilities in networks to extort money, manipulate public opinion and steal identities. Cybersecurity experts have a big hand in stopping malevolent actors from dominating the digital age.
Taking a specialist degree like a cybersecurity master’s allows you to spend valuable time honing your tradecraft alongside a network of your contemporaries. You’ll also be able to pick the brains of your cybersecurity elders – your course conveners and professors. This exchange of knowledge is crucial if you ever want to break into the lucrative and varied world of digital security.
With high average wages, very low unemployment rates, and a chance to genuinely help make the world a safer and more truthful place, cybersecurity is a wonderful field to get into. Here are five reasons why you should study for a postgraduate cybersecurity master’s – a truly 21st Century qualification.
Cybersecurity Has Never Been More Relevant
If you choose to study for a cybersecurity masters, you’ll have the opportunity to enter a varied, fast-growing field where sound planning and out-of-the-box thinking are rewarded handsomely. You are probably well aware of how critical cybersecurity has become in a world where more and more businesses and organizations rely upon computer networks. Over the last 10 years, cybersecurity issues have rarely been out of the news. Here are a couple of examples that you might have heard of:
The DNC Spear Phishing Campaign
A cybersecurity breach that arguably changed the course of history, this sophisticated Russian hacking operation was aimed at discrediting the presidential campaign of Hilary Clinton. Staffers at the Democratic National Committee were sent innocent-looking emails that appeared to contain useful information. These were, in fact, spear-phishing emails. By clicking on the links in the emails and entering their passwords, the staffers were unknowingly compromising the security of the party. Thousands of emails sent and received by the Clinton campaign were systematically leaked, and her opponent, Donald Trump, succeeded in getting elected. The same hackers allegedly tried to spear-phish the Democratic National Committee again in 2018 during the midterm elections. Students studying for a cybersecurity master’s will learn how to give proper training to organizational employees so as to prevent this kind of devastating data breach.
The Yahoo Data Breach
Once an internet giant, Yahoo’s credibility and market worth were permanently damaged when it was revealed that hackers had managed to gain access to all 3 billion user accounts. Yahoo’s security team never managed to identify the perpetrator of the data breach and would end up being bought out by Verizon for a far smaller amount than they had predicted before the hack was revealed. Cybersecurity master’s students will study the ways in which large databases can be made secure through encryption, as well as more active security measures.
As you can see, cybersecurity breaches can have a huge knock-on effect in both business and politics. As the world becomes more and more networked, cybersecurity has become a far more pressing concern. Hackers, spies, and thieves are quick to adapt to new ways in which to exploit technology. Blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, for instance, have been exploited by criminal gangs and nefarious extortion experts from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Cybersecurity has never been more relevant to a safe and truthful society. The good news for cybersecurity master’s graduates is that their field is likely to become even more relevant as human communication becomes even more tied up with the exchange of data online. As hackers evolve to exploit weaknesses, cybersecurity experts will evolve in parallel – plugging gaps and managing risks.
Cybersecurity Experts Are Well Paid
Cybersecurity experts are extremely valuable to organizations – and they are rewarded appropriately. Cybersecurity is one of the top priorities for a company, government, or NGO that wants to plan strategies for preventing risk. Being able to deliver risk aversion operations, security audits, and active countermeasures against data breaches makes a cybersecurity master’s graduate hot property. Depending on where in the United States they are working, a cybersecurity professional earns an average salary that ranges from 74,000 to 127,000 dollars per year.
If you happen to find work as a senior cybersecurity consultant at some point in your career, you can expect to earn a great deal more than those average salaries. The same exception applies to experts who find senior work delivering security operations to the U.S. Air Force or National Security Agency. Government agencies have made huge investments in cybersecurity and digital intelligence in recent years after failing to recognize how devastating a cyber attack could be on a country’s stability until it started becoming a commonplace event. In a 2015 RAND corporation report, the think tank correctly identified the need for the U.S. Air Force to invest heavily in cybersecurity. The Air Force requested 1.25 billion dollars in federal money for cybersecurity programs in the 2019 fiscal year.
The value of cybersecurity is likely to stay very high long into the future – as good a reason as any to study for a cybersecurity master’s. Unless some kind of worldwide catastrophe alters humanity’s relationship to the internet, cybersecurity experts are going to remain in high demand. At the current time, there are around 780,000 Americans working in Cybersecurity. There are typically around 350,000 vacancies in the field, and there is typically a 0 percent unemployment rate in the field. Very few lines of work can boast a 0 percent unemployment rate amongst professionals!
There Are Plenty of Distinct Career Paths for a Cybersecurity Graduate
Cybersecurity is a very broad field, and cybersecurity master’s students have plenty of paths they can choose when looking to foster a successful career. Here are just a few of the different roles that qualified cybersecurity experts can find themselves in if they work hard:
I.T. Security Engineer
I.T. security engineers take a broad, long-term look at how an organization can construct its network in order to mitigate risk. They work in conjunction with programmers, data engineers, and executives to advise a team on the security side of building a network. They are the cutting edge of a cybersecurity team.
