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What is Cyber Security?

Cyber security is the protection of computer networks, data stored in the cloud, computers, hardware, and software. In Mississippi, cyber security is needed in each of the top 10 industries in the state. These include manufacturing, with annual revenue of $18.8 billion; real estate, rental, and leasing ($12 billion); educational services, healthcare, and social assistance ($10 billion); retail trade ($9 billion); professional and business services ($8.3 billion); wholesale trade ($6.2 billion); finance and insurance ($5.6 billion); arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services ($5.2 billion); transportation and warehousing $4.3 billion); and construction ($4.3 billion).

Each of these industries is potentially vulnerable to a cyber-attack. Cyber thieves may insert ransomware, demanding a large ransom or they may break into an organization’s computer networks with the intention of stealing any personal or financial data they can get ahold of.

If they are successful, the organization may have lost millions of dollars, trade secrets, and their reputation. If the company has customers, patients, or clients, their data (medical or financial) may be stolen along with their identities. Once an organization has been attacked, its reputation takes a major hit. If the organization loses customer data may lead to either regulatory or legal action taken against the company.

For each of these reasons, cyber security is vital and is becoming even more important. This problem doesn’t concern only the United States; it’s a problem all around the world.

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Online Cybersecurity Education in Mississippi

Every one of the listed industries in Mississippi, as well as any others not shown on this list can, should, and many are hiring cyber security professionals to work in their organizations. Some companies instead use a cyber security consulting firm to do this work for them.

To arrive at what a cyber security specialist is, it helps to know what they do. The simplest answer is that they protect digital information. Cyber security professionals are charged with protecting networks, data, IT infrastructure and internet-connected devices. They are also responsible for preventing data breaches, monitoring networks, and responding to attacks. To do so, they may encrypt information or test a company’s current firewall and protections to find vulnerabilities.

These specialists can develop security systems, test and analyze them, and put them into action. They conduct vulnerability assessments of computer networks and help the company manage existing risks. They respond to cyber-attacks, security threats, and other similar happenings. Some specialists may develop strategies for threat prevention and they often generate reports for executives and administrators.

Cyber security specialists carry out many different tasks and can have many different titles. These include:

  • Information security analyst
  • Security architect
  • Software security engineer
  • Penetration tester (pen tester)
  • Information security crime investigator
  • Security consultant
  • Chief information security officer (CISO)

As of 2021, about 3.5 million cyber security jobs were vacant, according to the Massachusetts Technology Institute’s Technology Review. Fewer than one in four have the qualifications to work in any of these positions, so now is a great time to get into the field.

Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)

Future students at online technical colleges shouldn’t have too much trouble finding cyber security technology degrees. One Mississippi community college offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in cyber security. This degree program offers a Cisco Networking Academy program, which is certified, and an approved CompTIA Academy. Most schools offering similar degrees will focus on operating systems, networking devices, evaluating protocols, hardware components, software tools, etc.

Classes can take place in a computer lab setting, which gives students the hands-on experience they need working on the latest technology, or you can take these classes online. After all, your work will already be done on a computer, so these programs tend to translate well to online learning.

Once students graduate, they may be ready for a career in wireless defense mechanisms, cyber-crime, digital forensics, cryptography, or biometrics. Students should check before they start a program whether or not completing their course will earn them any credentials, such as Security+ and A+.

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Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)

An online bachelor’s cyber security degree may be offered as a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts, but both will take students around four years to complete if they attend full-time. You may want to look for a program which focuses on cyber defense and operations, information assurance, or another similar field that will immediately help you make your mark in the workforce. These programs are designed to educate students who plan to help organizations to meet the difficulties that are posed by an ever-growing number of cyber threats.

Programs offered by institutions listed as Centers of Academic Excellence, as chosen by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are top tier when it comes to online cybersecurity education. They may be listed as being focused on cyber defense, cyber operations, and more. They gain this title by satisfying the requirements set out by the NSA and DHS in their ongoing focus on finding qualified graduates with experience in cyber security. These agencies recognize the importance of these roles and are, in fact, the largest employers of cyber security professionals in the country.

Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS or MC)

These online master's degrees are designed to help students meet the challenges of increasing cyber-attacks and cyber-threats with a focus toward managing IT departments and knowing how to keep security projects moving forward successfully. They will go much more in-depth into training students how to not only thwart a cyber-attack themselves, but how to manage a team that is designed to do so.

These degree programs can also be granted the NSA’s Centers of Academic Excellence credentials: CAE-Cyber Defense Education, CAE-Cyber Defense Research, and CAE-Cyber Operations.

After graduation, students may enter careers as security management specialists, information security analysts, database administrators, network and computer systems administrators and computer network architects.

Professionals who already work in the cyber security industry and are looking to boost their resume might decide to earn an MBA, which can offer students well-designed curricula focusing on finance, accounting, marketing, or management. You might want to ensure that you find a program which is AACSB accredited if you are looking for the best education you can get.

