More than 30 years ago, I got banned from using the very rudimentary 10BASE2 IBM AT/XT network our school had set up. I was nailed for shoulder surfing my teacher’s credentials, then logging in and poking around. I didn’t do any damage, and the ban was not long. As an 8-year-old I really didn’t know any better. My defense given to the principal? I just wanted to look around and see what was there.
How far computing has come since then. We moved from the most basic of networks to the world of dial-up and ISDN to what is now a global network of interconnected things with speeds and access we couldn’t have even dreamed of back then. Computing devices in our pockets provide instant access to the entire sum of human knowledge.
But all of this technology, interconnectivity and near-real time interaction requires unparalleled levels of security. We trust the devices and services we use on a regular basis to protect the information and access we grant them. We trust companies, and by default complete strangers, with our most intimate of details: our family photographs, our private correspondence, our text messages, our personal financial and health information, and so many other sensitive nuggets of information. And as we move forward and connect literally billions of “smart” devices, we’re only seeing a glimpse of the beginning of our combined technological potential.
With the Internet comes cybercrime, which has slowly become a serious problem in the world today, encompassing everything from applications that snoop on everything you do to state-sponsored infiltration or attacks of networks. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks wreak havoc on scales unheard of, and malware attacks like the recent scourge of ransomware, are all blights on the promised utopia envisioned when we started building the Internet that we know today.
That’s what led me to a career in cybersecurity. Each technological advance is paired with a multitude of security risks waiting to be addressed. The complexity of these problems has created an urgent need for people to help. Lawyers, business people, sales staff, technical support and analysts, reverse engineers, writers, policy experts, advocates, educators, managers and executives – every single one of those specialties (and others) are desperately needed in cybersecurity.
For me, it was those early years of just wanting to know how everything worked, to experimenting with electronics, circuits, computers and radios, to learning the basics of simple programming languages like BASIC and LOGO (I still remember that turtle!) all the way to now; all of those experiences translate incredibly well into the world of cybersecurity.
Yet the shortage of cybersecurity professionals continues to grow. Some reports claim there will be millions of unfilled cybersecurity positions in the next few years. The demand for talent gives people with the right skills the flexibility to create roles that mesh with their personal dreams.
The pay is obviously appealing. Wages for cybersecurity professionals continue to be significantly higher than the national average. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cybersecurity professional earns almost three times the national average for full-time workers! More importantly, this demand around the world gives you the ability to find a role wherever you’d like to live, as well as work remotely if you’re not interested in relocating. Cybersecurity is also flextime-friendly: You can often work your own hours, unless of course, you prefer to work the late shift in a security operations center.
Beyond the lifestyle incentives, there are many other amazing opportunities for those considering a job in cybersecurity: the potential to learn and advance are almost endless. The ability to shift gears and try something new is unlike most career paths. Some basic knowledge of the fundamentals of networking and security are not difficult to master, and that can often be enough to get your foot in the door in a junior role. And because cybersecurity is seen to be at the forefront of technology, you have access to a staggering amount of affordable or free training to cut your teeth. You’ll also find that many cybersecurity pros are very eager to mentor, teach, and share their expertise with you… they know they could use all the help they can get.
Cybersecurity is one of the fastest growing, most in-demand career fields in the world today. Companies need people to help plan, build, deploy and manage their technology investments in order to keep all of that information they’re trusted with safe from harm. With the increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals, I wouldn’t hesitate to encourage anyone with even a passing interest to consider taking a deeper look at this field. And if you see my grade school principal, tell him I’m sorry about the shoulder surfing … but not really.
About Richard Henderson
Richard Henderson is Global Security Strategist at Absolute, where he is responsible for trend-spotting, industry-watching and idea-creating.