What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security is a title you’ve heard bandied about. Whenever a company has a breach and credit card information is leaked or a bad actor hacker takes over a computer network and Facebook goes down or your banking app stops working, the people who fight off the attack and restore the systems are part of a cyber security team. These are specially-trained information technology professionals that know how to recognize attacks and attempt the mitigate the damage hackers can cause. Cyber security professionals know how to think like hackers, and this helps them create systems and networks that are less accessible to hackers. And in the event of a breach, these pros know how to track down the breach and put an end to it.
A business collets data from a variety of sources for a variety of reasons. It is stored in databases until the company needs it. However, while it’s being stored, there is a chance that a bad actor could gain access to the information and use it in nefarious ways. For example, a hacker could steal customer’s credit card information and charge large purchases on the card, leaving the cardmember on the hook for the charges; or they could steal employees’ personal information and pretend to be them. With these possibilities in mind, a company often employs groups of individuals to keep the information secure and who know how to track down those who might steal this information. These people are called cyber security specialists. They have specialized training that goes beyond database or network management. They know how to build systems that make gaining access to personal information more difficult for outsiders. They are also skilled in tracking and stopping bad actors in the event of a breach.
Cyber Security Education in Maine
In the state of Maine, there are almost 13,000 people employed in in some sort of computer or information technology field. This is in part because there is a lot of data being stored all over the state. It all needs protected, whether it’s your grocery store membership information or your credit card’s spending limit. Cyber security professionals help to keep that information safe and out of the wrong hands.
Maine’s two top industries are real estate and social services. Both of these industries are required to collect sensitive and personal data from their customers and clients. So, it’s important that this information is kept as secure as possible. No real estate agent wants to find out that their potential client’s financial information was leaked, and a hospital would be in serious violation of HIPAA and other laws if patient information was accidentally leaked. So, a solid information technology department with top notch security professionals are a must for both of these industries. Not only do the systems have to be custom built to match the needs of an organization, but there also needs to be a team that can address issues immediately, as well as a team that is constantly creating new ways to better protect the data. There are even cyber security professionals who are dedicated to attempting to breach these systems so that weaknesses can be found, and stronger ones can be created.
If this sounds like a career you might enjoy, keep reading. There is information below on the educational requirements, how to break into the field, and the types of jobs available in the industry.
A person interested in pursuing a career in IT or cyber security has many options in regard to the level of education they want to pursue. As with most professions, the more education attained, the further a person can progress in their career, but even a two-year degree can land a person a decent job in information technology.
Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)
An associate degree in in cyber security can be obtained from tech training schools and community colleges. This degree is a start but won’t allow for much advancement in a cyber security career without a lot of experience to go along with it. It will open some doors of an information technology department and, once you’ve gained employment in the field, you can continue your education so that you can achieve your goal of working as a cyber security specialist.
Classes in the programs can vary but, in general, a student can expect to take the following courses:
- Computer Science
- Information Technology
- Database Administration
- Entry-level cyber security courses
Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)
A bachelor’s degree in cyber security is the first rung on the ladder to working as a cyber security specialist. For most certifications, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and work experience are required to apply and sit for any required exams. For those who have already attained a two-year degree, the bachelor’s degree builds on their existing education. Between the additional education and work experience, positions on a cyber security team are more likely to become available, especially if you’ve added specific certifications.
However, while still working on your four-year degree, you will study the following areas:
- Data Security
- System Administration
- Computer Science
Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS or MC)
At the graduate level, students are choosing areas of study that are specific to their career goals. So, for someone who wants to become a cyber security specialist, the classes will be based mainly in cyber security for programming and networks. These programs tend to vary by school, so there isn’t a set curriculum to point to, but it is safe to assume that some of the courses studied previously will be revisited at a higher level and more vigorously. At this stage, a person enrolled in a graduate program probably has several years of work experience, as well as one or several certifications in the information technology field. If opportunities to work in cyber security have not already presented themselves, enrolling in a graduate program should create additional opportunities. This degree may also open up the option of teaching at local colleges or universities. Finally, many cyber security specialists that are employed in the finance industry couple their IT experience with a Master in Business Administration, which gives them an advantage since they understand both the information technology side as well as the business side of the importance of cyber security.
PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)
For the most part, a cyber security specialist does not need a doctorate degree to advance to the top of his field. However, if you plan to transition to the classroom and teach full-time, a doctorate will make you eligible for tenured positions at colleges and universities or to run research labs at a college.
Become a Cyber Security Professional in Maine
The path to becoming a cyber security professional is rather linear, though the starting point might be different depending on the path taken. Most people who become cyber security specialists start out in some form of information technology, such as database administration or network administration. While holding this position, most administrators continue their education in some capacity, either attaining an advanced degree or pursuing a certification. It’s important to note that, in order to gain certification, a minimum of a bachelor's degree is required for many of the organizations that offer these certificates. After several years of working in their fields, the Computer Information System Security Professional (CISSP) exam can be taken and a person can apply for acceptance into the (ICP)2 organization.
Once additional education and training is attained, a worker can prepare to apply for jobs as security engineers, analysts, auditors, or consultants. This is also a good time to certify as a Management Information System (MIS) specialist. This is a parallel position to a cyber security specialist and will give a worker an advantage because it means they are well-versed in several different aspects of information systems. Potential employers like well-rounded workers, and holding both CISSP and MIS certification meets those requirements.
At this point, a worker is gaining work experience and waiting for management positions to present themselves. At this level, workers are qualified to work as IT Project Mangers, Security Managers, and Security Architects. After several years of experience in the industry, Director positions will start to open up. This would be the best time to pursue the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or the Chief Operations Officer (COO) certifications.
Careers for Cyber Security Graduates
There are many types of jobs available for a person with a cyber security education, and more are created seemingly daily. Below are some common positions a person with an IT and cyber security background could consider.
- Security Analyst
A security analyst examines a company’s security system and looks for flaws or possible breaches in security systems and computer programs, then assists the company will creating solutions that address the problems that are found. They also help companies create more secure solutions from the start so there are less chances of breaches going forward.
- Security Engineer
Just like Scotty kept the Enterprise in the sky, a security engineer keeps a company’s security systems up and running. Engineers are tasked with creating and implementing systems for the network, as well as choosing appropriate computer hardware and software systems. They test for errors and inaccuracies, and in the event there is a problem, the engineers are the ones who identify the issue and create a fix.
- Information Technology Manager
The information technology manager, also known as the IT manager oversees the IT department for a company. They coordinate personnel needed to complete jobs related to the network, hardware, and software required to keep the company running smoothly.
- Cloud Information Security Engineer
Cloud information security engineers set up the system a business needs to implement secure workload on Google Cloud or another cloud system. They design and implement the structure a company will use for cloud storage and make sure that data is backed up and secure.
- Penetration Tester
If you’ve ever wanted to become a hacker but were afraid of breaking the law, then a career as a penetration tester could be right for you. Also referred to as pen testers, these individuals deliberately attempt to hack into a business’ computer and network system using the same tactics that an actual hacker might use to wreak havoc. The point of this sanctioned hack is to look for weaknesses in the system and correct them so that a bad actor hacker cannot gain access.
- Information Security Analyst
While a security analyst secures and protects a company’s hardware, an information security analyst does the same thing with the incoming data. The make sure that data has the proper encryption, is formatted properly, and is housed in in a safe and secure environment. You can thank information security analysts for captchas and other hoops you have to jump through to log onto your banking app or even your Facebook account.
Other positions a person with an education in cyber security can explore include:
- Security Software Engineer
- Security Architect
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
- Information Security Manager
- Network Engineer
- Network Administrator
- Systems Administrator
- Information Technology Director