Looking forward: The future of jobs in cybersecurity
By Jori Hamilton
With each passing year, our adoption of advanced technology becomes more pronounced. Different aspects of our lives are enhanced by the changes in our digital world, and this, in turn, reveals even greater potential.
Between the widespread integration of the internet of things (IoT) and cryptocurrencies, we have become a society that implements its ideas—both domestic and ambitious—through the lens of tech. It’s an exciting time to be alive.
But there are certainly challenges. It would be nice to think that we live in a utopian world, wherein all users of tech are doing so for the benefit of the greater good. That’s simply not the case. Every day we see examples of how unscrupulous actors take advantage of our digital reliance for personal or political gain. From identity theft to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, cybercrime is no longer a word with sci-fi connotations—it is an ever-present threat in our contemporary world.
This is why there is a significant need for professionals with expertise in cybersecurity. As more industries utilize technology, and criminals become more creative in their actions, the talent gap in cybersecurity is growing. This presents huge potential for those who may be considering entering the market. We’ll take a look at some of the opportunities being revealed as we move into the future.
Blockchain has become a familiar aspect of cybersecurity industries, particularly in financial fields. Initially developed to handle transactions for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain is an open, distributed ledger system in which records are resistant to any modification. This means that no single record, or block, in the chain can be accessed and altered without altering subsequent blocks.
As tends to be the case in our digital environment, various industries are exploring the potential of blockchain beyond its initial intended sphere. Healthcare logistics providers have already begun implementing the technology in order to tackle problems associated with pharmaceutical counterfeiting. IBM is currently partnering with the food supply industry to use blockchain to track and prevent food contamination. As more industries begin to adopt this method, so too will the demand for security experts in this field grow.
Companies with services that develop blockchains tailored to their specific industry or business requirements. On an individual basis, there will be a need for specialized engineers, who are not only able to build blockchain frameworks but undertake quality control testing. As the scope of the system grows, attention will need to be paid to how users interact with these security protocols and user experience (UX) solutions created accordingly.
Prevention is often considered preferable to cure, and the same is true for cybersecurity. For businesses that are reliant upon digital aspects of their marketplace — as the majority of industries now are — it can be disruptive and costly to handle the consequences of a breach or attack. As a result, there is a significant demand for experts specializing in analysis, identification, and resolution of weak points in systems security.
Vulnerability analysts work with their clients to closely examine networks, applications, and operating systems in order to identify flaws that could be problematic in the future. It is their job to consider how creative cybercriminals can be in their threats, and provide solutions that mitigate the risks they discover. There’s also an ongoing responsibility to manage the potential for vulnerabilities, including providing security-conscious training to those using the systems. Whether in-house or a consultant, vulnerability analysts can help make industries more robust in their defense against threats.
This isn’t only useful for industries that utilize highly sensitive data — such as banking and healthcare. With the rise of the IoT, the applications we use on our connected devices have the potential to store and share information about users. Even gaming apps that use augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) could present possibilities for threats to privacy. Every company in every industry that utilizes connected tech in any way could potentially need the services of vulnerability analysts.
Perhaps one of the primary areas that security breaches can be most concerning is in our public services. We are reliant upon the infrastructure of both city and federal governments, and the possibility that this could be disrupted, or private information stolen en masse, is a very real threat. This means that there is ample opportunity for experts specializing in the unique challenges in this sector.
Greater implementation of the IoT has meant that we are also seeing a rise in smart cities. Essential services are being operated and influenced by a variety of connected devices — everything from waste management, water utilities, and street lighting. Many of these include elements of machine learning and could be seriously disrupted by hackers. This means there is a need to employ security personnel able to identify and manage vulnerabilities and breaches unique to the cognizant IoT.
On perhaps a more serious basis, the U.S. government is frequently subjected to cybercrime attacks, with one of the most serious being the 2017 theft of 5.6 million fingerprints by Russian hackers. The threats and breaches are varied, ranging from DDoS attacks to ransomware (malware that threatens to publish information if the ransom isn’t paid). Therefore, the government is in continual need of experts spanning the entire range of cybersecurity professions — analysts, engineers, systems architects, and information officers. As a popular target for attack, this sector is likely to be a source of employment for many years to come.
We benefit greatly from embracing advances in technology. However, for all the positive experiences we gain, there remains the prospect of threats from cybercriminals. This means that there are cybersecurity career opportunities across a wide variety of industries — from banking to local government infrastructure. At a time when there are queries regarding how tech and the rise of AI could disrupt industries, the cybersecurity sectors are able to benefit from our widespread adoption of information systems.