After graduation, students may be offered these positions as chief executives, operations managers, sales managers, administrative services managers, financial managers, purchasing managers, regulatory affairs managers, compliance managers, and more.

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Online PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)

Those who want to can earn an online PhD in Computer Science. These programs are focused on developing scholars who are able to lead research teams, work in advanced computer science pedagogy, and perform demanding industrial research.

During a PhD program, students may be required to take several courses, exams, and perform research and write a dissertation. Then, students defend their dissertation. This demonstrates the student’s scholarship and contribution to the field.

Graduates may work for technology companies, NASA, its contractors, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. armed forces, and other government agencies and companies.

Become a Cyber Security Professional in Mississippi

Luckily, there are no requirements for licensure in the computer science or cyber security profession, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t need credentials. This just means that you will need differing credentials based on what field you’re in, what company you hope to work for, etc. Professional certifications for cyber security specialists serve two vital purposes. First, they communicate the skills of the professional. Second, they ensure that the cyber security specialist’s resume will be seen and noticed. You can choose whatever certifications best work for your career goals, but here are a few to consider.

  • Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)
    Cyber security professionals who focus on cloud security are required to have at least one year of working experience within one or more of the seven domains of the SSCP Common Body of Knowledge, or a bachelor’s or master’s degree, in order to gain this credential. Those who benefit most from this certification include security administrators, systems administrators, network security administrators, and security analysts.
  • EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA)
    This certification is for those who want to develop a career in penetration testing, in which they will legally work to breach a target network/system and find existing vulnerabilities. Prerequisites include two years of experience in the cyber security profession and completion of the eligibility application process.
  • Licensed Penetration Tester (LPT)
    To be eligible for this certification exam, the pen tester should earn the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), EC-Certified Security Analyst (ECSA), or both certifications. This certification’s practical exam is considered to be the “most challenging” practical exam available. Professionals are required to complete and document the entire process of a pen test from beginning to finish.
  • CompTIA Cyber security Analyst (CompTIA CYSA)
    This certification is more advanced than the Security+. It takes a more detailed look into threat management, cyber incident response, vulnerability management, and security architecture and toolsets. Specialists earning this certification should have at least four years of hands-on information security or related experience. They should also hold a Network+ certification and a Security+ certification.

Careers for Cyber Security Graduates

  • Security Engineer
    Security engineers work to keep sensitive data protected. This includes proprietary data, electronic health records, financial data, and more. They also verify that their department has the correct hardware and software ready to run, supervise IT projects intended to protect the safety of valuable information or data, and work to protect the internet and intranet systems.
  • Information Technology Manager

    This professional oversees the supervision, rollout, and maintenance of the organization’s computing needs. They also ensure that the computer systems, hardware, software, and related applications are secure and operating smoothly.

    To work in this role, the information technology manager should be able to show a detailed knowledge of industry best practices and demonstrate a professional track record of vigorous technical management and information analysis.

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  • Information Security Manager
    This professional is responsible for securing their organization’s computer networks and digital information. They identify and analyze potential information security risks, develop strategies for preventing threats, and promptly address breaches. A major part of their job is to create guidelines and procedures for security management and to verify that all employees, managers, and top leaders are ready to use best practices to protect their data.
  • Network Engineer
    These professionals build and maintain day-to-day operation of computer networks. These may include an intranet, extranet, local area network (LAN), and wide area network (WAN). In general, their duties include replacing faulty network hardware components, maintaining computer networks, their hardware, software, and related systems, performing disaster recovery, and protecting hardware and software from attacks. They should expect to work closely with network users to zero in on potential issues and correct any existing problems.
  • Information Technology Director

    An IT technology director is responsible for directing and controlling development, rollout, and maintenance of the organization’s information and communications strategy and systems. They also strive to bring in and maintain appropriate data security.

    They also ensure that staff members are motivated and obtain necessary training and development, which enables them to handle their responsibilities at the required standards. The IT technology director contributes to the development of an organization’s strategic and business plans, especially as they tie into information technology and communications systems.

  • Information Security Analyst

    These professionals design security technologies such as firewalls and data encryption programs to protect an organization’s computer networks from cyber-attacks. They also help to create and establish security standards.

    Their responsibilities include installing security software, monitoring computer networks for security issues, investigating breaches and other cyber security incidents, and documenting breaches and determining damages.

  • Cyber Penetration Tester

    A penetration tester assists organizations to identify and correct security vulnerabilities which affect their digital assets and computer networks. They may work in-house with a permanent employer and hold a role as a member of internal cyber security or IT teams. Or they may be employed by specialized organizations providing services to outside clients.

    Pen testers are likely to be working for an industry that handles sensitive, proprietary, personal, or classified information.

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