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What is Cyber Security?

Cyber security provides protection to organizations ranging from those in the healthcare field to marketing or the information industry itself. Cyber security specialists aim to protect the personal information of students, patients, clients, customers, and more when it is used correctly.

The biggest responsibility of a cyber security specialist is to protect the digital information held on the computer networks of their company or clients. This includes installing security software and encrypting company and personal information, making it difficult to harvest it. They aim to ensure that an organization’s computer network, and even their employees and best practices are hardened against hackers, viruses, and malware.

All IT areas need to be defended and protected against would-be cyber-attackers and those who would abuse the information, even possibly from those within the company. Healthcare, manufacturing, finance, transportation industries, as well as government, are all vulnerable to attack. Many companies have seen successful attacks, and the number of attacks keeps increasing year after year. The International Maritime Organization, which is a shipping agency for the United Nations, saw its shipping and supply chain networks attacked by cyber-thieves, hospitals have been shut down, and even oil pipelines and other infrastructure have been hit with ransomware and are vulnerable to future attacks.

Cyber security professionals can develop and test new security systems, assess and manage existing systems, actively respond to ongoing security incidents, discover the point of entry for past intrusions, write reports for executives and administrators, and develop new strategies to prevent cyber-threats.

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Online Cyber Security Education in Rhode Island

It’s important for most of Rhode Island’s top industries to ensure their networks and systems have a security focus, especially considering how severely a cyber-attack can affect businesses. Real estate businesses could suffer the loss of personal information of buyers, renters, and employees. Manufacturing may lose vital data and information or lose access to systems needed to keep their organizations operating smoothly. If a cyber thief chooses to stop a system cold with ransomware, the employees of the organization often cannot do anything electronically - instead, they end up having to use old-fashioned paper and pencil methods. While this could be inconvenient for some businesses, for hospitals it can mean lives lost and for manufacturers it can mean workers losing whole days of pay.

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Even when lives aren’t in the balance, companies are chock-full of information that cyber-thieves want. They want to get to bank account information and the personal information of both sellers and buyers. If they succeed in getting the information they want, these victims may have their identities stolen, causing even more problems down the line. The most worrisome data to lose includes phone numbers, social security numbers, bank information, home addresses, income, etc.

This is a worry for every industry in the state. The top industries are the most likely to be targeted and may have the most to lose. The top industries in Rhode Island include Real estate at #1, with an annual revenue of around 8.7 billion. The rest of the top ten list includes educational services and healthcare ($8 billion); professional and business services ($7.8 billion); finance and insurance ($5.8 billion); manufacturing ($5.1 billion); wholesale trade ($3.6 billion); retail trade ($3.3 billion); arts, entertainment, recreation, and food services ($3 billion); construction ($2.4 billion); and information ($1.5 billion).

Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)

An associate degree can provide a solid foundation for a career in the cyber security profession. Students at this level are introduced to cyber security methods of protection, as well as the basic principles that underlie all cyber security methods. Students will usually complete at least some general education, which can help them skip past the early years of a bachelor’s degree if they are able to transfer their earned credits to a future program. And then students will take core courses, focused on cyber security, that aim to help them gain the basic knowledge and tools they will need to use security measures in various computer network settings and architectures.

These degree programs provide a foundation for students to transfer into a bachelor’s degree program in cyber security or start their career right away. An associate degree program can offer the education and hands-on training students need to move into a position in a cyber security profession, though it’s important to note that, without further education, you’ll need to gain more experience before you can move into management positions. Although, some programs at the associate degree level meet the requirements of the National Security Agency (NSA). A recent national security policy saw the NSA creating standards for cyber security education and accreditation. Those schools that meet NSA requirements are known as Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE), an accreditation that can be earned by schools offering anything from an associate degree to a graduate education.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)

If you are planning to earn a bachelor’s in cyber security, you should definitely aim to attend a program that has been accredited by the National Security Agency / Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence. These programs can earn various types of accreditation including for cyber defense, information assurance, cyber operations, research in cyber defense, and more.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in cyber security usually requires that you complete around 120 credit hours of coursework. This takes four years for those who are able to attend part-time, though if you’ve already completed an associate degree with credits that can transfer to your current institution, you may be able to finish your next degree in as little as two years. Students will complete general education in their first two years and then go on to take their core courses, which will focus on computer science and cyber security. Some programs may include internships and research labs that can help you get some real-world practice with cyber security.

Cyber security degree programs at this level provide knowledge of recent and relevant developments to students and can help them to prepare for a huge variety of careers.

Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS)

Many master’s degrees are set up to allow graduate students to take classes and complete their degrees as they continue working full-time. You could try to earn your master’s degree right after finishing an undergraduate program, but many master’s programs require that you have at least a couple of years of experience in the field. These programs are also designed for professionals who have completed an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as computer science or information assurance.

Master’s degrees provide similar educational options as undergraduate programs, though you’ll learn about subjects on a deeper level, and you will not take any general education courses. Every class you take will be focused on your chosen field and concentration. For example, you might be earning an MBA in computer science, but with a concentration in cyber security. This will give you everything you need to know to work in the business world and teach you how to maintain the security of a business’s systems.

For students who aren’t interested in an MBA, which provides foundational business knowledge as well as the concentration in computer science or cyber security, you could earn a regular master’s degree focused on your major of choice. This could be cyber security or software development or whatever you need to move your career to the next level.

Organizations looking for cyber security professionals will hire those with master’s or MBAs, though you might gain access to different roles depending on the degree you earn. While those with a master’s in cyber security certainly have enough knowledge to work in network defense & intrusion detection, those with MBAs are more likely to be offered supervisory positions for IT departments within large organizations. You should be aware of this as you decide which type of degree to earn.

