What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security is a broad and multidisciplinary field that consists of identifying threats and attacks on critical systems and sensitive information and correcting or preventing them. Cyber security uses technology, processes, and various types of controls to protect computer systems, information networks, and connected devices from unwanted intrusions.
The field of cyber security is a vital part of the US economy and the United States is among the most advanced users of computers and Internet-based functions. The extensive integration of computerized and digital technologies in the US economy is a strength and an asset that requires diligence and protection.
Protecting cyber systems is vital to the economy and national security. Critical functions like electric power, fuel, and transportation are vulnerable to the impacts of cyber-attacks. Cyber security risks can come from domestic crime, international security threats, competition from rival nations, and actions by hostile forces.
The roles and titles of cyber security specialist can vary with the size of the organization and the nature of the computer systems and networks. The typical role is to create and carry out security audits across computer hardware and software systems and networks.
Security specialists work in a range of settings and business environments. They are needed in government agencies that store and utilize large databases. Specialists can work in healthcare institutions and health service organizations that have special requirements to protect medical privacy and patient information. Security analysts work in business organizations that use large databases and businesses in which data is a key asset. They help prevent intrusions and hacks that seek to interfere with the organizations use and access to its data.
News events and national security studies demonstrate the ever-growing number of threats and the severity of cyber security risks. Due to the constant threat, specialists must grow through continued education, training, and professional experience in cyber operations. Analysts play key roles in preventing international security threats, national security threats, and supporting sound business management.
Cyber Security Education in Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a great place to become a cyber security analyst. Massachusetts is a heavy employer of data scientists and various mathematical science occupations. The Massachusetts government places emphasis on improving cyber security; cyber protection is the top priority of the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security.
Healthcare, energy, and financial institutions have been targets of sophisticated attacks in recent years. These incidents involving finance and infrastructure raised concern from Massachusetts, the National Security Agency, and Congress. A cyber security degree in Massachusetts will equip graduates to enter a vibrant and critical sector of the state’s economy.
The state government is a significant employer of cyber security professionals, both directly and through state sponsored research, grants, and contracts. The Massachusetts government has an in-house workforce of more than 1,500 IT professionals spread throughout more than 150 government agencies. The government is a source of information, standards, and guidance for the public, local government, and the private sector.
Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)
Massachusetts has high demand for cyber security expertise. Even students with associate degrees can find positions and enter the field to gain experience. An associate degree is an approximately sixty credit hour program that students can complete in two years of full-time study. Students will study general education courses in English, business, and communications. Students can add coding in one or more of the leading languages.
Technical education will include cyber security fundamentals, database management, and network security. Students learn computing problem solving techniques and managing algorithms and processing. Electives add depth in networking technology, cyber security law, and criminal justice. Students can take practical education courses and internships to gain experience in intrusion detection.
Students can attend on-campus programs leading to an associate degree in cyber security at community colleges and four-year schools. Two Massachusetts community colleges offer online associate of science degrees in cyber security or computer science with a cyber security concentration.
The benefits of an associate degree go beyond entry-level jobs. Students with prior business experience or a degree in another field can use an Associate of Science in Cyber Security to create new career options.
Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)
Students can complete this 120-credit hour degree in eight semesters of full-time study. The four-year bachelor’s degree is an entry-level degree into the field of cyber security. Students will study general education courses including mathematics, English, and communications. To succeed in this field, they must also learn the fundamentals of the business and organizational environments in which they will function as cyber security professionals.
Cyber security coursework will have a basic core of fundamental courses. Basic studies include coding languages, networks and network administration, information systems, and computer programming.
Students can also use electives to develop a concentration that will equip them with specific knowledge and skill sets.
- Computer forensics helps investigate breaches, attacks, and response to attacks
- Investigating Cyber-crime and Fraud
- Information Assurance focuses on preventing data loss from attacks or malicious interference
- Information and Security Management - focuses on information attacks and defenses
Programs may offer internships or capstone projects that give students helpful practical experience.
Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS or MC)
A master’s degree in cyber security requires about 30 to 36 credit hours of study. Students will master one or more coding languages, learn about cryptography, cyber law, and risk analysis. Programs mix theory with hands-on application of contemporary issues.
Students can complete the degree in one or two years of full-time study. Schools may also ask for a capstone project, research project, or thesis. Cyber security is a relatively new field of study. It began in the 1970s when researchers discovered malicious codes or computer viruses and their ability to disrupt systems. As businesses and government grew more dependent on digital data systems and computers, the need to protect those systems became urgent.
Today, cyber security is a high demand field with a robust forecast for growth at least through the end of the current decade. A master’s level of study can equip graduates to be leaders, researchers, and experts in the field of cyber security. You can take this as an MS in Management with a cyber security concentration, or an MBA with a cyber security focus. Students can also add cyber security to related majors like computer engineering and computer science.
PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)
A PhD in Cyber Security can range from 48 to 70 credit hours. Students can compete coursework, examinations, research projects, and a doctoral theses in 4-5 years of full-time effort. Programs can require a master’s degree in cyber security or a related field prior to admission. A PhD is not a required degree for cyber security careers. Academic positions, such as for graduate faculty, frequently prefer PhD graduates.
Doctoral candidates can select coursework and research topics that establish a focus or concentration in a sub-field or related field that is important to them. Accreditation is an important part of selecting a doctoral program. The best cyber security schools in Massachusetts have institutional and program accreditation. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the leading accreditation agency for computer engineering and computer science.
PhD graduates can more easily qualify for academic faculty positions in colleges and universities. Graduate schools need PhD level faculty to prepare the next generation of academic and research leadership. A PhD also qualifies graduates for advanced research roles and leadership in the field. Organizations seek PhDs for senior executive roles, consultancy, and advanced research.
Become a Cyber Security Professional in Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has the largest and most diverse economy among the New England states. While it began as a shipping center, Massachusetts now boasts expanding industries in finance, healthcare, education, and tech research. Centered in the Boston area, the Commonwealth’s economy is strong and offers a wide range of opportunities for cyber security graduates and professionals.
The Massachusetts government has adopted cyber security leadership as a goal. A vital cyber security sector complements the presence of large healthcare organizations, insurance companies, and national headquarters for major corporations.
Education, training, and experience are the essential ingredients to becoming a cyber security professional in Massachusetts. Associate and bachelor’s degrees can provide entry-level positions. Master’s degrees, MBAs, and doctoral education prepare students for policy, leadership, and upper management jobs.
Students can learn on-campus or online and study on a full-time or part-time basis. Cyber security degrees can help professionals in other areas and cyber security expertise to change careers or enhance an existing career path. Experience can set candidates apart in job selection and expand capabilities by hands-on application of theory and techniques.
Certifications can open doors for jobs and careers and specialization is important in cyber security. Some high demand specialties include ethical hacking, cyber security engineering, and cyber security analysis.
Accreditation is an important part of becoming a cyber security professional. Education can open pathways for advancement and career options, and accreditation assures employers, government agencies, and educational institutions of the quality of your education. Program accreditation is widely accepted and highly rated cyber security programs may also hold a designation from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity program as Centers of Academic Excellence.
Certification can speed progress after graduation from the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level. Professional certification and the training needed to acquire it are important professional assets. Certifications demonstrate capability in either broad or specific areas of cyber security. For example, a certification in computer forensics can distinguish a candidate for a job as a cyber security analyst or network systems administrator.
Careers for Cyber Security Graduates
Security analysts monitor computer systems, infrastructure, and networks. The analyst studies the operating states to ensure that data has sufficient protection. Security analysts can act as gateways to permit or restrict access to systems and files.
Security might include issuing and confirming credentials, regulating access, and searching for exploits and vulnerabilities. Security analysts can work in a wide range of business, government, and educational settings. Analysts must communicate and work closely with other functions in the organization. They are essential to any organization with large amounts of sensitive date to protect.
- Security engineers are technical leaders in a company or organization. Engineers develop, implement, and monitor computer systems and networks. They also build security plans and operating standards. The engineer must operate in a proactive mode that anticipates problems and potential issues before they arise in real-time to create difficulties. They oversee and confirm protocols that protect sensitive information and databases. Engineers must also react to issues and problems that occur; quick decisions may be required, and they must work with inside and outside teams to effect recoveries.
- Cloud information security engineers work with on-demand computing services and resources that do not have direct user management. These remote or cloud-based resources have locations across multiple and secure locations or data centers. Cloud information security engineers maintain the access, safety, and efficiency of cloud-based resources. Typical cloud assets include computing power, storage, redundancy, or back-up technology. The range of cloud-based services for organizations include Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), Platforms-as-a-service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS).
- Security architects work with new and expanded computer systems and networks to develop security processes to meet the organization’s changing or growing needs. Their role begins when systems are designed and installed. The role continues throughout the life of the system and includes upgrades, changes, and continuous security testing. Security architects provide expertise for defending the systems, software, and networks. Architects also work with efforts to evaluate, penetrate, and upgrade defenses.
- Penetration testers are specialists that emulate hackers and test systems for resilience, vulnerabilities, and recovery. Testing confirms reliability and exposes weaknesses in systems, networks, and Web applications. Testers must master a range of coding languages and understand various virtual environments. The ethical hacker is essential to determining the strength of security and ways to enhance defenses. Penetration testers require high-levels of expertise and training along with high aptitude for creativity and problem solving.
- Chief information security officers (CISOs) are typically the highest level of information security in an organization. In corporate settings, the CISO is usually a C-suite job that puts information security (Infosec) at the top of the organization’s priorities. CISOs are particularly prominent in organizations with large database and in which data is a critical organizational asset. The CISO must have broad experience, high levels of knowledge, and the capacity to operate in a hands-on manner in an urgent situation. The roles of the CISO include facilities, personnel, training, and education or awareness withing the organization.