Cybersecurity incident responders are in very high demand. They swoop in and remove any vulnerabilities that have been exposed by an attack. They gather legal information and deliver reports about how best an organization can prevent a repeat of the breach they have suffered.
While an incident responder is responsible for reporting on vulnerabilities and cleaning up damage, an investigator takes a much deeper look at the causes, motivation behind and personnel behind a cybercrime. In governmental organizations like the FBI, cybercrime investigators play a huge role in uncovering plots and schemes. Investigators need to have a keen eye for detail as well as comprehensive technical knowledge.
Malware analysts are part detective, part reverse engineer, and part programmer. They provide in-depth insight and intelligence after a security breach. By analyzing malicious software, malware analysts can help security teams develop more robust strategies to counter future threats. They can collaborate with ethical hackers to inform them during ‘wargame’ type security tests.
Ethical hackers are employed to test the defenses and countermeasures that have been built into a system. They act as if they were malicious criminals – breaking into networks and exposing weaknesses. This helps other team members to assess and mitigate risks. Ethical hackers are encouraged to think creatively about ways to expose security flaws – just like their unethical equivalents. They will often be contracted in without the wider cybersecurity team’s knowledge to provide them with an unexpected challenge.
You’ll Learn How to Spot Vulnerabilities Before They Are Exploited
Many cybersecurity roles involve the identification of vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by nefarious actors. The hallmark of a successful cybersecurity strategy is a complete lack of action when it comes to crisis response. During your cybersecurity masters, you’ll learn how to spot the telltale signs that indicate a possible security breach.
Risk mitigation makes up a large portion of any cybersecurity engineer’s work. There are four broad steps in any cybersecurity risk mitigation strategy.
Just Identifying the location of possible vulnerabilities is a massive step towards making a network safe. Cybersecurity master’s students will learn how to conduct thorough audits of the networks they are working on.
Getting to know the kind of vulnerabilities present in a network and then understanding how they can be exploited can help a cybersecurity expert come up with mitigating solutions. Ethical hackers are often employed to exploit vulnerabilities as a test during this phase.
Identify Possible Mitigation Measures
Plugging as much of the vulnerability as possible. This can involve programming, staff training, the implementation of digital identity authentication systems, and many more additions to security.
Decide What to Do About Residual Risk
A network is never entirely safe from exploitation. Cybersecurity networks need to identify the vulnerabilities that they have been unable to plug. They then need to organize a contingency strategy for dealing with breaches when they occur. A continuous risk mitigation review process is often implemented to constantly improve security.
You’ll Have the Opportunity to Make the World a More Truthful Place
Changes in communication technology have arguably led to an era in which the objectivity of truth has been completely eroded. In this ‘post-truth age, facts can be fabricated, populations can be manipulated, and the seeds of doubt can be planted by nefarious actors. The distinction between what is real and what is fabricated online is extremely hard to make out in many circumstances. With so much of our identities housed and exposed on the internet, we are far more susceptible to falsehoods and subterfuge spread through the web. Sociologists and political scientists have been alarmed by the speed at which misinformation can be spread. There have also been worrying knock-on effects throughout society. Human beings online are more fractured than ever – able to completely disregard factual evidence of wrongdoing, prejudice, and manipulation because of the frailty of fact itself. People are more likely to become apathetic or develop extreme outlooks. Compromise is hard when you know that truth is subjective and are forced to pick the facts that appeal most to you.
During your cybersecurity masters, you’ll learn that cybersecurity experts have a hand in bringing some degree of sanctity and meaning to the information that we consume and share online. Businesses and governmental organizations are hiring cybersecurity teams to train their staff on how the truth can be manipulated to extort money by criminals. Open source investigators like Bellingcat are using cybersecurity techniques to unmask the shadowy world of message manipulation by political and military actors. Rooting out falsehoods spread on the internet is one of the key tasks of any well-trained cybersecurity expert. As well as providing protection against material attacks, you’ll be aiming to provide an organization with protection against manipulations of online dialogue.
Perhaps the most famous and impactful online misinformation campaigns have been run by governmental organizations. The Internet Research Agency contracted through backroom dealings to the Russian Government – created thousands of fake Twitter and Facebook accounts in an attempt to influence domestic and foreign politics. By all accounts, their methods were very successful. Countering these tactics is the job of trained cybersecurity experts. The battle against digital misinformation is not likely to be won any tie soon. As cybersecurity experts develop new ways of rooting out fakery, those with an interest in spreading misinformation will develop their tactics as well. One way misinformation spreading organizations are evolving is by increasing the use of real people instead of bots. Workers will sit in an office using multiple VPNs, acting as other seemingly real people online. It sounds like grueling work.
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