Online PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)

You can earn a PhD in computer science or cyber security. PhDs can also have concentrations in a similar way that master’s degrees do. Scholars earning PhDs will often work closely with faculty, who are doctorate holders themselves, and often are leaders in the field of computer science or cyber security.

In their first couple years of a program, scholars will take classes and complete coursework focused on learning how to carry out research, teach, and other material. However, as they advance in their PhD programs, they are more likely to work on research themselves, write scholarly articles which may be published in professional journals, and teach classes to undergraduate or master’s students.

Graduates are considered experts in their field and can find work as educators, researchers, consultants, or high-level workers in the field.

Become a Cyber Security Professional in Rhode Island

Unlike many other professions (accounting, teaching, etc.) there are no requirements for cyber security professionals to become licensed. Therefore, becoming a cyber security professional in Rhode Island can be as easy as finding an entry-level job in the field. Now, most Rhode Island employers require an accredited education, so your best bet is to gain an education before looking for a career, but that can take as little as two years if you choose to earn an associate degree. How you improve your resume and ensure that you are a success throughout your career is a different matter.

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Certification programs in cyber security can help professionals make the jump into this field from another area or they can help current cyber security professionals improve their resumes and advance into a higher or better paid position.

Many cyber security positions are going unfilled due to the lack of qualified professionals, putting organizations at risk of future cyber-attacks. For those looking for a way into an underserved field, some certifications could help you make the move. And cyber security professionals who are more senior or in management can also continue earning certifications so that they are able to stay current with new technology developments and improve their management skills. Here are just some options for certifications in this field. There are a huge number of certifications available, so be sure to do your own research and find the right certification for you and your career path.

  • Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Security Fundamentals

    This certification may be the best of the entry-level programs that someone in another field can use as a way into cyber security. It is intended for students in high school and the first years of college. In the program, students learn core security principles, basics of operating systems, and all about security for networks and software. Students should have prior knowledge of Windows Server, firewalls, Windows-based networking, and other security products.

  • CompTIA Security+

    This is also an entry-level program that focuses on a range of information assurance and security topics including threats, vulnerabilities, network security, cryptography, network security, access controls, application, host and data security, and risk management principles.

    Students taking this certification program may qualify to work for the federal government in IT security. The certification satisfies requirements established by the U.S. Department of Defense Directive 8570-M requirements. Candidates looking to earn this certification should already have the Network+ certification and two years of relevant experience.

  • CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker

    This certification is intended for ethical penetration testers, who work to expose flaws in network security so that a company can fix it before it is taken advantage of. Those who hold this certification have evidence of the quality of their work.

    Courses cover ethical hacking technologies, information security laws and standards, and all about current vulnerabilities of networks. They go through real-time scenarios, learn hacking techniques, how to hack and protect their organization’s systems, and more.

  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

    Part of the advanced offerings from ISACA, this certification teaches cyber security leaders how to manage a team. Candidates learn Incident Management and Response, Security Risk Management, Governance, and Program Development and Management.

Careers for Cyber Security Graduates

  • Security Analyst
    It’s the job of a security analyst to protect all computer-related electronics from attack by cyber-criminals. They explore and monitor an organization’s IT infrastructure so that they can recognize and react to security breaches. They may also configure security tools to fit the organization’s needs, report anything strange happening within the network, and examine the strengths and weaknesses of the network.
  • Security Engineer
    This professional is responsible for building security systems for organizations. Other areas of their work include monitoring security controls, which help to protect their employer’s data from unauthorized access, attacks, or losses. They test the security processes they have put in place, plan network upgrades, and may respond to cyber-attacks.
  • Information Security Manager
    This manager is in charge of protecting the computer networks and data stored within from cyber-attacks, computer viruses, and ransomware. Any of these unwanted intrusions has the capability of interrupting the organization’s IT systems and causing the unwanted loss of confidential information or data. The difference in this position is that, instead of performing every step of this work yourself, you will manage an IT team that will ensure the ongoing protection of a company’s network and systems.
  • Cloud Information Security Engineer
    This engineer looks for and identifies threats to cloud systems, creates new features to enhance the security of an organization, and focus on continuous improvement of cloud-based systems by building and maintaining them. They also perform upgrades to these systems as needed.
  • Information Security Analyst
    An information security analyst plans and implements security measures aiming to protect their employer’s computer systems and networks. They monitor networks for security breaches and, if one takes place, they investigate. They also use and maintains security software (data encryption programs and firewalls) to protect systems and sensitive information.
  • Security Software Engineer
    This engineer focuses on creating software meant to maintain the security of a system or network. They may create new firewall protections and sell them to companies as a package, or they may work as a freelancer, creating bespoke security software for a company’s specific needs. If they are working within one company, they may launch, test, and operate security software, ensuring it complies with recommended technical reference architecture. They can carry out security testing and review code as they work to improve security and troubleshoot any security issues and debug software packages as needed.
  • Security Architect
    This security professional designs and builds security systems to fit in an organization’s IT network. They also test these security systems to ensure they work well with the software.
  • Penetration Tester
    Penetration testers, also known as ethical hackers, work with organizations to find and resolve any security weaknesses in their computer networks and digital assets. This professional may be employed with an organization, working as a member of their in-house cyber security team, or they may work for a specialized cyber security firm which offers services to clients.
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
    This executive is responsible for owning the process of every assurance activity which relates to the availability and integrity of data, as well as the confidentiality of business partners, customers, employees, and other information. All of this must comply with the organization’s policies surrounding information security.

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