With the modern world constantly plugging into the internet, malicious digital information attacks are a persistent threat. Therefore, our networks, software applications, computer systems, and online databases are vulnerable without cyber security. Keep reading to learn more about the field of cyber security and its functions.

Cyber security protects sensitive information from cyber-attacks. These security measures preserve the integrity of internet-connected systems such as data, software, and hardware. Individuals and organizations employ cyber security to defend data centers and other computerized systems from having their digital information obtained or intercepted by an unauthorized second or third party. In addition, cyber security operations prevent not only the corruption and leak of data but also the disruption of business continuity and the extortion of users’ money via schemes like ransomware. 

Cyber security best comes in the form of a robust framework or strategy―meaning a protocol that is well-established, layered, far-reaching, and vetted by pros. It outlines information assurances, identifies threats, shields all systems, recognizes and counteracts attacks, and rebounds from infiltrations. Because of its complexity and extensiveness, cyber security requires much training and skill to reach proficiency. But because of the demand, it is also one of the fastest-growing fields in technology today.

With active devices now outnumbering people, there’s a rising abundance of cyber criminals seeking to violate those devices for gain. The sheer volume of data available is extraordinary (and lucrative) if they can counteract defensive security protocols. Financials, classified government documents, and private business records are among the most common targets for data breaches. In addition, they tend to be extra susceptible due to the frequent transmission of sensitive information between devices, creating various entry points for interior and exterior threats. The opportunity for breaching has been exceptionally high since COVID-19, which caused many organizations and companies to adapt to the altered needs of their employees, allowing for more remote jobs. With the rapid influx of business communication and tasks now taking place through internet-based networks, the risks have increased substantially, and cyber security has become more critical than ever.

Common cyber threats

Because our society is so technological, it’s natural that our daily lives have become intricately interwoven with the cyber world. The downside comes in the potential risk to any entity connected to the internet―the more our connectivity expands, so do new security solutions gaps, attracting more cyber attackers aiming to capitalize on those vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, as innovative as the good guys are, the bad guys are just as skilled and creative, fattening up their repertoire of methods to combat cyber security at the same rate we’re developing barriers against them. While there are more comprehensive lists denoting all types of cyber threats, here are a few of the most rampant:

  • Phishing | You’re probably familiar with phishing schemes, as they’re a normal part of life for email users. This threat comes from fraudulent emails that mimic reputable sources, such as a bank, online retail establishment, or another service provider. The goal is to poach private data like login credentials, which gets the attacker into your accounts where they can steal credit card or banking information, enabling them to pose as you and drain your financials. The simplest way to avoid these schemes is to have an anti-spam filter in your email inbox.

  • Malware | This software sneaks into a computer system via downloads from the internet, usually from ad clicks or email attachments from unknown or cloned senders. The software then gains unauthorized access to a system, sometimes damaging the computer. You can prevent malware by using anti-virus software and intuitive network firewalls. 

  • Ransomware | This cybercrime usually sends a virus through a network or system, encrypting or destroying files or hijacking the host’s access to their system. The cybercriminal then demands a ransom payment in exchange for a decryption key. Unfortunately, the ransom never guarantees that the hijacker will fully restore the hostage files or system. Read here for best practices to prevent ransomware from gaining a foothold in your system.

  • Social engineering | This tactic uses deception through emotions to trick you into disclosing sensitive information. Attackers often petition money or seek your confidential data. Most social engineering is mixed with other cyber-criminal methods like phishing to encourage you to click links that download malware or trust a dangerous source. Read here to educate yourself on social engineering threats and how to prevent becoming a victim.

  • (Wireless) Man-in-the-middle | This crime is especially hazardous to public or unprotected WiFi users. It occurs when the communication between two systems is intercepted by a third party, which can take place in any online communication―like social media, email, or web browsing. Using the WiFi, attackers can listen in on your conversation, plant harmful data through your connection, transfer private information, or even endanger the integrity and operation of your device. A threat of this nature can cause significant damage, from installing malware to stealing credentials to spying on you. Protect yourself by using a VPN when connecting to public or unsecured WiFi.

  • DDoS | Standing for distributed denial-of-service, these attacks are sophisticated, overpowering a network with more traffic than its server(s) can handle. A DDoS attack causes performance degradation, critical infrastructure crashes, and service disruptions. The motives for DDoS attacks vary, from espionage and cyber warfare to gaining a competitive edge through service disruption. Cyber security professionals are imperative in the fight against these attacks by implementing an incident response plan.

Other benefits of cyber security

  • Confidence in a business or organization, with higher trust for associated parties such as customers, stakeholders, and employees

  • End user and endpoint device protection

  • Regulatory compliance

Jobs in cyber security

As an industry, cyber security is only getting bigger. According to Allied Market Research, the worldwide industry is projected to value around $300 billion by 2027 as cyber attacks continue to plague businesses and organizations with increasing prevalence and sophistication. Since protecting information is an ongoing requirement in both the professional and personal spheres, the demand for cyber security professionals isn’t going away. Some of the standard entry-level jobs in the field include:

  • Cybersecurity specialist

  • Cybercrime analyst

  • Incident & intrusion analyst

  • IT Auditor

More advanced jobs in the field can offer anywhere from $70k to over $110k in annual income. See this extended list of job opportunities and statistics for cyber security professionals to learn more.

Information security vs. cyber security

Cyber security and information security are often confused as interchangeable terms because they’re closely linked. But what is information security? Information security, or InfoSec, means “data security.” It’s a vital aspect of cyber security--yes, but it goes beyond that, pertaining to the security of data in all forms, not just digital (which is the focus of cyber security). Information security professionals concentrate on defending the CIA triad―confidentiality, integrity, and availability. InfoSec utilizes tools and processes developed to safeguard data and information in any medium from being altered, destroyed, disrupted, stolen, or viewed or listened to by an unpermitted source. Think of it as a broader umbrella over cyber security.

How to get a job in cyber security

Cyber security professionals must be collaborative and analytical, plus capable communicators. More specific skills often include incident response, threat intelligence, application security, vulnerability assessments, and network security.

If looking to get your foot in the door, online bootcamps can get you started with your education. For instance, the Cyber Security Bootcamp offered at the University of Massachusetts Global welcomes all students, can be done on your own time, and provides unlimited support from a student advisor, expert mentor, and career coach. The course curriculum covers the six fundamentals of cyber security through 21 units, helping students master their skills in even hands-on areas through labs and projects.

Join the fight against cyber threats by pursuing a career in cyber security today!