Explore, Experience and Share Cybersecurity Careers

The theme of Cybersecurity Awareness Month week three is “Explore. Experience. Share.”  The focus this week is on cybersecurity careers.  NIST has a National Initiative For Cybersecurity Education (Nice) Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week to inspire and promote awareness and exploration of cybersecurity careers.

Cybersecurity is a dynamic and rapidly growing field for entering and developing a rewarding career.  While driven by an explosion of attackers and intruders on enterprise networks, as well as any electronic networked environment, it is an excellent way to both contribute to positive outcomes and in general do good things for your employers.

Cybersecurity is also an intellectually stimulating field, with the ability to pit wits against some of the best hackers in the world.  It’s the opportunity to measure your own skills and experience against world-class adversaries.

Qualifications for Entering Cybersecurity

A scan of university programs indicates that there are few full programs dedicated specifically to cybersecurity, but most computer science and information systems programs offer at least one, and usually several courses in the area.  Anyone with intellectual curiosity and a desire to go up against often-brilliant hackers should take some of these courses.

In addition, innovative programs such as those offered by entities such as the Huntsville Space Center’s Space Camp can provide an early stepping stone into the field.  My own 12-year old nephew completed the Space Camp’s program in cybersecurity this past summer, and his team won an award for their work over the course of the week.

A technical degree in software or systems is sometimes a prerequisite for an entry level job working in cybersecurity, but often talented individuals in other areas are able to transition into many cybersecurity jobs.  It requires an interest in the field, as well as a strong desire for life-long learning of a technical nature.

Formal Learning in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is such a dynamic and fast-changing field that few universities are able to keep up and deliver formal education in it.  It simply evolves too rapidly to build a curriculum around.  The best cybersecurity careers route is to major in computer science, computer engineering, mathematics, physics, or information systems, and design an individualized curriculum that incorporates independent study courses in recognizing and mitigating the latest hacking techniques.

Those already in the field may also find it valuable to teach continuing education courses at local universities or training centers.  The advantage of this approach is that they can bring real world knowledge from their own careers to those who are just starting out or transitioning into a new career.  And because they are teaching the latest trends in cybersecurity, they have to keep up with their own learning and understanding.

For those who are academically inclined, there are also research careers in the field that enable professionals to act as “white hat” hackers, seeking vulnerabilities into new and existing software to alert others on potential attack vectors in both commercial and open source software so that they might be addressed before they are taken advantage of.

Researchers are also the primary individuals who investigate and explain new attacks to the world at large.  They examine new hacks and characterize them so that commercial and individual users can better understand the threats against them.

Developing a Career in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity can also be a highly diverse career path.  In addition to the prospect of working in fields such as health care, financial services, manufacturing, government, and retail, cybersecurity professionals also have the ability to work in high tech, including new product development, consulting services, research, and forensics.  The ability to work on the cutting edge of the fight against hackers and intruders can be an enticing draw into the career.

Gurucul, for example, incorporates cybersecurity researchers, software engineers, training and technical sales professionals, product managers, and others into product development and educational efforts to thwart the latest efforts by hackers to exploit software and system vulnerabilities.  Today, Gurucul has active openings for data scientists, cyber security software engineers, SOC analysts, professional and technical services, product marketing, and field sales.  If you have experience or interest in these areas, we would love to hear from you.

Other vendors may employ cybersecurity experts to attempt to break into their own software, and offer their product development teams solutions to vulnerabilities they find.  Today and into the future, secure software can be a major selling point for new products.  And leaders of both government and corporate entities will sleep better at night knowing that their systems are less likely to be in tomorrow’s news for all of the wrong reasons.

Beyond the Traditional Network

Today, software is more than just enterprise computing networks.  Aerospace and defense, automotive systems such as autonomous vehicles and sensors, Internet of Things networks are all subject to intrusion, data theft, ransomware, or other exploit.  Even ostensibly low-tech areas such as agriculture, natural resource exploration, mining, and commercial trucking are employing comprehensive computer systems and have to guard against the possibility of attacks and intruders.

Whichever path you might choose to enter and develop a career in cybersecurity, you will likely find it both rewarding from a career and financial standpoint, as well as intellectually satisfying.  A creative and problem-solving approach to your work is essential.  The need for cybersecurity professionals is going to keep growing substantially for the foreseeable future.  Be aware that you are going up against some of the best computing minds around.  And the work is truly important to both your employer and to society at large.  If this kind of challenge excites you, look further into cybersecurity careers.