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distributed denial of service

Cybersecurity careers in 2021: Big threats, bigger opportunities

Curious what’s keeping business leaders awake at night? Google the phrase “cybersecurity threats” and you’ll get a good idea of the vulnerabilities they see lurking in 2021. 

Ransomware that targets home offices.  

Phishing scams that convince employees to turn over sensitive information, like passwords.  

Hackers who turn seemingly innocuous Internet of Things devices into vehicles for malware.  

computer system screen with yellow alert triangle and words System HackedAs the security risks grow, so do the job opportunities for graduates of cybersecurity programs. In the U.S. alone, there’s already a shortage of 500,000 cybersecurity pros — and the gap is only getting wider. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for information security analysts is expected to increase by 31% through 2029, a jump that dwarfs most other professions. And these are high-paying jobs: Median pay is $103,590 a year. 

But that pales next to what businesses stand to lose from weak security. In 2021, worldwide cybercrime losses are expected to amount to $1 trillion, according to a study released in December by McAfee. And the COVID-19 pandemic is only exacerbating the threat. The FBI has said that cybercrime attacks quadrupled last spring. 

As you look at the cybersecurity landscape and assess why this field will grow for years to come, consider these factors: 

Working from home reveals new threats. Businesses have enough trouble guarding their offices against cybersecurity attacks. But when COVID-19 shutdowns resulted in millions of employees suddenly working from home, the risk blossomed. Poorly configured remote networks make it that much easier for hackers to make their way into corporate systems. At the same time, while cloud computing has made it easier than ever for workers to access resources online, that also requires new defenses to protect the data stored there. 

Always connected = always at risk. By 2025, more than 30 billion Internet of Things devices are expected to be in use. And every one of those light switches, refrigerators, televisions and doorbells represents a possible vulnerability. Bots that commandeer devices to launch distributed denial of service attacks, pump out malware and tunnel their way into our home computers — exposing our most private information — are already a threat. 

Every industry is hiring, because no industry is immune. Quick, name an industry that doesn’t rely on technology. You can’t, which is why every industry needs cybersecurity professionals. As a graduate of a cybersecurity program, you’ll find opportunity almost everywhere you look.  

Hacking is an arms race. For every step forward taken by cybersecurity experts, hackers are already looking for another weakness. More and more, the enemy is backed by powerful interests: Governments are ramping up their support of cyber sleuthing and hacking to disrupt economies (and worse). Last year, in the notorious Solar Winds hack, Russian spies infiltrated thousands of government agencies and businesses by piggybacking malicious code onto a frequently used network management tool. And earlier this winter, hackers sponsored by the Chinese government targeted email software made by Microsoft.  

While the potential costs are enormous, businesses stand to lose something of even greater value when their cyber defenses fail: The public’s trust. If they sense companies aren’t good stewards of their private information, they’ll turn elsewhere. 

Minor in cybersecurity at The University of Tulsa 

The threats are real and TU students can get a head start on facing them down with a minor in cybersecurity. The minor, offered through the Tandy School of Computer Science, is open to students from other disciplines. This 12-credit minor includes courses in computer science, security, computer networks and more. You’ll also have the chance to participate with faculty on ongoing cybersecurity research projects that help protect wearable devices, critical infrastructure and more.