Pursuing Cyber Security in 2017

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In the digital age, the number of cyber security threats faced by companies of all sizes continues to grow. As these risks grow, so do the costs associated with combatting them. According to CSOonline.com, a website from International Data Group, the damage from cybercrime is projected to reach $6 trillion annually in the next five years. This means that businesses across all industries are being forced to
rapidly scale their cyber security defenses in order to properly respond to the growing risk to their critical systems and secure data. The increasing demand for cyber security professionals presents a huge opportunity for many in the information systems industry. While the career path is not without obstacles or concerns, the benefits of pursuing a career in cyber security can be vast and lucrative for those with the proper skill set and educational background. As you consider pursuing a degree in information systems from UAB’s Collat School of Business, keep the following in mind:

An information systems expert at work

The Booming Cyber Security Industry in 2017

Of all the sectors in the information systems industry, cyber security has seen one of the biggest in recent years. The growth in the value of the industry highlights the scale of this expansion, according to CSO; from a value of approximately $3.5 billion in 2004, the worldwide cyber security market is projected to be worth 35 times more than that by the end of 2017. In the face of growing risks to their critical systems and sensitive information, many businesses are responding by greatly increasing their spending on cyber security services and products to counter the potentially devastating effects of hacking, phishing and other cybercrime. Indeed, the global spending by companies of all sizes and across all industries is expected to top over $1 trillion between now and the end of 2021, as reported by Cyber Defense Magazine.

Surprisingly, the number of information systems experts entering the cyber security industry has not kept pace with these other metrics. CSO reports that projections indicate global demand for cyber security experts will hit 6 million by 2019, but only 4.5 million professionals will be qualified and working in the industry. That means that approximately 1.5 million job openings will sit unfilled two years from now. This trend will just continue to amplify the current shortfall in the cyber security job market; as of last year, the demand for cyber security professionals exceeded the supply by about 1 million, according to InformationWeek.

How has this dramatic undersupply of cyber security experts developed? The insufficiency is partially due to the rapid increase in the number of cybercrime attacks and the rising costs associated with these threats. While cybercrime has existed since almost the very beginning of the internet, threats to businesses in particular have gone up sharply in recent years and are projected to grow even further in the years to come. For example, in their 2016 Internet Security Threat Report, security giant Symantec found that spear-phishing attempts that targeted businesses increased by 55 percent, and ransomware attacks went up by 35 percent in the prior year alone.

Moreover, as the threat of cybercrime has increased, many companies have begun to change their approach to cyber security and the prevention of cybercrime. Prior to just a few years ago, most firms called upon multiple members of their information systems team to handle various pieces of their cyber security efforts; for example, network engineers, software developers and other IT professionals might all be tasked with particular cyber security functions related to their core roles. As the threat of cybercrime has become more serious, however, many firms have realized that this approach is inadequate and are increasingly looking to bring in specialized cyber security experts. This shift has helped to create a huge and sudden increase in the demand for cyber security experts worldwide.

Obstacles, Issues and Concerns for Cyber Security Professionals

No information systems specialty is without obstacles or concerns, and cyber security professionals do face a number of issues this year and in the decade ahead. First, because the number of open cyber security positions far exceeds the number of available professionals to fill these jobs, many cyber security specialists report being overworked. For example, a recent Global Information Security Workforce report revealed that more than half of all respondents felt that their security team was understaffed. While the benefits and job security offered in the field help provide a counterbalance to these concerns, the fact that the demand for cyber security professionals is projected to outstrip the supply for years to come means that relief for taxed cyber security workers may be years away.

The disparity between the number of available cyber security professionals and the demand by companies looking to bolster their defenses is also leading to further growth in automation. Advances in machine learning might help automate the process of recognizing malware, quarantining already-infected systems and fixing the damage; such technological innovations would help reduce the labor costs for businesses at the expense of the IT professional who would have otherwise personally completed the tasks. On the surface, this might appear to be a concern for cyber security professionals and those considering pursuing a career in the industry. However, such comprehensive advancements in machine learning are not yet widely practical, and in fact, the relief provided by automation could help remove some of the pressure on overworked cyber security experts.

Benefits of a Career in Cyber Security

A career in the cyber security industry offers a myriad of benefits for talented and interested information systems students, both tangible and intangible. First, as previously mentioned, the recent and rapid increase in the demand for cyber security professionals has created a shortfall in the supply of qualified and available workers to fill the large number of vacant positions. This disparity between the supply of and demand for cyber security professionals means that those in this sector may be able to look forward to a 0 percent unemployment rate for at least the next five years, bolstering job security and the potential for mobility and career advancement.

Second, the robust demand in the cyber security sector has led to average salaries that far outpace those in the information systems industry as a whole. According to CSO, those who specialize in cyber security can expect to make approximately 9 percent more annually than their counterparts outside of the cyber security specialty, with a median MIS salary of about $100,000 per year.

Lastly, the emerging challenges in the cyber security arena and the continuing evolution of the threats that businesses face make this sector exciting and intellectually stimulating, with many opportunities to be involved with cutting-edge innovations and advancements. Those who are interested in being at the forefront of their industry may find that a career in cyber security affords them the ability to lead and forge their own path.

Online BSIS Degree from UAB

For all these reasons, the cyber security industry offers ample and exciting opportunities for those with the proper background, experience and training. An online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham can help you develop the necessary skill set and expertise in order to advance your cyber security career.